Thursday, March 25, 2010

butterscotch pudding cookies: how do I love thee, let me count the ways


Oooh baby are these cookies ever good! I don't know about you, but I like my cookies to be nice and soft. Sure most cookies are all soft straight out of the oven, but as soon as they cool down, they always seem to harden. And that makes me really angry. Why would I want hard cookies?! Cookies are best when they're moist and gooey. So do you think I was just going to settle for those other cookies? Nay! I have tried so many chocolate chip cookie recipes, I've played around with the butter content, the brown sugar, but nothing ever seemed to come out exactly the way I wanted them to.


That is. Until....


My super bestie found this recipe online for the most awesome cookies like. ever. I wish I could credit the site, but unfortunately neither of us remembers so it will have to remain anonymous. But man oh man, whoever figured this out must have been thinking of me.


I mean, talk about a secret ingredient. What is this doing in cookies? How did someone even figure it out? I wish I could explain the scientific explanation behind its success but I can't. It just works and that's all I care about.


Ok so what makes these cookies so special? So soft? Sooo delicious?


Pudding mix. 


You know, instant pudding mix powder. It comes in a bunch of different flavours like vanilla, chocolate or butterscotch. I chose to make mine with butterscotch but vanilla is also really great. I've never tried chocolate but it might be really good with white chocolate chips. Also, I used half semi-sweet chocolate chips and half peanut butter chips, but again, you can put whatever flavour you like. That's what I love about cookies. You can alter them completely just by adding a different flavour. So have fun and give them your own little touch! Want walnuts or macadamia nuts? Go ahead, add them into the mix! Just remember to share some with other people (because trust me, as amazing as they are, you don't want to eat the entire batch in one sitting).


Best ever butterscotch peanut butter chocolate chip cookies!

Makes approximately 4 dozen
Ingredients

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 pkg (3.4 oz) butterscotch pudding mix powder
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch or Reese’s peanut butter chips
(You can also add 1/2 tsp of salt if you wish but I prefer not to)
Procedure
Preheat oven to 350oF. Sift flour and baking soda and set aside.
In a large bowl or in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the softened butter for 2 minutes and add the brown and granulated sugars. Beat for 2-3 minutes. Add the pudding mix powder and once incorporated, add the eggs one at a time. Add in the vanilla. Mix well to allow the eggs to be well beaten.
Add the flour mixture slowly and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl when needed. Finally, add the chocolate and peanut butter chips.
Make little balls and place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes and keep in an airtight container. Little tip: wet your fingers a bit before touching the dough; it will prevent some of the dough from sticking to your fingers. 
*Note: these cookies will not change dramatically in colour so they are done when the edges start to turn golden. They make not look done but they should be, so look for signs around the edges. They don’t expand too much either but be careful not to place them too close together if you make them a bit big, otherwise they’ll stick together.
Mmmmm....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

creme caramel: love at the end of the world



I think the weather isn’t sure if it wants to give us an early spring or torment us with random yucky weather. Yesterday was a stay-in-bed-and-read-while-it-rains kind of a day (although I didn’t get to stay in bed because I had an exam – which I passed!) but today it’s sunny and warm…er. Not that warm but definitely an improvement. Let’s just hope it stays this way so I can wear my new spring jacket! Spring just makes me so happy. The trees are starting to bud, the tulips will soon make their appearances, though not for long before the squirrels eat them up and it’s a time for new beginnings! I’m really excited about where my life is headed towards and I can’t wait to see what else is in store. I’ve met some really great people in my class who make going to school that much more enjoyable.


 I’ve also been learning a lot of new things, namely, classic French desserts.

When you think of French desserts, so many options come to mind. Crème brulée, macarons, éclairs…but there is one that is so simple and classic that many seem to forget: crème caramel. Now, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea because of the somewhat “eggy” taste (I know she doesn’t like it, but she also confessed to not liking Cadbury cream eggs which, in my opinion is a sin), but it has truly grown on me. The creamy texture, the sweetness of the perfectly cooked caramel…it’s all plate-lickin’ good! (Don’t judge me)


I made a batch when I was practicing for my creams exam (poor me, I know) and I brought some to my coworkers and I swear they inhaled them in about 4 seconds. I was actually quite shocked because I wasn’t sure if they would like the taste but they seemed to love it! My mom used to make crème caramel, but to be honest it was so long ago that I don’t even remember anything about them. I was also starting to feel bad for the beautiful old cups we have from Turkey sitting in the cupboard. (But they have no feelings!) So out they came into the sunshine and then I cruelly shoved them into the oven where they magically transformed into deliciousnesses (yeah, that’s a word) for my taste buds. And the individual serving sizes are perfect to satisfy those sweet cravings. Just please ignore the hap hazardous final look. I had some qualms with the knife when it decided that it didn’t want to let my crème caramel go free. Tricky little buggers.


Crème Caramel

Serves 6-8 cups, depending on the size of the mold used

Ingredients

For the caramel:
¼ cup (50 ml) water
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
For the crème:
2 cups (500 ml) milk
3 eggs
½ cup (100 g) sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla

Procedure
 
Prepare caramel by putting the water and sugar into a small pot over medium-high heat until the sugar begins to caramelize and turn into an amber colour. DO NOT STIR at all once sugar and water are in the pot! This can take about 10 minutes.

Once the caramel is ready, immediately dip the bottom of the pot in a prepared ice bath for one or two second (and no more) to stop the caramel from cooking and wipe the bottom of the pan. Pour quickly into cups and swirl to coat the bottom completely with each having a relatively thin, even layer. Set aside.
 
