Tag Archives: birthday

Tate‚Äôs 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. ūüôā 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 App√©tit.

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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.

Chess Pie

I normally don’t talk about world events on this blog, not because I don’t care, but because this isn’t the forum for it. But I wanted to say a few words about recent events, because they can’t be ignored, and because my dear friend for whom this recipe was made is a tireless advocate for racial justice and equality, and I think she would want it this way.

My heart goes out to the families, friends, loved ones, and communities of those who were killed. These tragedies are heartbreaking. I want a world where everyone is treated fairly and equally, where everyone is safe, and everyone can live in peace. I am committed to working towards that world.


Hey everyone! How are you? I’m fine, thanks for asking. I know you missed all the recipes, so I wanted to let you know I’m back. With more recipes! More yummy things that I’ve baked! More delicious descriptions and pictures! More exclamation points! So sit back and enjoy.

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So what in the world is a chess pie? And where are the checkers pies, dominoes pies, and backgammon pies, too? Chess pie is a classic southern (US) pie. I had never had it before, but I had come across it a bunch when looking up pies. It’s got an interesting name and stories about its name. Is it named after playing chess? A pie chest? From the Rick Springfield song? I don’t know what’s actually true, but the pie piqued my interest.

One dough recipe. Which makes...

One dough recipe. Which makes…

I was looking for something to make for my friend’s birthday/graduation. I asked her what she wanted, and she said she would be happy with anything. Since she’s southern, I thought it would be fun to make a southern dessert in her honor. Intrigued by this funny-named but tasty-looking pie, I decided to make it. I didn’t know if it would be something she would like or not or if it was even part of her southern experience, but I thought I would give it a shot.

...enough for two crusts.

…enough for two crusts.

As I do with most pies now, I started with my go-to pie dough from smitten kitchen. The recipe makes two pie crusts, so I was able to save one for later. (Future yums!) After I made the crust,¬†I didn’t have time to let it sit in the fridge for an hour. So I put it in the freezer, and I let it sit for about 30 minutes, which turned out to be okay. I put it in the fridge for a little bit before taking it out, so it could get to a better temperature.

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Notice the handy circles on the pastry mat. Makes measuring a breeze.

I rolled it out using my handy pastry mat. What makes it particularly handy is that it has the pie crust sizes right on it. No more rolling, guessing, measuring, re-rolling, etc. My first attempt at rolling it out was okay, but it got a little too stretched out while I was putting it in the pie pan. I had to re-roll it, but the second time was the charm. I followed the instructions to pre-bake the crust.

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While it was cooling I mixed up the filling. There’s a lot of sugar in this. It’s a custard pie, so eggs and sugar are to be expected. But the odd ingredients in this one are cornmeal and vinegar. It smelled a lot like vinegar as I was mixing it up, but once I put the eggs in, the vinegar smell kinda went away. It was simple to put together. I mixed it up a fair amount to make sure everything was mixed in.

Pre-baking the crust

Pre-baking the crust

I then filled the pie crust. There was a lot of filling. It ended up being filled pretty close to the top. I carefully put it in the oven and baked it for 10 minutes.

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Then I took it out to put the aluminum foil on the crust. This was difficult. I should have pre-planned it. Trying to get the foil into the right shape and to cover just the crust and not fall off, all on a hot dish, was challenging. I’m afraid this took too long as it seemed the consistency of the filling changed. I will have to practice more if I do something that requires it again. Actually, I guess I should prepare it ahead of time so it’s all ready to go. (I’m interested to hear any tips or tricks you have for this part.)

Filling.

Filling.

I put it back in for 40 minutes. It got really poofy, then it cracked. The “jiggle test” also seemed to indicate it was done. It eventually deflated. It looked and smelled awesome. I didn’t end up doing the optional powdered sugar, although that might have covered up the cracks. I was excited to see how it tasted and what the birthday girl/graduate thought of it.

All ready to bake!

All ready to bake!

At the party the next day, it went over well! When I mentioned to the birthday girl/graduate that I had made chess pie, she immediately asked which kind. So I knew I was on the right track. She really enjoyed it. Everyone really enjoyed it, even if no one else knew what chess pie was. They did learn, however, that it was delicious. It was full of eggy, sugary goodness, surrounded by crust. And you can’t really go wrong with that.

That filling is living on the edge.

That filling is living on the edge.

I’m not the world’s biggest connoisseur of custard pies, so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to. Of anything, it reminded me a little bit of Swedish pancake. Swedish pancake is an old recipe which is a specialty of my mom’s, which isn’t really a pancake the way most of us think of a pancake, and I don’t think is actually Swedish. (As far as my research has gone, it seems similar to a Dutch baby.) I think the similarity is due to the deliciousness of baked eggs in both.

Beautiful, if slightly cracked.

Beautiful, if slightly cracked.

In any case, it was a wonderful party. My friend had drawn together an amazing assemblage of fantastic people. She is an amazing and fantastic person herself, so I’m not surprised. I had interesting, heartfelt talks with people from all over the world. And it was a great chance to celebrate her.

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I was also not the only one to bring dessert, as she and others had baked and brought a wide array of delicious dishes. So while the chess pie went over well, it was definitely in good company.

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If you’ve never made chess pie before, I would easily recommend it. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and it’s a great conversation starter. If you have a favorite pie crust, you’re already half-way done. And if you have made it before, I’ve heard that there are lots of different variations on what you put into chess pie. So I’d love to hear, what’s the secret ingredient in your chess pie? How do you deal with covering up the crust while baking? Do you have any other favorite southern desserts? Let me know in the comments below!

Crust recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Pie recipe courtesy of Southern Living.

Ice Cream Icebox Cake

So as you know last week, I made a giant icebox cake for my wife’s surprise birthday party. It’s her favorite cake, and since I knew it would get devoured at the party, I wanted to make her another one so she could enjoy it. And, as I mentioned, I wanted to kick it up a notch.

I had recently discovered this no-churn ice cream recipe. So I thought, what about making an ice cream icebox cake? That is, replace the whipped cream with ice cream. Surely, I thought, someone would have done it before. But when I looked, all I found were some vague references along the lines of “wouldn’t that be an interesting idea?”. So I plunged ahead into the unknown. I couldn’t get any clear info on whether or not it would work the same, but I figured it would.

