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A Brief Intermission

Hey everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves wherever you happen to find yourself in this wonderful universe. As you know, I normally post new recipes on Sundays, but unfortunately I don’t have one for you right now. In fact, I’m going to have to step away from the blog for a little bit.

Life is as life does. And there are some things going on in my life that will preclude me from baking or blogging for the next stretch of time. Hopefully, it will only be a short stretch, and I can get back to delighting you with delicious recipes. At that point, I should also have a chance to fill you in on what’s going on.

Hope all is well with you, and I’ll see you soon!

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Chocolate Dipped BBQ Potato Chip Cookies – Gluten-Free

I’m excited to bring to you another gluten-free recipe this week. As you may know, I started doing gluten-free baking a while back because my wife does better when she eats less wheat. She can have some wheat without any ill effects, and so we sometimes don’t think about it. However, issues seem to accumulate over time, and that reminds us. Today while we were out grocery shopping, we did get some fun gluten-free foods, and having them around will definitely help.

But I don’t want her to miss out on my desserts, so I want to bake more gluten-free recipes again. I had that on my mind this week when putting this recipe together. I found a great recipe on smitten kitchen for potato chip cookies. It looked like a great recipe, and easy to make gluten-free, but it turns out I didn’t have any pecans. But by that point, I was kinda set on doing something to use up the potato chips I had. So I did some digging and found this other potato chip cookie recipe which looked good, so I ended up using that. But, I skipped the powdered sugar dusting from this recipe and went with the chocolate coating from the smitten kitchen recipe I had originally wanted to make.

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I tweaked the recipe a bit. One big change is that I went with gluten-free flour instead of regular. I didn’t have any of the Trader Joe’s gluten-free flour I usually use. But I had some Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour. I used some xanthan gum with it, as they recommend it in conjunction with the flour when making baked goods.

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Another change I made to the recipe was that instead of using plain potato chips, I used barbecue potato chips. They say that what you make can only be as good as the ingredients you use. So I didn’t use just any old barbecue potato chips. I used what I consider to be some of the best barbecue potato chips anywhere. They are Middleswarth kettle cooked barbecue potato chips. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a snack food snob (aka gourmet, aka connoisseur). These chips are ones I grew up on, so maybe I’m biased, but I think they’re really good. I used most of one of these 4.5 ounce bags. I crushed them by hand bit by bit inside a sandwich bag. Granted, I was also snacking on them at the time, so let’s say I used about three to three and a half ounces of chips.

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For the chocolate, I used what I had on hand. That may seem contradictory to my statement above about using the best, but I don’t think it is. I used half of a dark chocolate bar, the end of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chunks, and some bulk milk chocolate. It was all good chocolate, so no worries there. And I think one skill that’s useful for a cook or baker to have is being able to make something good out of whatever you have on hand.

The recipe was pretty easy to put together. I mixed everything by hand. I baked the cookies for about 8 1/2 minutes. I ended up with 35 cookies.

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After the cookies cooled, I melted the chocolate and oil in the microwave and stirred it together. I dipped the cookies into the chocolate. Actually, I dunked them a little bit and then splooshed on the chocolate with a spoon. (Yes, “sploosh” is an industry term.) The cookies were a little crumbly and there was some slight breakage during this process. I then let them sit so the chocolate could set.

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After the chocolate set, I tried one. First the cookie part without the chocolate. It’s really good! It tastes kinda like shortbread, but I can also taste all the little crunchy potato chip parts. There is just a hint of the barbecue flavor. I then tried the side with the chocolate. It’s also good! There are a lot of flavors going on there, but they all seem to work together. I think this gluten-free flour is pretty good, too. It’s not quite as smooth as Trader Joe’s, but not bad at all.

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After I tried one, I cleaned up the cookies. While the chocolate was setting, I let them sit on parchment paper on top of the cooling rack. I figured it would be a lot easier to clean up than having them directly on the rack. It was, but some of the cookies got stuck to the parchment paper, and as I pulled them up, some of the chocolate got left behind.

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I brought some into work the next day. After I offered them and explained what they are, a couple of my co-workers took two each before even trying them. I guess they just knew the cookies would be good.🙂 One of my other coworkers gave me a very funny compliment. She liked the cookie, and gave me a thumbs up. Then she said, “I would give you two thumbs up, but one of them is holding my cookie.”

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As I was going on my dessert rounds, one person was in a meeting, so I was going to come back, but he waved me in anyway, seeing that I had cookies with me. He referred to me as one of the best bakers to his meeting mate. After trying one he said, “I would’ve thought you bought this in a store.” In short, everyone loved them. I didn’t mention to most people that they were gluten-free. No one seemed to notice.