Warm up the milk in a pot until it’s hot but not boiling. Whisk eggs and sugar in a bowl and slowly add the warm milk to temper the eggs. Add the rest of the milk and vanilla and strain the mixture back into the pot (to remove any pieces of possible cooked eggs). Transfer into some kind of a beaker (I use a Pyrex measuring cup) or use a ladle and pour evenly into caramel cups. Be careful not to fill them too high.

Place cups in cake pans or a high-rimmed baking pan to make a bain-marie with hot water going half-way up the sides of the pan. Careful not get water into the cups.

Bake at 350oF for 35-45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out slightly wet with dry clumps. If it’s too wet, it needs a bit more time, but careful not to cook too much, otherwise if it comes out completely clean, it will be too rubbery.
 
Let sit until cool and preferably refrigerate overnight or at least a couple of hours. To remove from cups, use a knife to carefully go around the sides and jiggle out the crème and turn upside down into a plate. Serve alone or with fruits and whipped cream.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

chocolate-vanilla marble cake: memories last a lifetime



This. cake. is. awesome. This cake, it's my childhood. So it may not be the absolute prettiest nor the most melt-in-your-mouth sweet ever, but I love this cake so much. Probably more for nostalgic reasons more than anything else. This is my grandmother's cake. This is the cake she made for us just about every week because it was always devoured in about four days. I loved picking at the "crust", or bottom actually, when it came straight out of the oven as that is my favorite part. She would always get mad at me and slap me on the hand. The cake never changed and we always looked forward to it. Every. single. time.

But my grandmother is quite old now, though still friggin' stubborn when we tell her to rest when all she wants to do is clean or wash dishes. She can't see much though so making cake isn't really one of her pastimes anymore. So for the first time ever (after being the one who got to lick the batter for 25 years or so) I made this cake. This cake is seriously the perfect snack cake. When I was a kid and my friends used to come over, they ALL used to ask for a slice. And as I got older and my friends from high school would hang out at my place, they would STILL ask for it. Some of them still talk about it.

It's simple, but oh so tasty! Just remember to grease your Bundt pan very well (and not only slightly like I did) because your cake WILL stick to the pan! Hence, why I don't have any pictures of the whole final product. Me sometimes stupid. It still tastes good!


Gateau Grand-Maman 1-2-3-4

Ingredients

1 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa powder

Procedure

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a Bundt pan. Melt the margarine and set aside.

Either in a large bowl or using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar for 3-4 minutes to let the eggs make air bubbles and help your cake rise better. (Note: whenever you add sugar to eggs, it's very important to start beating right away and never let the sugar just sit on top of the eggs otherwise the eggs will cook!) Add milk and then the melted margarine.

If you're using an electric mixer, stop it, pour the flour and baking powder in and mix into the batter just a little so when you turn it on the flour doesn't explode in your face :p Mix the flour until just incorporated and there are no lumps. Do not mix for too long otherwise the gluten in the flour will start to develop.

Pour 3/4 of the batter into the Bundt pan and then add the cocoa powder into the remaining batter. Pour the cocoa batter on top of the first batch and use a knife to make small swirls and make a marble pattern.

Bake about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire rack about 15 minutes and invert onto a cake platter. Yum!


(Notice the bit that I picked off? hehe)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

cinnamon apple muffins


Oh cinnamon apple muffins, you are so yummy in my tummy. Miam miam miam.
I never really make muffins because no one eats them in my house, but I had a bunch of apples at one point that were starting to get a little mushy so I decided to mixed them in some muffins instead of a pie, because well, I didn’t really feel like rolling out dough, ok? They were so easy to make and their moist centres allowed them to be eaten up in right away, which made this baker very happy :) 

What is it about muffins that make them so good? Probably the fact that you can make so many variations just by changing the fruits or adding nuts. Basically, as long as you have one good base recipe for muffins, that’s all you need. Don’t go around wasting your time looking for a million different recipes, when all you really need to do is use your imagination and add whatever flavour you want. Yes, baking is definitely a science and you should always measure your ingredients precisely, but things like fruits, nuts and oats…it won’t matter that much if you miss your count a little, so be creative! This recipe can easily be made with plums, cranberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines…you name it. Now get baking!

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

Yields 10-12 muffins (depending on how many apples you add)

Ingredients

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
¾ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus ¼ teaspoon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium apples (I like McIntosh), cored, peeled (if you want) and sliced into cubes

Procedure

Preheat oven to 375oF. Grease and flour 10 cups of a standard muffin pan. Melt the butter and set aside. Mix 2 tablespoons of the sugar and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, ¾ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla and then whisk in the melted butter (use a rubber spatula to scrape down all the melted butter). Using the spatula, fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture until evenly incorporated. (Note: folding does not mean whisking or beating! Do it slowly but make sure all the ingredients are well mixed). 

Spoon the batter evenly in the prepared muffin pan, filling about 2/3 of the way. Place the cubed apples into each pan and use a spoon to mix them into the batter just a little but still have some poking through the surface (just make sure they aren’t completely exposed otherwise your apples will burn). Sprinkle the tops with the prepared sugar and cinnamon mixture. 

Bake, about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the muffins look puffy and golden brown. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow to cool about 5-10 minutes, then turn them out onto the rack and let cool a bit more. I usually can’t wait too long so I like to eat them when they are still slightly warm and moist! Mmmm.
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