The ice cream ingredients. Magic!

The ice cream ingredients. Magic!

I made a double recipe of the ice cream, as I didn’t know how much I would need. I had made a bunch of cookies for the first icebox cake, and this one. I figured I would use about 3/4 of the cookies for the first cake, and use the rest for this one.

Because the ice cream needed a while to set, I made it the night before. I waited until my wife went to sleep, and then gathered the ingredients I had secretly assembled. In this case, I had just hidden the ingredients in another room.

The ice cream, ready to freeze.

The ice cream, ready to freeze.

The ice cream recipe, as I mentioned when I made it the first time, is pretty straightforward. It was complicated a little bit by wanting to do it secretly, but it was still pretty easy. I used our immersion blender with the whisk attachment as that was easier to clean after the fact. It was also easier to transport into another room. The kitchen is not far from our bedroom, and even with my wife asleep and the door closed, I didn’t want to risk it.

I followed the instructions for making the ice cream. I added a little bit of vanilla, as I thought that vanilla ice cream would be a good choice, and it would mirror the vanilla that gets added to the whipped cream in the regular icebox cake.

Packaged up and going to freeze.

Packaged up and going to freeze.

So I made ice cream, and buried it under some other things in the freezer, betting that she wouldn’t go digging through it in the morning. I also sealed the ice cream in containers with lids, as opposed to using wax paper. (It was the cleanest way to bury them.) I cleaned up and let the ice cream set work its magic overnight.

The next day I made the chocolate wafer cookies, as I described last week. I made the regular icebox cake first, as that was going to be used first, and I wanted to give it the longest time possible to set. Once that was done, I went to work making this.

Fresh from the freezer.

Fresh from the freezer.

First things first, what to put it in? I needed something big enough, and that could go in the freezer. I ended up using a 9″ round cake pan. Since it was going to be a cake anyway, this seemed appropriate. I lined it with foil. I figured that would make cleanup easier. I also thought it might let me pull the cake out of the cake pan.

So then how to make it? I was kinda making it all up here. So I just started building it like I would a regular icebox cake. I grabbed some cookies and started filling in between them with ice cream. I laid down a stack of those and started on another. One thing soon became clear to me. It’s hard to build an icebox cake in a circle. A square or rectangular dish would have probably been better.

Assembly. It was a little messy.

Assembly. It was a little messy.

So I soon had a few stacks filling up part of the space, but because it was a circle, I then had to fill in here and there to get all the in between spaces. Eventually I got it reasonably filled. I then had to make another decision. Should the outer layer be cookies or ice cream? If it were a cookie cake, and maybe for structural reasons, you’d want cookies on the outside. But for an icebox cake you wouldn’t. I ended up going for the full icebox and filled in the outside layer with ice cream. I also filled in the rest of the spaces with ice cream. And covered the top with ice cream.

After that, I covered it in plastic wrap and buried it in the freezer for secrecy purposes. I didn’t end up using as many cookies as I thought I might. Maybe 30 or so? I ended up using about one and a half recipes worth of the ice cream, so I’m very glad I made a double recipe.

Assembled, and going back into the freezer.

Assembled, and going back into the freezer.

With the second cake done, I did all the cleanup, and all the major preparation was now done. I sat down for a couple of minutes to relax before the evening’s festivities.

Last week’s post detailed what happened next. One thing I’ll say is that at the party I let my wife know that there was a second dessert waiting at home. When we got home, there was no way we were going to eat another dessert, but I gave her a sneak peek at what was to come. She was very excited and still kinda flabbergasted from the whole surprise party. I won’t say that this was the icing on the cake, but it was very well received.

Voila!

Voila!

We waited until the next evening to try it. The way it had frozen made it challenging to remove, so I decided to cut it right in the pan. But it’s a non-stick pan, so I had to tread carefully. A large spatula ended up being the tool of choice. And letting it sit on the counter to warm up a little bit didn’t hurt either.

Once a slice was freed from the pan, you could see it was clearly a good-looking cake. It actually looked a bit like icebox cake. A sea of white surrounding some layers of chocolate.

Yum!

Yum!

And how was it? Wow. It was an ice cream cake. And it was an icebox cake. It totally worked! I’m not sure exactly why, but it only partially softened the cookies. (It had over a day by the time we ate it.) But this was actually a good thing. It tasted like a Carvel ice cream cake.

I’m sure not everyone is familiar with Carvel, but it’s a chain of ice cream shops. They have these pretty awesome ice cream cakes. And the way the cookies softened in this cake made them taste just like the chocolate cookie/cookie crumb they used in theirs.

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It was a nice soft vanilla ice cream with these great, mostly softened, but slightly crunchy chocolate bits throughout. They went perfectly together and made for a delicious cake. A slight change from the regular icebox cake, but a good change nonetheless.

I would highly recommend trying this out. The ice cream is super easy. The cookies are just mix, slice, and bake. The cake assembly is easy. And all in all, it’s greater than the sum of its parts. And for me, it checked off all the boxes I needed. Second birthday dessert, check. Keeping true to my wife’s favorite dessert, check. Kicking it up a notch, check. Trying something new, check. And “inventing” a new recipe, also check.

Close-up.

Close-up.

So when summer hits, and you’re looking for an easy, yummy, totally homemade and totally knock your socks off dessert, you’ll be glad you remembered this. And when you want to wow them a second or a third time, you’ll also remember that the ice cream is easily modified into many, many, different flavors. So go forth and enjoy. I’d love to know how it all turns out!

Inside the cake pan.

Inside the cake pan.

Ice cream recipe courtesy of The Kitchn. Chocolate wafer recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen. Cake recipe inspired by Nabisco, but imagined and created by me.

Icebox Cake Surprise Edition

I’m a firm believer that birthdays should be special. I think we generally fail to appreciate the people around us. So on people’s birthdays I like to take advantage of the opportunity and show people that I’m thinking of them and that I think they’re special. There are lots of ways of doing this. Obviously telling them is the most straightforward way. But I also like to bake for them.