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There’s one other thing I should mention. As it turns out, the particular potato chips that I used are not gluten-free. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I double-checked the ingredients, and the barbecue seasoning in these chips contains wheat flour. However, you could easily make these with another kind of chips. For instance, Middleswarth makes lovely plain potato chips as well, or if you prefer barbecue chips, Martin’s makes some that are gluten-free. Either one would be a lovely choice.

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Do you have a favorite potato chip? I’m biased towards the ones I know, and while I’ve tried many others, I haven’t tried them all. If you know of a particular chip I should try, let me know. I’m always interested to try new ones out. And if you try making these cookies, I’d love to hear how they turn out with your favorite chip in them. So, happy baking and happy crunching!

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If you want to make them how I did, here’s my version of the recipe, adapted and combined from the following:

Potato Chip Cookies recipe courtesy of The Washington Post.

Chocolate dip courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 3/4 cups gluten-free flour

7/16 tsp xanthan gum (if your gluten-free flour calls for it, as mine does)

3/4 cup crushed barbecue potato chips

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the dip:

4 ounces of chocolate

1 teaspoon grapeseed oil

I didn’t change the directions significantly, so you can follow along from the original recipes for those. Enjoy!

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Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Muffins

Happy October everyone! Now that fall is in full swing here, it’s clear that pumpkin overload is in full effect. (Not to be confused with Full Force.) I’m sure you see it too, with the overflow of pumpkin-y things in every shop. We often shop at Trader Joe’s, and it’s clearly the case there. They have more pumpkin products than you ever thought could exist. (Or should exist, really.)

You can almost plot out the seasons by what food is prevalent at Trader Joe’s. The season before pumpkin season at Trader Joe’s seems to be mango season. It’s the same as with pumpkin, just with mangoes. I knew the seasons had started to change when the mango and pumpkin products overlapped briefly. But the mangoes have been fully replaced by pumpkins now.

Alas, seasons change. Time marches on. Sometimes things slip through the cracks. Most recipes I write about soon after I make them, but some sneak past (they’re sneaky like that), and I don’t get to write about them till much later. So I’m writing to you this week about another one of those. I bring you another entry from my (soon-to-be-picked-up-and-become-a-major-tv) series, recipes of future past.

I haven’t been baking as much gluten-free these days. Which means I have a lot of gluten-free flour stocked up, so I really need to do so again. But this was a good gluten-free muffin recipe from the New York Times. You might remember the gluten-free whole grain cheese and mustard muffins I had written about previously. These banana chocolate muffins are their siblings. That is to say, they came from the same article.

These days I generally use regular recipes and just substitute in gluten-free flour. But back in the day when I made this, I wasn’t as confident that I could do that, and so I sought out recipes that were specifically gluten-free. In this case, I followed the ingredients listed in the recipe and I used the different gluten-free flours they listed.

Bananas seem to go well in muffins. They’re in this recipe. They’re in the gluten-free peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins I made. And they’re in one of my favorite muffin recipes ever from Moosewood Cookbook.

It’s been a while, but as I remember these, they were good muffins. Banana-y and cocoa-y, with bits of chocolate inside. As with some other gluten-free baked goods, they were best fresh or warmed up. After a while though, the texture is different, and they end up being more grainy.

They look pretty decadent, but they’re not as ridiculous as they might seem. Check out the ingredient list.

As they’re way in the past at this point, and I didn’t have much in the way of notes, I don’t have much more to say on them. But let me know if you try them out. I’d love to hear your take on them. Or if you have any favorite muffin recipes, gluten-free or otherwise, feel free to share those as well. Or favorite banana recipes. Or, you know, the location of the fountain of youth. I’m not picky.

Recipe courtesy of The New York Times.

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Tate’s Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies

On this blog, I’ve written about a lot of the unusual recipes that I’ve made. There was the maple syrup taffy. The mini sweet potato cheesecakes. The lime cornmeal cookies. The different cookies with potato chips in them. Adorable little teddy bears in marshmallow hot tubs. And while I’ve definitely made some more traditional recipes, I haven’t actually written about good ol’ regular chocolate chip cookies. One time I made salted chocolate chip cookies, but that was really the closest I’ve done.

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So, I thought I would do something unusual and make something regular.🙂 I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. Since everybody and their grandmother has a chocolate chip cookie recipe, which recipe to use could have been a difficult decision. Luckily for me, I had an easy answer. Since I was making them for my friend’s birthday, I thought I would make something he would particularly enjoy.

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He’s a big fan of Tate’s cookies. Now, generally I’m a big advocate of homemade cookies. (Wonder what would have given you that idea?) But if you’re looking to buy cookies that someone else made, you can’t go wrong with Tate’s. For example, in a previous incarnation of one of my gaming groups, we consumed an exceptional amount of them. They’re a NY State specialty, but you can get them all over the place. And since the birthday boy really enjoys them, I thought it would be cool to make some for him, as I have the cookbook from Tate’s. Well, as it turns out, I have a cookbook of theirs, but not the cookbook with this recipe. So I had to find it elsewhere. (Thank you, internet!)

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They were pretty easy to put together. I mean, they’re chocolate chip cookies after all. A few recipe notes: I didn’t have salted butter, just unsalted, so I added extra salt to compensate. I didn’t use eggs. I used aquafaba instead. And it turns out that the 2 cups of chocolate chips was a whole bag.

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I baked them on baking sheets covered in parchment paper. I used three sheets and rotated them in and out of the oven through the process, using one or two sheets per batch. I used my handy-dandy cookie scoop to make the cookies, but that made the cookies too big. So I split the scoops of dough roughly in half, which was about right. I ended up with 46 cookies. (The recipe is supposed to make 54, so I guess mine were a little bigger.)

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I baked the first batch for 12 minutes, which wasn’t quite enough. I baked the second batch for 14 minutes which seemed just right. For the next batch, I also baked them for 14 minutes, but that was too much for these. Some might have been a little smaller. It’s also possible that opening and closing the oven to check a couple of times during the previous batch might have cooled it down a little, which made for the longer time. The last batch was in for 13 minutes which was just right.

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They smelled delicious while baking. That is, for a while they smelled really good, but as with any smell, after a while you get used to it. At one point I went into another room and came back and I could notice the difference. It was like walking into a giant cookie. And while they were cooling, I stepped outside for a couple of minutes. When I came back into the apartment, the scent hit me like a ton of bricks. Err, cookies. It was fantastic.

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Tate’s cookies are known for being big, flat, and crispy. And delicious. Some of these turned out more like Tate’s cookies and some less. I tried one that was closer to the Tate’s ideal and one that was further from that. The further one was good, but had just a hint of Tate’s-ness. (Yes, that’s a word now.) The closer one was also good. It was not exactly like a Tate’s cookie, but it was close. It was buttery, crispy, thin, and delicious.

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I brought some into work for the birthday boy, who happens to be not just a friend but also a coworker. But due to both of us being out of the office for one thing or another for a few days, it wasn’t until several days after his birthday that the cookies made it in. By that point it was also another coworker’s birthday. So, the cookies ended up being for two birthdays. Huzzah! More merriment! More celebration! More omnomnomnomnom.

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They both appreciated the gesture, and really loved the cookies. In fact they loved them so much they, and everyone really, came back for more and more. I mentioned to the Tate’s fan about using their recipe. He said mine were even better. (As he pointed out, one advantage mine had is that they were fresh.) Everyone else loved them as well. I brought in about a dozen and a half, and they were gone very quickly. So quickly in fact that I didn’t really get to make my dessert rounds. So I brought in a bunch more the next day. Those also disappeared quickly. People kept telling me over and over again how good they were. I would have to put these pretty high up on the list of recipes enjoyed by my coworkers.

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They were good, simple, buttery, crispy cookies. I didn’t happen to mention that they were egg-free, and I don’t think anyone had any idea. Aquafaba is generally such a good substitute that no one can tell the difference. Plus, they were just really good cookies. I’m glad I made them. It makes me want to try some more simple recipes.

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Do you have any favorite recipes that wow the crowds but are super simple to make? Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? A favorite style of chocolate chip cookie? Have you been experimenting with aquafaba or other egg substitutes? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Recipe courtesy of Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook via Bon Appétit.

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Pan de Coco

Welcome to another special birthday edition of Needs Baked! This week’s recipe comes all the way from Honduras. I made it for my friend and coworker’s birthday. He’s from Honduras, so I wanted to make something Honduran.

The yeast mixture and the coconut.

The yeast mixture and the coconut.

His birthday was actually a little while ago, but I didn’t know it was his birthday until it happened. And before I could make something for him, he was out of the office (and out-of-town) for a week, so it was delayed.

The dough!

The dough!

While I consider myself fairly worldly, I have to admit there are a lot of places in the world that I don’t know anything about. Honduras is one of them. So I had to do some research to find Honduran recipes. In the process, I did some research about Honduran history and culture, which was fun, too.