If I know someone well, I often have a good idea of what to make them for their birthday. My wife’s favorite cake is icebox cake. I’ve made it for her birthday a couple of times so far. (You can see previous posts here and here.). Because it’s her favorite cake, she never gets tired of it. But even so, every year, I try to kick it up a notch. The first year, making it was a big deal. The second year, I baked the chocolate wafers that make up the cake, instead of buying them. This year is no different. What I did to kick it up a notch this year was two-fold. First, I made a giant icebox cake. And second, I actually made two cakes. (I’ll tell you about the second one next week.)

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What made this year’s cake more complicated was that her whole birthday was a surprise. It started with a surprise party. Well, actually it started with nothing. At first, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for her birthday, so we didn’t plan anything. But as it got closer to her birthday it became clear that she wanted to celebrate with her friends. It seemed too late to her to throw something together at the last-minute. But I was undeterred, and I put together a last-minute surprise party. It was a little bit of a challenge – I won’t say how much, but there was a spreadsheet involved – but in the end we got a bunch of people together.

And since the party was a surprise, I decided to make the dessert a surprise too. I bought the ingredients ahead of time, and I hid them. The small container of milk was hidden at the very back of the fridge. I got shelf stable whipping cream and hid it in another room. Everything else was hidden in plain sight. I also had to find time to make the cake while she wasn’t around. That’s difficult when you live with someone. So I took off work on the day of her birthday, which had the added benefit of making sure I got home in time to celebrate. I spent a good chunk of the day baking the cookies and putting the cakes together.

The dough, all mixed up.

The dough, all mixed up.

That’s because I needed to make a lot of cookies. (In case you don’t know what icebox cake is and you’re confused about why I’m referring to cookies in a cake recipe: icebox cake is made of chocolate wafer cookies which are slathered in whipped cream and put in the fridge. After several hours, the whipped cream turns the cookies into a cake-like consistency.) Because I was making two cakes, and one of them needed to be party size, I made a double recipe of the cookies. This is roughly equivalent to 4 boxes of the original wafer cookies.

Making the cookie dough involves mixing it in the food processor. After mixing, I kneaded it all together on freezer paper. Then I rolled the dough into a log and refrigerated it for about 90 minutes wrapped in that same freezer paper. For ease of measuring and mixing, as well as not overloading the food processor, I did it in two batches and repeated these same steps over for the second batch. (The second batch was in the fridge a little over an hour.)

The dough, in log form.

The dough, in log form.

After chilling, I took the logs out of the fridge to cut them into cookies, but in between cutting each batch of cookies, I put the dough back in the fridge. The freezer paper was easier to cut on than the foil I used previously, and refrigerating it in between sheets of cookies helped keep the dough the right consistency. I cut them as thin as I could. Since I was just eyeballing it, the rolls were a little uneven, but I reshaped them as I cut them, and re-rolled any bits I had cut off.

I did one sheet of cookies. Then I did the second and put it in at the half way point when I rotated the first sheet and moved it to the other rack. Then I pulled the Silpat, with the cookies still on it, off the baking sheet and let them cool on a cooling rack. I then used the baking sheet to prepare the next batch.

First sheet, unbaked.

First sheet, unbaked.

I kept them in rotation. I started off with two baking sheets with Silpats on them, but when it became clear I needed a third baking sheet, I started using parchment paper as well. Between cooking, cooling, and prepping, I kept the three baking sheets in constant use. It was a pretty efficient operation.

I baked them for 12 minutes. I wasn’t exact on the sizing, so while they all got cooked, some of them got a little overcooked. I ended up making 138 cookies. I was expecting 160, but I didn’t measure that carefully.

First sheet, baked.

First sheet, baked.

I ended up using around 100 or so cookies for this cake for the party. A regular cake recipe uses 40 cookies, but I needed it to be bigger, as I was expecting between 15-20 people at the surprise party. It took a little longer than I expected to put it together, so it only got to sit in the fridge for about 4 hours before the party.

One reason that it took a little longer was that I had a slight mistake as I was making the whipped cream. I wasn’t paying close enough attention, and I let it go too far. It turned into something closer to buttercream. So, I had to run out and get more cream. Once I got that settled, it was pretty easy to put the cake together. In a moment of inspiration, I spelled out “Happy Bday” in chocolate chunks on the top.

All the cookies!

All the cookies!

As the cake lay secretly resting in the fridge, my wife and I went out to dinner. I had arranged for everyone to meet us at a different bar/restaurant in the neighborhood. I had also arranged with one of our friends to stop by earlier in the day and pick up keys, so that while we were out to dinner she could pick up the cake and bring it to the party.

After dinner, we walked back home from the restaurant, but I told my wife we couldn’t stop at home. I told her there was one more stop we had to make. She was a good sport and joined me on the unknown adventure. The party was only a block away. As we walked in, and walked toward the back, she started to notice a whole gaggle of her friends assembled. She had no idea what was happening, and was pleasantly surprised.

Omnomnomnom!

Omnomnomnom!

After hanging out with everyone for a while, and after she got over some of the shock of it all, we eventually got around to eating the cake. Lots of people had never heard of icebox cake before, but that didn’t stop it from being devoured. Since the cake didn’t get to sit as long as it should have, the cookies were still pretty solid, and not as cake-like as they should have been. It was still quite tasty, but it wasn’t quite icebox cake consistency. However, the birthday girl was very happy with it (and everyone else was, too). That’s what mattered.

What also mattered is that everyone got to celebrate her. As I said, I like to celebrate people on birthdays, but it wasn’t just me. Everyone was truly, honestly, and emphatically excited to be there. People remarked to me over and over how happy they were to be a part of it, how much fun it was, and how great it was to get to appreciate her.

Not pictured here is the extra whipped cream I had to run out and get.

Not pictured here is the extra whipped cream I had to run out and get.

It took her a while to let it all sink in, which was good, because it was a lot to take in. She was happy, I was happy, everyone was happy. And in the end, that was the most important thing.

Normally I would take time here to thank my wife for her help, but this time I want to give a shout out to all of her friends for helping put this together. You know who you are. Thank you.

The cake, almost completely frosted.

The cake, almost completely frosted.