The dough after rising.

The dough after rising.

I came across this recipe, and it looked pretty cool. Pan de coco translates into English as “coconut bread”. Fun fact: it’s also popular in the Philippines. I found a few different versions of the recipe. I settled on this one because it looked pretty straightforward.

First batch, ready to rise.

First batch, ready to rise.

In some ways, it was similar to making the pretzels I recently made. That is to say, it was not complicated, but there were lots of steps, and lots of different things to do. First you mix up the yeast and some ingredients. Then you wait. Then you add the coconut. Then you wait. Then you add everything else in and mix it together. Then you wait some more. Then you split it up and form it into little balls. And then you wait once more. Then you finally bake it. There’s a lot of waiting, but that’s because you have to wait for the dough to rise. (Side note: I once wrote a play called “Waiting for the Dough”. There is a pizza delivery that is central to the play. Bonus points if you get the pun.)

Second batch, ready to rise.

Second batch, ready to rise.

I took a couple of shortcuts while making it. I melted the butter instead of just softening it. (This happened by accident, as I microwaved it too long.) I also kneaded the dough right in the bowl rather than make more of a mess.

First batch after it rose.

First batch after it rose.

I split the dough into two equal pieces by weight. (Thank you digital scale!) I split each of those two pieces into 8 balls, also by weight. I did that by dividing the total weight of each piece into 8. Then I weighed out each ball until it was close enough to that number (about 2 oz). It wasn’t exact, but it was much more accurate than guessing, and easy too. (Thank you again, Mr. Scale!) Measurement FTW!

Second batch after it rose.

Second batch after it rose.

I baked them on a baking sheet, but I used a Silpat instead of buttering it. Before baking, they looked a little bit like biscuits. They smelled really nice while baking.

First batch fresh from the oven!

First batch fresh from the oven!

I tried one warm. It was delicious! The coconut taste is mild. There’s the slightest hint of it in the dough, and there are bits of shredded coconut throughout. But it’s not too much. It’s kinda like a dinner roll, but with a little something extra.

Second batch fresh from the oven!

Second batch fresh from the oven!

I brought them into work to share with the birthday boy. I explained to him that it was in honor of his birthday, even though his birthday had passed. He enjoyed them very much. Everyone enjoyed them. They’re different from the baked goods I normally bring in, but people really liked them. Even my wife, who doesn’t like coconut, enjoyed them.

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There were a few left over, and I enjoyed those for the rest of the week. They were great for breakfast or a snack. They held up well for the few days they lasted. I would totally make these again.

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Thanks to my wife for helping with the cleanup as she usually does. Fortunately, there wasn’t too much this time. I also want to give her an extra special thanks. You already know that she helps out when I bake, but I don’t know if you know that she’s constantly helping other people. In fact, as I’m writing this she’s out and about helping others. I don’t know if she realizes how much she does for other people. So I just wanted to acknowledge that. Thank you for always giving of yourself, even when it’s not easy or comfortable. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

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So, if you like coconut, or even if you don’t, and you’re looking for a little something extra in the bread department, give this a shot. It’s really easy, and it’s completely worth it. And if you have a few extra moments, take some time to read about the history of this delicious food, and the history and culture of the people who make it. (Assuming you don’t know about it already.) Food for the belly and food for thought!

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Recipe courtesy of The Latin Kitchen.

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Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites

Have I told you that I like pretzels? I know I’ve mentioned potato chips before. I grew up in central Pennsylvania, which is home to lots of potato chip and pretzel companies. So I’m a little bit of a connoisseur of snack foods, if there is such a thing.

While I don’t eat them as often, I am also a big fan of soft pretzels. With the doughy inside and the crunchy outside, what’s not to love, right? How much do I like soft pretzels? On a trip to Germany twenty years ago, I managed to score a real German pretzel. And by real, I mean gigantic. And by gigantic, I mean bigger than my head. That’s not an exaggeration. I have the photo. I don’t remember what tasted it like or how long it took me to eat it, but I’m sure the answers are “delicious” and “not that long considering the size”.

Mixing the dough.

Mixing the dough.

In all of my baking adventures, baking pretzels is one that I had been wanting to do, but hadn’t gotten to yet. My wife even got me a pretzel making kit a while back which included a recipe and some ingredients. One of those ingredients is lye, which is why the kit also includes plastic gloves. I won’t lie, the lye scares me a little bit which is why I haven’t used it yet.

Ready to rise.

Ready to rise.

While I was wanting to make pretzels, I wasn’t intending to at this point. I actually found the recipe by accident as I was looking through my to do list. I was looking at a particular cookie recipe, and on the side of the page there was a picture for this other recipe which caught my eye. It looked awesome. Pretzel-y goodness, check. Adorable mini size, check. Easy looking recipe, check.

It has risen!

It has risen!

So I decided to make this recipe. And in particular, I decided to make it for my gaming group. One of my other hobbies, besides baking, is role-playing games. You know, games like Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a lot of fun. It involves imagination, creativity, teamwork, math, laughter, dice-rolling, and ridiculousness. And usually lots of snack foods. This particular group has been playing together for many years, but hasn’t met in a while. So this was a reunion of sorts, and I wanted to make something for it.

Splitting the dough.

Splitting the dough.

It turns out making pretzels isn’t difficult, but there is a bit of labor involved. There are many steps. Briefly summarized, it’s making the dough, letting it rise, separating and rolling it out, boiling it, salting it, and baking it. Each step was pretty easy, but it does take an investment of time.

Rolling out the dough.

Rolling out the dough.

My good friend KitchenAid helped me make the dough. (We’re not Facebook friends or anything, but we are friends IRL.) This was actually my first time using the dough hook. Fun! (Whirl, whirl, whoosh, whoosh!) As you may know, I’m a big fan of the KitchenAid, and I use it a lot. I just hadn’t had the need for the dough hook yet. I’m glad I did though, as I’ve used the other attachments, and I didn’t want this one to get too lonely.

Cutting the dough into bite-sized pieces.

Cutting the dough into bite-sized pieces.

After making the dough, you let it rise. After an hour, it didn’t look like it had doubled as it should have. So I moved it to a warmer area and let it sit for another 20 minutes or so. While it didn’t look it, in the end it was enough.

Close-up!

Close-up!

I split the dough into 8 chunks (weighing them out to be sure they were even), rolled them all out, and cut them. It was fun! I rolled them out to the suggested 22 inches, but they contracted. The first few I cut, I measured them carefully by using the measurements on the pastry mat, but after that I just eyeballed them.

After being boiled, getting the butter wash, and being salted, they're ready to bake.

After being boiled, getting the butter wash, and being salted, they’re ready to bake.

I didn’t have a good roasting pan to use, so I used a pot to boil them. Adding the baking soda to the water is fun! It’s like a little chemistry set in the kitchen.🙂 As I was boiling all the pretzels, the water started to turn brown. Pretzel color in fact. I started referring to it as pretzel water, and eventually pretzel juice. I jokingly asked my wife if she wanted to drink any. She humored me, but politely declined. (I think that was the smart choice.)

Pretzels!

Pretzels!

After boiling the pretzels, the recipe calls using for an egg wash, and then sprinkling salt on them. Instead of an egg wash, I used my soon-to-be-world-famous butter wash. I’ve used it in the past, and it’s done the trick quite nicely. I just melted a tablespoon of butter and mixed with some water.

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They looked and smelled delicious while they were baking. I baked them for 15 minutes and they were perfect. The smell in particular reminded me of something, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. And then my wife nailed it: Auntie Anne’s pretzels. It’s a chain of pretzel shops, and I used to eat their pretzels a bunch back in the day. I’m not sure what it was about these pretzels that reminded me of those pretzels in particular, but it was a strong connection.

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In any case, these pretzels were absolutely delicious. The look, smell, taste, and texture are exactly what you want from a soft pretzel. Crunchy, chewy, yummy goodness. I had one fresh from the oven, and I had some later with some deli mustard. Yum all around.

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Since the gaming festivities were the next day, I had to figure out how to store them overnight. After some research, I settled on wrapping them in parchment paper, and storing them in a paper bag. I stapled the bag shut overnight. I had to wait till the next day to see how they survived, to see how they reheated, and how people liked them.

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It turned out that the paper bag worked relatively well for storing them. After much research, I had settled on reheating them by microwaving them with a damp paper towel on top. However, when I actually took them out to reheat, they seemed to have retained much of the moisture, so I microwaved them without a paper towel.

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People were impressed that I had made them, but I don’t think they were as good as they were fresh. Later on, I figured out that I hadn’t microwaved them enough. One minute in the microwave, uncovered, on a plate seemed to be the magic formula. They came out close to fresh at that point.

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Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my wife here for all of her help. Thanks for oiling the bowl while my hands were knee-deep in yeasty dough. And thanks for all of your help with the cleaning, there was a lot.