I encourage you all to try icebox cake sometime, whether or not you make your own cookies. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s delicious. But what I really encourage, more than anything, is to find out what makes the people around you happy, and, if at no other time, see if you can arrange to make that happen on their birthday. I can assure you they’ll be glad you did.

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Chocolate wafer recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen. Icebox cake recipe courtesy of Nabisco.

Hamantaschen, Part 1

Has your spouse ever made a professional comedian laugh while bantering with him before one of his shows? Have you ever tried to recreate a family recipe from your childhood only to realize there is no family recipe? Were you born on a holiday virtually unknown in popular culture, but yet find you have a lot to say about it? Well, do I have a treat for you. All of these experiences (and more!) are wrapped up in this week’s recipe. Who knew one cookie could contain so much?

First of all, how do you pronounce hamantaschen? (This actually covers it pretty well.) We should probably also discuss: what the heck are hamantaschen? Hamantaschen are cookies that are traditional to make on the Jewish holiday of Purim. What is Purim all about? Well, it’s a¬† long story. However, it can be summed up, like so many Jewish holidays, as: they tried to destroy the Jews, they failed, let’s eat. Actually, it’s a pretty interesting story. It’s got a great female hero (Esther), a king with a fairly unpronounceable name (Ahashverosh), and an antagonist named Haman, who the cookies are named for. You can read the whole story of Purim here or here, if you like. It’s a pretty good read. I’ll wait for you.

Now that you’re back, what did you think? Interesting story, right? Reading it again now, I realize that either I was never told or I just completely forgot some of the details of the story. One detail, well one person, that is particularly¬†important for this week’s recipe, is Haman. One fun thing that happens during the holiday is that, because he was such a jerk, whenever his name is mentioned you try to make as much noise as possible to drown out his name. People will shout and holler, as well as use noisemakers. In synagogue. During services. It’s kind of awesome.

And then there are the cookies. Hamantaschen are triangular cookies, supposedly the shape of Haman’s hat. I’ve also heard them referred to as “Haman’s pockets”. In Hebrew they’re called “Haman’s ears”. Regardless of what the name is or means, they are delicious cookies.

I made these for Purim this year. Granted, Purim was a few weeks ago at this point. However, the delay between making them and getting a chance to write about them means you’re not hearing about them till now. (On the plus side, this gives you plenty of time to get ready for next year. ūüėČ )

I remember making hamantaschen with my mom growing up. While there are lots of family recipes, I don’t have one for hamantaschen. Latkes, yes. Matzoh ball soup, of course. But hamantaschen? I don’t think so. I remember making them, but I think we just pulled a recipe from a cookbook (maybe a sugar cookie?), and then added filling.

Now, I’d like to share with you an interesting Purim coincidence or two. Purim is also my birthday. Those who know me know that it wasn’t just my birthday, but let me explain. The Jewish calendar and the regular calendar don’t necessarily line up from year to year, as they calculate things differently. Well, when I was younger, I remember one year having a really bad birthday party. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I know that I didn’t have a good time. As a consolation, my parents said I could have a Purim party. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that my birthday was on Purim, but in retrospect, it’s a very happy coincidence. Also, this year Purim was the birthday of a friend at work. I brought some hamantaschen in for Purim, and when I ran into her, I asked her if she wanted to stop by and have some. She said she could stop by later, as it was her birthday and her department was busy throwing a party for her.

Had enough coincidences? Are you ready for one more? Last year, my wife got me tickets to the Daily Show as a birthday present. As you may know they don’t cost anything, but it was a very sweet idea and it took a heck of a lot of planning to pull off. She had originally gotten tickets for a particular day, but I was too busy at work, so we had to reschedule. As I later found out, the day we were originally supposed to go was the day Jon Stewart announced his retirement. (I mean, what are the chances, right?) She ended up getting tickets for another day. That day turned out to be Purim, which is, as mentioned above, also my birthday.

The Daily Show set, before the show.

The Daily Show set, before the show.

But Purim was fortuitous for other reasons. It helped my wife make Jon Stewart laugh. Let me tell you what happened. Before the show starts, they bring out a comedian to warm up the crowd. And after that, Jon Stewart comes out and talks with the crowd, taking questions from the audience. Knowing this, my wife and I strategized before the show about what question to ask. I didn’t know if I would ask him a question, but my wife was determined to. And she was determined to come up with something good.

Once Jon Stewart came out, he took a few questions, making his way around the audience. When his eyes got to our section, my wife’s arm in the air, and probably her boundless enthusiasm and energy, caught his eye, and he called on her to ask her question.

What she asked was, “Are you Team Esther or Team Haman?”

I think she kinda caught him off guard. He then went on to explain about Purim, for those who didn’t get the reference.

After his explanation of Purim, he countered with something like, “Wait, wasn’t Haman the bad guy?”

There was a little bit more back and forth about him being the bad guy, and the cookies that bear his name. At which point my wife came back with, and this I remember very clearly because it was amazing, “I mean, he is sorta the oppressor, but they are delicious cookies.”

And Jon Stewart burst into laughter. He had been chuckling a bit during the back and forth banter, but this was even better. My wife made Jon Stewart really laugh. I always thought she was pretty funny, but so did he. Which is awesome. I wish I could have recorded it, but while you can do what you want while you’re waiting, once things get started they have a pretty strict “no phones out, no recording anything” policy. But there’s no way I can forget it. It was a pretty awesome day, and a pretty amazing present to put together.

So, now that I’ve gotten through the back story, I should tell you about the recipe. But this post is getting kinda long, so I think I’ll save that part for next week. Stay tuned, as delicious cookies await!

Recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Chocolate Potato Chip Cookie Bars

Welcome to another special birthday edition of Needs Baked! I like baking for people. It’s fun. It’s a great gift. And people generally love it to pieces. You might remember the things I’ve made for different people’s birthdays. Like this cake, or this pie, or these cupcakes.