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The recipe ended up making about 7 dozen pretzel bites. They were a little bit of work, but they were totally worth it. They were fun to make, very yummy, and IMHO, they were very impressive. They looked fancy, cute, and professional. Like real pretzel bites. I kinda can’t believe I just made pretzels.

Sealed up in a paper bag overnight. Btw, Russ & Daughters is an awesome shop. If you're ever in NYC, definitely check it out.

Sealed up in a paper bag overnight. BTW, Russ & Daughters is an awesome shop. If you’re ever in NYC, definitely check it out.

Have you made pretzel bites? Have you made pretzels? What’s your recipe look like? How do you keep them fresh? How do you reheat them? Why are soft pretzels such magical foods and why do they not last so long? These questions and more will soon be answered, with your help!

Recipe courtesy of Two Peas & Their Pod.

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Two Years

Two years is a long time. Not in comparison to the age of our planet or the age of our universe, of course. But it would be a really long time to wait in line for a movie. Or, to put it in another perspective, to the millions of people who are less than two years old, it’s longer than they’ve been alive.

This little blog turns two years old today. Why today? I didn’t pick this date for any particular reason. It doesn’t have any special significance otherwise. But I had been preparing the blog for a while and wanting to get it started. This date just happened to be the date I officially opened its doors.

Two years certainly seems like a long time. Time is a weird thing. While I could certainly point to a lot of things that have changed over the last two years, my work situation for instance, at this moment I can’t think of anything in particular that is all that different. Not concretely at least.

Have I learned anything over the last two years? Maybe. It’s not as easy as it looked. One post a week didn’t seem like too ambitious a goal at the time. And thankfully it wasn’t, but it’s a lot of work. Researching, deciding, ingredient shopping, prepping, baking, cleaning, photographing, writing. It’s one thing I’ve kept doing in the face of other things going on.

I think two years is also a good point to think about making some changes. They’ve started to seep in a bit. I’ve stopped taking ingredient shots, or as I like to call them “ingredient parade” pictures. They’re informative, but they’re not necessarily interesting. At least not until I can figure out how to spice them up some more. (Pun slightly intended.) I’ve also started getting away from writing recipe procedurals. Again, they’re informative, but I don’t know if they’re interesting. Tell me if you disagree, but for me, I think it’s more interesting to tell the stories of the food, than to tell the stories of making the food. I think there are some interesting stories in making the food as well, and as I find those, I’ll tell them, but otherwise, maybe not so much.

Two years is a good time to take stock. (Okay, pun definitely intended.) I’d like to do some other things differently. I’d like to learn how to take better photographs. I’d like to do more of my own recipes. I’d like to experiment more. I’d like to bake more efficiently. I’d like to dedicate more time to writing, so I can write more leisurely. I’d like to have more baking community, so it’s not just me alone staring down the business end of a 9 x 13 dish.

I definitely wasn’t thinking two years out when I started this. I know I had a lot of ideas and a lot of things I wanted to try. But I don’t know that I thought this far ahead. What will the next two years bring? Will I get a chance to follow-up on any of the things I want to do? Will I have a chance to learn and grow and change and create and evolve and experiment and eat and enjoy and smile and taste and wonder? I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Thanks for coming along on the ride for the last two years. Here’s hoping the next two will be as much fun.

PS – In case you’re wondering what the picture is, it’s an old picture I found while searching through my photo archives. In fact, it’s the second oldest baking related picture of mine that I could find. (The oldest one was pretty bad, so I’ll spare you that one.) It predates the blog by almost 5 years. It reminds me of where I started and where I have yet to go.

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies

Sometimes combining two things makes them better. Sometimes, it makes them more than the sum of their parts. Sometimes, not so much.

Brownie batter.

Brownie batter.

This recipe was on my to do list. And it looked just ridiculous enough to try. I mean a brownie, swirled with peanut butter, and mixed with a chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie. Ridiculous and awesome sounding, right?

Oatmeal cookie batter.

Oatmeal cookie batter.

Another thing this recipe had going for it was that I had all the ingredients on hand. And not having to run out and buy ingredients means it moved up a bit on my list. That, and it called for a bunch of oats, which I was trying to finish up the last of. (In my pantry not, you know, in the entire world.)

Assembly part 1.

Assembly part 1.

There is a lot going on in this recipe, including three different chocolates. For the first chocolate, in the brownie batter, I used bulk milk chocolate that I happened to have. For the second chocolate, mixed into the brownies, I used semi-sweet chocolate chunks. For the third chocolate, split between the oatmeal cookie dough and the top of the brownies, I kinda cheated. I used more of the semi-sweet chunks for that. (I learned a lot about chocolate from this David Lebovitz post.)