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So this time it was for a new friend’s birthday. I wanted to make something, but I don’t know him all that well yet. I consulted someone who knows him better. She said he had no real preferences, but he likes chocolate. As far as chocolate goes, this recipe is one I’ve had my eye on for a while. It’s salty, it’s sweet. It’s snacky, it’s desserty. And it’s not your average dessert. So it seemed like a good choice.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

I still had no eggs, but I had plenty of aquafaba left from last week’s recipe, so I used that here. I wanted to avoid using the mixer, as I didn’t want to clean it. (It was late and my regular dishwasher was fast asleep.) So I melted the butter to make it easier to incorporate. I know that’s cheating a little bit, but I hope you’ll forgive me. I accidentally melted it too much. It was very liquidy, so it made the resultant mixture very liquidy. (Don’t worry, it turned out okay.)

Fresh out of the oven.

Fresh out of the oven.

The recipe calls for a tablespoon of vanilla. At first I thought that was a misprint. So I tried it with a teaspoon. After testing, it seemed okay to add more, so I ended up using a whole tablespoon after all. As a side benefit, I finally made it to my last bottle of vanilla! I know that sounds weird, so let me explain. At one point I had three bottles of vanilla, which is more than anyone should probably have unless you’re running a secret underground vanilla league. It all started off innocently enough. I had one, but I wanted to get ahead of it before I ran out, so I got some more. I then promptly forgot that I had already bought some more and got more again. So you can see I wasn’t trying to corner the market on vanilla. It was purely accidental. But I finally finished my last extra bottle and am now on my last bottle. Which is a big deal, considering you only use like a teaspoon or so for a recipe. Which means I made a lot of recipes to use up that much vanilla. Yay me! (It’s the little things.)

If you look closely, you can see the chips.

If you look closely, you can see the chips.

It was fun crushing all the potato chips. I didn’t know quite how much I would need to crush. I crushed just what I had in the bag. It turned out to be almost exactly the right amount. I was just a tiny bit shy of the amount for the top.

Mmm. Chocolate topping.

Mmm. Chocolate topping.

Putting it into the baking dish, it was a little greasy. That’s because the butter hadn’t combined properly (see melting above), but it was fun smooshing it in nonetheless. (Yes, smooshing is an industry term.) It looked and smelled lovely as it was baking. It came out with a nice golden color. I let it cool on a cooling rack.

See how it spreads? Nice and smooth.

See how it spreads? Nice and smooth.

Then I made the topping. That was fun, too: melty, melty, smooshy, smooshy. I ended up microwaving it for 1 1/2 minutes. It ended up almost like frosting. There was plenty to go around, and it was smooth and easy to spread.

More chips on top. Because, why not?

More chips on top. Because, why not?

I tried to press in the potato chips on top (easier said than done), as I had a feeling many would fall off while eating. It was a challenge, but it was definitely the way to go. At this point, I put it in the fridge to set. It was late (I had started on it late), so I let it set overnight. Overall, it was very easy and fun to make.

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The next day, I took it out while we went out grocery shopping. (You can’t make cookies without getting groceries sometime.) By the time we got back, it had gotten to room temperature. Much easier to cut it that way. The recipe said you should get 16-20 cookies out of it, but it seemed like they would be very big cookies. For my millionaire’s shortbread, I would get 50 cookies out of something that big. These probably weren’t going to be as rich, but still. I ended up with 30. I cut them a little unevenly, but that was okay as some people like bigger cookies and some like smaller.

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We were bringing them to the birthday boy’s celebration later that evening, but we needed to try them first. You know, to make sure they were okay. The lengths I go to for quality control. ūüėČ

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They’re nice. Rich, buttery, and not overly sweet. My chief taste tester said it was kinda like birthday cake (which is fitting). It’s a moist cookie and the fudge topping is like frosting. It reminded her of childhood. I definitely enjoyed the salty with the sweet. And there was a nice texture difference. Yum!

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How did they go over? Quite well. The birthday boy was very touched. He really enjoyed them. Another guest described them as “like a picnic in my mouth”. My wife was right. People at parties at bars really like desserts. And everyone seemed to particularly enjoy the chocolate and potato chips together, so it was definitely a good choice.

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So, easy and fun recipe? Check. Delicious results? Check. An ingenious way to get your daily recommended allowance of snack foods all together? Check. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. And if you have any other salty and sweet recipes up your sleeve, feel free to share!

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Recipe courtesy of A Spicy Perspective.

Icebox Cake – Homemade Edition

As some of you may remember from last year, icebox cake¬†is my wife’s favorite birthday cake. I decided to make it again this year, but instead of trying to find those wafers, and in an attempt to make it more special, I decided to make the wafers myself.

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On smitten kitchen, I found a recipe for icebox cupcakes that had a chocolate wafer recipe in it. I used that recipe to make the wafers and then used those wafers in the traditional Nabisco recipe. I bought brand new cocoa, sugar, and baking powder for this recipe because I was out. I also used skim milk instead of whole milk.

It was very easy to make the dough. From start to finish (including some cleaning), maybe 40 minutes. About 5 Р10 minutes of that was rolling, measuring, rerolling, and remeasuring the dough to get it to the right size. (It was supposed to be 1 3/4 inch. Mine was closer to 2 inches, but it was close enough.)

Every cookie starts somewhere...

Every cookie starts somewhere.

It went mostly pretty smoothly, with just a couple of small blips. When using the food processor, I hadn’t put in the piece to cover the hole, and some of¬†the mixture went flying. (Whee!) And when I tried to carefully add the milk mixture, some of it dripped out. But blips aside, it was done pretty quick.¬†I transferred it to a bowl to knead. It almost wasn’t big enough. (I know,¬†my bowl rule.) But it didn’t really matter, because it wasn’t staying there long. I should have just used a cutting board though, cause I used one when I needed¬†a space to roll it out anyway.

Here's the dough all mixed.

Here’s the dough all mixed.

It took a few minutes to roll out, measure, reroll, remeasure, and reroll again. After getting it just right (or close enough, really), I wrapped it in aluminum foil. Then I stuck it in the fridge to chill. At that point, it was 11:15pm. I was able to do it then and still keep the surprise, as my wife was out at a concert (the night before her birthday).

Hey look, I'm on a roll!

Hey look, I’m on a roll!

I didn’t think I was going to finish it in time that night, because¬†I didn’t want her to walk in while I was making it. I thought I would have to finish it the next day. Unless I was going to bake it while she was sleeping, which would have had its own difficulties. But, after it became clear she would still be out for a while, I decided to keep working on it. It was late. I had let it sit for about 2 hours.

Not exactly circles.

Not exactly circles.

I had rolled the log into what turned out to be not exactly a circle, so the cookies that I cut ended up looking more like Melba toast or fruit slices and less like circles. And as I cut, the dough got warmer, and stuck to the foil. (I was cutting it on the foil for simplicity’s sake.) The first few cuts were not good. I put those to the side and reused them later. Some ended up¬†thicker, some thinner, but¬†I eventually got the hang of it. I put my fingers up close to the end and cut as close as I could without it being¬†too¬†thin. Still a little bit got stuck on the bottom, so I kept moving the dough to a clean part of the foil.¬†For the first round, I ended up with 30 cookies total on two baking sheets.

All lined up and ready to bake.

All lined up and ready to bake.

I had preheated the oven. I moved the oven racks and did the top/bottom and front/back rotation as directed. Since some cookies looked to be on the small side, I baked them on the lower end of the scale Р12 minutes Рwith the changeover at 6 minutes. After 12 minutes they looked done. Some of the smaller ones were possibly a little overcooked, but they were still good.

The first batch, fresh from the oven.

The first batch, fresh from the oven.

First batch close-up.

First batch close-up.

After the first batch, I moved both pieces of parchment paper with the cookies still on them onto the cooling rack. I put down new parchment paper, pulled the remains of the log out of the fridge and repeated. The second batch was better. It was 30 cookies again. I moved the first batch (which had cooled and crisped at this point) off the cooling rack and moved the second batch on.

Second batch, ready to go.

Second batch, ready to go.

Second batch, ready to go, extreme close-up.

Second batch, ready to go, close-up.

Second batch, fresh from the oven.

Second batch, fresh from the oven.

Yum!

Yum!

Double yum!

Double yum!

I moved on to the third batch. I reused the parchment paper from the first batch. I ended up with 19 more for a total of 79 cookies. I didn’t have a chance to reform all the previously messed-up¬†ones because it would have meant a whole nother batch. So I quickly reformed them into a ball, then a bit like a log, but it was smaller and smooshier (because it was warm). So I cut them a little bit thicker and just smooshed them which means they were less well-formed.

Third batch. Notice the smooshy shapes. And the grease stains from the previous batches.

Third batch. Notice the smooshed shapes. And the grease stains from the previous batch.

Cookie friends!

Cookie friends!

What a great looking batch, eh?

What a great looking batch, eh?

Third batch close-up!

Third batch close-up!

They smelled good. Not overpowering, but good. They looked really nice. I’m happy with how they turned out.¬†I let them cool. I took lots of pictures. I put them away so my wife wouldn’t see them in the morning. (She normally gets up before I do.) She had actually come back home in the middle of me baking, but she didn’t want to spoil the surprise (even though I said it would be okay). So every time she walked by the kitchen, she would consciously shield her eyes so she wouldn’t see anything.

All the cookies.

All the cookies.

With the cookies done, I still had to make the whipped cream, assemble the cake, and let it chill. Last year I used two packages (a double recipe) which was 80 cookies. I got 79 out of this recipe, so that was pretty close. It was the middle of the night at this point, so I figured I would wait until the next day.

Whipped cream.

Whipped cream.

I didn’t want¬†to take time away from her birthday that I would otherwise¬†be spending with her. So I didn’t get to finish it till later. In fact the¬†birthday celebrations ran late, and I didn’t have a chance to put the cake together till after that. To save time, coupled with the fact that we were going out-of-town soon after, I used just a single recipe: 2 cups of whipping cream and 40 cookies. (BTW, it doesn’t tell you how many are in the package, so I had to do a little reverse engineering to figure out how many I needed.) I followed the traditional instructions to make them.¬†I beat the cream on high. It took about 10 minutes to make the whipped cream. Then I added in the vanilla.

Making stacks of cookies.

Making stacks of cookies.

Forty cookies, ready to be iced.

Forty cookies, ready to be frosted.

I took out a plate and prepared¬†them in stacks of 10 cookies at a time. I didn’t measure the whipped cream. I just shplurped some on. (That’s an industry term.) I did one stack of 10, set it aside, and did another stack of 10. Then I put them together. Then I repeated that with two more stacks of 10. Then I started frosting them. Because the cookies were irregular, some bits stuck out more than others and I had to smoosh them into shape and add more frosting. (“Smoosh” is another industry term.) I was in a rush, so it wasn’t my best work, but it was done.¬†I let it sit about 2 hours till we ate it.

Getting there.

Getting there.

All done! We have cake. Repeat, we have cake.

All done! We have cake. Repeat, we have cake.

Cake close-up

Cake close-up.

How did it go over? She was kinda blown away.¬†She knew I was going to make her¬†something, but since¬†I often don’t repeat recipes, she wasn’t expecting this.¬†She was really surprised.¬†She’s a smart cookie (pun intended), so she figured out right away that I had baked the wafers. (She knew I was baking something the night before, and there’s nothing else I could have baked for this cake.)¬†She was really moved that I had made the cake for her, and even more so¬†that I had gone to the trouble of making the cookies by hand.

Mmm, cake.

Mmm, cake.

Besides the metaphorical sweetness, she thought the cake was amazing. She described the cookies as not too sweet, sturdier than the regular ones, with a good, but different texture. They had a nice chocolately taste. Not chocolate flavored like some store-bought cookies, actual chocolate.

Did someone say cake?

Did someone say cake?

Also, while the whipped cream itself was not sweet, it took on some of the sweetness from the cookies after a while. It got better and better each day. For instance, after the third day – there was a lot of restraint involved – it got even better.

While it was a little bit of work to make the cookies, it wasn’t really any more work than running around to try and find the store-bought ones. And it was totally worth it in taste and in smiles. Have you ever created a store-bought dessert from scratch? Have you ever made this or other versions of an icebox cake? Let me know in the comments below.

Chocolate wafer recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen. Icebox cake recipe courtesy of Nabisco.