Assembly part 2.

Assembly part 2.

Everything went swimmingly, but I did forget to chop the first bit of chocolate before melting it. I mixed everything by hand, one bowl for each part of the recipe. It was pretty straightforward to put together. Each part smelled pretty good: peanut buttery brownies and oatmealy cookies.

Assembly complete.

Assembly complete.

Once both parts were done, I moved on to putting it all together. I dropped the first brownie bits by large drops, maybe only 5 or 6 for the whole dish. Then I spooned the oatmeal cookie bits all around. I did slightly smaller dollops for the rest of the brownie bits.

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

Then I swirled the peanut butter around the brownie bits and then swirled some of that in with the other layers, as it wasn’t quite spread out evenly across the dish. Then I spread the rest of the chocolate chunks over the top.

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I baked it for 30 minutes, but it didn’t seem quite done. I baked it for the other 5 minutes, and it seemed done at that point. I let the dish cool on a cooling rack until after dinner. It smelled lovely.

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How did it taste? It was… okay. Not bad at all, just not as exciting as I was expecting. The peanut butter was inconsistently mixed, which is totally on me, so it was hit or miss on tasting that. The oatmeal bits were fine, but not amazing. The brownie bits were also fine, but nothing special. It was a little bit dry, so I might have been better off baking it a little bit less. (I understand there are a lot of “b” words in that sentence, so I apologize if you’re allergic to “b’s”.)

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My wife said the two different parts were both good in their own right, but they have such different textures that she didn’t think they fit well together. Kinda like two people who are really good people on their own but who shouldn’t date each other. All in all it was perfectly fine, but I wasn’t wowed by it. I don’t think it’s a bad recipe, it’s just not what I was looking for.

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If you try it out, let me know how it goes. If you happen to have any good combinations of brownie and oats, I’d love to hear about it. This is my second attempt. (You can read about the granola brownies here.) Neither of them have been show stoppers, so if you have one, I’m all ears.

Recipe courtesy of Half Baked Harvest.

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Snickerdoodles

Sorry for the delay in getting this week’s post out to y’all. It’s been a bit of a busy and chaotic week on both the home front and the work front, so I haven’t had time to bake or write or much of anything else.

So this week I again dig back into the Needs Baked archives with another post from my soon to be hit series “Recipes of Future Past“. Snickerdoodles. They have such a funny, lovely name. It seems to fit them, actually. I know some people are really into them, but they weren’t really a passion of mine in that way.

They’re such an easy cookie to make. You most likely have all of the ingredients sitting around. (Except maybe cream of tartar, although I’m sure you could substitute something for that, or possibly find a recipe that doesn’t use it.) They don’t take a lot of effort. And they’re delicious. I think one day I wanted to make something easy, and I ended up deciding on these.

As I recall, they were quite yummy. Sweet and cinammony as they should be. Soft and chewy. A light but fulfilling cookie. Also, I think I might have made them smaller than intended by the recipe, because looking at the pictures, I made a lot of them.

So, about the name. According to Wikipedia, it could come from the German word “Schneckennudel”, which is also an awesome name. The linguist in me can see that word turning into the word “Snickerdoodle”.

Snickerdoodle is also the name of a dog. One that you’ve probably never seen or heard of. It’s the name of our imaginary dog. Yes, you heard that right. We have an imaginary dog. My wife really likes dogs, but we’re not allowed to have any in our apartment. So we have an imaginary one. He’s a rust colored toy poodle, and his name is Snickerdoodle. He’s adorable. Or he would be if he were real. Every once in a while when we see a real dog that looks like how we imagine he would look like if he were real, we joke that it’s Snickerdoodle’s cousin. I’m not sure if he likes the cookies he’s named after, but it wouldn’t surprise me, as who doesn’t.

As is often the case with these posts about old baking adventures, I’m not quite sure what recipe I used for them. I’m fairly sure I didn’t use cream of tartar, as I never really have that on hand. So I’ll bet the recipe didn’t call for it, or I substituted something for it, as hinted above. If you want to make them, there are a million recipes out there. I imagine that the ones I made could have been something like this one or this one, but I don’t know for sure.

My apologies also for the low-quality pictures. Many of the pictures from the Needs Baked pictures vault are unfortunately of low-quality.

Do you have a favorite Snickerdoodle recipe? Do you have a good cream of tartar substitution? Any imaginary pets in your life? Drop me a note below!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Shortbread

Have you ever had a brilliant idea? Like something just pops into your head, and you go, “Wow! Why didn’t I ever think of that before?” That happened to me the other day. It wasn’t of the  “end world hunger” or “create world peace” type of brilliant ideas, but I thought it was pretty good. I had the idea to make chocolate peanut butter shortbread by using my millionaire’s shortbread recipe and substituting peanut butter for the caramel.