Buckeye Brownies

This is another birthday post. As it turns out, I have plenty of friends who enjoy desserts on their birthdays. I know that’s¬†extremely shocking. ūüėČ

For this friend’s birthday, I didn’t know what kind of dessert she would want, and I didn’t have a chance to subtly ask her.¬†I could have made my millionaire’s shortbread, as that’s always a hit. But since she’s already had that, I thought it would be fun to make something different.

I turned to my list of recipes. (You know, the recipes you’ve wanted to try but haven’t had a chance to. Everyone has that list, right?) I weeded out the weird ones, the ones that were¬†primarily for me, and¬†the¬†ones that were super ridiculous or messy. I had to get them ready for later that day, and they were going to be eaten while we were out. I wanted something easy to transport and eat.

I ran a few ideas by my dessert comrade (my wife). I settled on this one. It had been on my list of recipes to make for a while. It looked delicious. It looked easy to transport and eat. And it had festive written all over it. So it seemed to be a good choice. 

I had heard of buckeyes¬†before, but I hadn’t¬†had them in regular form, let alone in brownie form. For those of you who aren’t familiar with buckeyes, you can read more about them¬†here. I have no particular connection to Ohio, but I am¬†a fan of peanut butter and chocolate. So, there’s that.

Ingredients!

Ingredients!

I had to run out and get peanut butter, eggs, and powdered sugar. (I ran out of powdered sugar on the red velvet cupcakes, as you¬†might recall.)¬†I did not use espresso.¬†It was optional,¬†and I didn’t feel the need to get something I wasn’t going to use otherwise.

I used a tiny little bit more hot (but not quite boiling) water than recommended as I didn’t have all the chocolate cut and ready when I needed to so it didn’t all melt. Plus, I might not have¬†cut it quite as fine as I needed to. As I was at the end of mixing up the brownies, I noticed there were still some small chunks of chocolate, but I figured they would get melted in the end.

I had a ton of chocolate in the house, but¬†I didn’t have any unsweetened chocolate. So I used some dark chocolate, which wasn’t super sweet.¬†I used mostly canola oil (leftover from the sufganiyot). I ran out of that. So the last almost half tablespoon was grapeseed oil.

I only used 2 1/4 cups of sugar in the brownies, instead of the 2 1/2 in the recipe. Because the chocolate I used had a little bit of sugar in it (instead of being unsweetened), I figured I would take some sugar out to compensate. And even if I had used unsweetened chocolate, I might have done it anyway, because 2 1/2 cups of sugar is a lot. (Not to mention the sugar in the rest of the recipe.)

I know I’m a little bit on the slow side, but this took a while. Getting the ingredients together and making just the brownie part took around an hour. Then¬†I did some¬†cleanup and took a break while the brownies were baking.

They baked for 30 minutes. There weren’t really any crumbs. But I think if I cooked them more, there would have been fewer crumbs, so I figured they were done. I actually tested them in two places. I had never seen the “halfway between edge and center” wording before. In a 9 x 13 dish that¬†could mean different things. So that’s why I tested in two places.

Freshly baked brownies!

Freshly baked brownies!

They smelled delicious and looked delicious just as is. Part of me thought of skipping the rest, but I thought it would be fun to make the whole recipe. I let them sit for the hour and a half that they needed. Part of the way through that time I started on the peanut butter filling.

Peanut butter filling. Yum!

Peanut butter filling. Yum!

I didn’t have any milk, and I didn’t want to get it for just two tablespoons. I used water. I ended up having to add a little bit more as was¬†suggested might be necessary.¬†I’m not sure if the filling turned out exactly right, though. I might not have mixed it enough, because it wasn’t that easy to spread on the brownies, and some of it didn’t stick right.

Brownies with filling!

Brownies with filling!

The glaze was easy to make. I had big chunks of chocolate from a big chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips. It was milk chocolate and it was going to get melted in¬†any case. Because of the way the blocks of chocolate measured out, I was a very tiny bit¬†short on chocolate. (I didn’t see the need to break them down further for just a tiny bit.)

Topped with glaze!

Topped with chocolate-peanut butter glaze!

After putting on the glaze, the brownies were supposed to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to set. I was running a little late to get to the birthday celebrations, so I stuck them in the freezer for about 20 minutes instead. They were just about set. Good enough. I cut them up and left them in the fridge for just a couple more minutes before we actually left. (They ended up sitting at room temperature for a while at the party, but turned out to be okay.)

Side view, after they set.

Side view, after they set.

We brought them with us to the party. We actually kind of forgot about them, because we were having a lot of fun hanging out and playing shuffleboard. Yes, shuffleboard. It’s making a comeback here in Brooklyn.¬†When the time came, we put a candle in the brownies and sang happy birthday. Because we’re traditional. And silly.

The final product.

The final product.

It was a good choice of dessert. The birthday girl loved them. Everyone loved them. Some people came back for seconds. They were rich. Sweet and delicious. Lots of nice different textures. Someone described them as tasting like a great peanut butter cup on top of a brownie.

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As you can see, some of the filling didn’t stick so well.

And in case anyone was wondering, we had asked them if it was okay to bring in a dessert from the outside. They had said it would be¬†okay, with two caveats. One, we had to bring our own serving utensils, as they didn’t have any. And two, we had to make sure to give them some. ūüôā

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It turned out to be a little bit of a ridiculous dessert: chocolate, peanut butter, and then chocolate peanut butter. Not too ridiculous of course, as they were quickly gobbled up. Do you have any ridiculous desserts in your repertoire? Do you have a list of recipes you want to try? What’s on your list?

Recipe courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker.

Caramel Pecan Pie

You know what happens when you start doing a good thing? Sometimes it’s hard to stop. What I mean by that is that this week’s post is¬†another birthday dessert request. Well, birthday request isn’t quite accurate. But it was a request, and it was a birthday dessert.

Here’s the story. Another friend’s birthday was coming up, and I thought it would be fun¬†to make him a dessert. He didn’t ask for one. And I didn’t ask him for his favorite dessert. But he had sent my wife an email a little while before¬†with a link to the recipe and a subject of “Carl. Must. Make.” So I figured it was a good bet. And by not asking him, I figured I could keep the surprise.

Before I started making it, my wife had gotten some of the ingredients because I had had a long day at work. (Thank you, hon!) I thought I might have had some almond flour for the crust, but it had gone bad. So I went with a known entity for the crust. Ye old smitten kitchen favorite (which I used for the pumpkin pie and chocolate pretzel pecan pie). Plus it makes two crusts, so this way I would have an extra one left for something else.

Pie crust dough. (Two, actually.)

Pie crust dough. (Two, actually.)

The crust took about a half hour from start to finish. While making the crust, the recipe asks for ice water. I didn’t have ice handy, but I let the water sit in the fridge so it would be cold. It also asks you to cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces, which I measured more carefully this time. It was pretty easy to put together, and¬†I let it refrigerate over night, so I could make¬†the pie in the morning.

Boiling the cream.

Boiling the cream.

Fast forward to the next morning when I put the pie together.¬†The caramel was interesting. I have made caramel a lot (particularly for my¬†millionaire’s shortbread), but this time was different. Maybe I used too big of a pan? It said to use “moderate heat”, “stir sparingly”, and add the sugar “slowly”. Needless to say, it took a while to make.

Making the caramel.

Making the caramel.

It also then said to “add the hot heavy cream”. I was a little confused, because it had said earlier to “set aside” the¬†cream after I heated it. To me that meant take it off the heat. I could have left it on the heat, but since the caramel took a while to make, I was concerned that it would get heated too much.¬†

Still making the caramel.

Still making the caramel.

I cooled it. I thought that maybe the thermometer was incorrect because when it got to the “right” temperature it was as hard as a rock. (I have since learned that my¬†thermometer doesn’t measure¬†accurately, so it was indeed incorrect.)¬†In order to be able to stir in the eggs and butter and vanilla, I had to reheat it.¬†That made it liquid enough. But then the eggs kinda cooked and it was still a little clumpy. I was afraid it would be too hard when it cooled, but it looked to be okay at that point.¬†(By the way, it never mentioned putting¬†the¬†salt in. Oh well, I didn’t use it.)

Done with the caramel. All the other stuff mixed in.

Done with the caramel. All the other stuff mixed in.

I followed the instructions for the pie crust from smitten kitchen. Twice actually.¬†I had to do it twice, because¬†the first time was just a mess. It was uneven and too thin in places. The second time was much better. I had to do a little patching on some parts because I had made a rectangle more than a square, but it was good.¬†And then, per the recipe’s instructions, I did end up refrigerating it for a few minutes. (I figured even the dough was different, it couldn’t hurt for it to cool a little bit.)

Pie crust!

Pie crust!

I put parchment paper on top and then used our new pie weights to weigh it down. We got them at a great Brooklyn kitchen supply store, aptly named the Brooklyn Kitchen. We had registered with them for our wedding and also ended up getting some gift certificates as presents. Many years later, we finally got around to using them. One of the items we got was a set of pie weights. This was the first recipe where I used them.

Pie crust with weights.

Pie crust with weights!

I cooked the crust for 10 minutes. The crust wasn’t really that brown. But again I figured the crust was a little different, and I didn’t want to overcook it. It puffed up a little bit. Maybe I needed more pie weights?

The recipe said to start with “4.5 ounces of the caramel mixture”. Let’s just say that it was fun to¬†measure. It wasn’t that much of the mixture, maybe because it was still clumpy. I put a bit more in to cover the bottom of the pie. They said to use 1/3 of the pecans, and I guessed at how much that was. When I got to the top of the pie,¬†I started by arranging¬†the halves nicely. But then I decided to just throw them on and arrange them because there wouldn’t have been enough to make nice circles like in the picture.

I baked it for 15 minutes at first. I think my oven cooks a little hot, and the crust was different so I wanted to make sure I didn’t overcook it.¬†It wasn’t ready after 15 minutes. I put it in for 5 more minutes. It still didn’t look ready, so I put in for an extra 2 minutes. At that point the caramel kinda looked like it was setting and I figured it would set more as it cooled.

It's pie!

It’s pie!

The crust might not have cooked all the way though. So I guess that’s why it needed to be pre-baked. Also the crust slipped a little bit so some of the filling oozed out, but thankfully not out of the pan.¬†I don’t have a fluted pie plate, and since¬†I was making it¬†as a gift and it needed to travel anyway,¬†I just used a regular 9″ aluminum pie plate.

I told him about it that night. I said I had made a dessert for him. I told him that I wasn’t sure how it turned out, but that if it was bad I could make him another. He said if I made it, he was sure it was good. (He’s had some experience with my baked goods and knows what he’s talking about. In fact, he has jokingly said he wants to bankroll a bakery for me in the future once he’s rich.) I thanked him for his confidence and said that while normally I would agree with him, this time I had a fight with the pie and I wasn’t sure who won.

By the time I got back from the birthday celebrations, the pie had set. Somewhat to my surprise, it actually seemed like a pie. I put it in the fridge, and decided to wait and see what he would say about it. The next day he came over to have some birthday dessert, not knowing what it was. He was very surprised.

I warmed it up a bit because it was cold from sitting in the fridge, but it’s possible I warmed it up a little too much. It ended up being gooey, maybe a little too gooey, but it was really good. The thing is,¬†it wasn’t exactly caramel, it was more like toffee. I had kinda accidentally made toffee. Oops. But as it turned out, the toffee was nice and crunchy and gave it a good¬†texture. Bits of it were like I expected and then bits of it were hard and crunchy. I liked it, the birthday boy¬†liked it, everyone liked it.¬†It wasn’t exactly the pie that it was supposed to be, but it was a new and maybe better pie? Or maybe this was the pie it was secretly, deep down, always supposed to be?

My wife reminded him that¬†I had originally offered to make something else if it wasn’t good.¬†She then jokingly asked what he thought of the pie. “It’s terrible,” he said. (I didn’t make him another pie.)

Yum!

Yum!

So despite the¬†thermometer issues and the instruction issues, it was still yummy. Maybe not how they intended, but good nonetheless. If you try it out, let me know how it goes for you. I’d also love to hear about any other happy mishaps¬†you’ve had with recipes. Ever accidentally make something (possibly) better than the original? Let me know, and happy baking!

Recipe courtesy of Breads Bakery via Gothamist. Pie crust recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.