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Great idea, right? I thought so, too. (Although if I could figure out how to end world hunger or create world peace I’d be really happy.) The next step was finding a suitable recipe to borrow the peanut butter filling from. At first I thought I might use the filling from the buckeye brownies that I had made. But I started looking through my to do list, you know, that list of recipes you accumulate when browsing the internet that you want to make one day. You have one too, right? Well, in that list I found a better candidate. The ingredients were easier, and it had a great tip about making sure the peanut butter layer stuck to the other layers, something the buckeye brownies had a problem with. The recipe was similar to millionaire’s shortbread anyway, so I figured it would be a good fit.

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So I started off making the shortbread. I’ve done it like a million times (😉 ), so easy peasy. While that was baking I made the peanut butter layer. I decided not to use a mixer for it, but rather to do it the old-fashioned way and mix it by hand. (I know, roughing it.) It was pretty straightforward. To make the mixing easier, I mostly melted the butter instead of just softening it. Then I just mixed all the ingredients together and put it in the fridge to chill.

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Back to the shortbread recipe, I needed to melt some chocolate. The recipe I use calls for 190 grams of chocolate. But the secret from the other recipe for gluing down the peanut butter layer was to use more melted chocolate.

Chocolate glue layer.

Chocolate glue layer.

I went with 240 grams. Why 240? I used a very complex scientific principle called… eyeballing it. (Super extra bonus points if you get the reference.) That recipe needed 1/4 cup of chocolate for gluing it down, so I figured I needed 1/4 cup extra. I looked at how much chocolate might fit into 1/4 cup and I weighed it.

Peanut butter layer with the start of the top chocolate layer

Peanut butter layer with the start of the top chocolate layer.

Then I melted the chocolate as per usual. I ended up spreading about 2-3 tbsps of the melted chocolate on top of the shortbread as the glue. Then I spread the peanut butter on top, partially using utensils, partially using my hands. The other recipe called for refrigerating it after adding the chocolate glue layer, but before adding the peanut butter layer. I didn’t do that. I just added the peanut butter right away. So some of the chocolate oozed up a bit from underneath. I wouldn’t know till later if it stuck properly.

Top chocolate layer.

Top chocolate layer.

After I put the peanut butter layer on, I spread the rest of the chocolate on top. I forgot to take a picture after the peanut butter layer, so I took one as I was just starting to put the top chocolate layer on. Then I put it in the fridge overnight, as it was already late.

Totally chilled.

Totally chilled.

Overall, it was fairly easy to make. Two thirds of it were the same as the millionaire’s shortbread. And doing the peanut butter instead of the caramel didn’t make it any more challenging.

You can see how the bottom chocolate layer oozed up around the side.

You can see how the bottom chocolate layer oozed up around the side.

So the next night we tried it. I took it out of the fridge to let it get to room temperature before cutting it. I love the shapes in the corners caused by the bunching up of the parchment paper. When I started cutting it up, I realized that it looks kinda like a candy bar with a big fluffy center. I also noticed that there was a lot of peanut butter filling in comparison to everything else.

One of the cool corner shapes.

One of the cool corner shapes.

And how was it? Well, first of all, it was delicious. And second of all, the peanut butter is the star of the show. In the millionaire’s shortbread it’s complementary, with all three layers working together. But in this one, it’s all about the peanut butter. It overpowered the other layers, to the point where I didn’t taste much of the shortbread or chocolate. It was delicious, but it was basically a vehicle for the peanut butter. And the chocolate seemed to work well as glue, as the whole thing stuck together well.

Another one.

Another one.

My wife described it as either a “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on steroids” cookie, or as a softer and creamier quadruple decker Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on top of shortbread.

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If I made it again, I would put in less of the peanut butter layer (probably half as much). I would also probably add a little bit more chocolate. I think if it was more evened out, the three layers would work better together. As it is, the other two layers are kinda jealous of the peanut butter, and that’s not good for anyone.

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So, I encourage you to try this recipe. The first reason is that it’s delicious, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The second reason is a little more selfish, in that I hope you’ll iron out the kinks. In any case, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear your results. And if you have frankenstein creations of your own that you want to share, feel free to let me know that, too.

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Original millionaire’s shortbread recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com. My slightly modified version here. Peanut butter filling (and chocolate glue idea) courtesy of Once Upon a Chef.