Thursday, March 20, 2014

homemade oreos

After all the Milk and Cookie Shot excitement yesterday, I don't think it's possible for me to ever make anything to top that. I still have PTSD from Day 1 and parts of Day 2. Let's just put it out there. Spring Break is almost over and I really don't have time to invest in another big project. That took everything from me, particularly my confidence as a baker (at times) and most of my dignity. I repeat: never again. Just so we're all clear. 

Because I had one more day off (meaning, one last opportunity to get some of that dignity back), I decided to pursue something a little less stressful-- like Homemade Oreos. This, I can do.. and you can, too. 

Homemade Oreos 
Recipe by Smitten Kitchen
Yields 25-30 Oreos (or enough for you and possibly a few select people you know)

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup white, granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. **I HIGHLY recommend using the food processor. It was easy to do without overmixing! While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
3. Take rounded teaspoons of dough and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
4. To make the cream, use a stand mixer with paddle attachment or electric hand mixer and a medium bowl. Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and beat until cohesive consistency. Then, at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high speed and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
5. Place the cream into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip. **I just put in a Ziplock bag and snipped off the tip. Nothing fancy but works just as well. 
6. Pipe teaspoon-sized blobs of the cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.
7. Dunk in milk and enjoy or, if your feeling generous, share! :)

And because I'm addicted to Insta video these days.. Enjoy this clip of my Oreo making! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

milk and cookie shot

I would like to preface this by saying I will never make these again. So, don't ask, beg, or bargain because it's not happening.. ever. But, I will share my journey with you. Prepare yourself for a novel. It's a doozy.

At SXSW, Dominique Ansel (creator of the ever-so-popular cronut) debuted his latest genius: the Milk and Cookie Shot. Ever since I came across the news, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I googled high and low for answers, direction, something to help me recreate this novelty. Nothing. Because it was so recent, people have been talking about it but nothing more.

The Method (or lack thereof):
I googled "deep baking pan" online, in search for some kind of structured apparatus for my cookie vessel. As I was scrolling, I noticed "petite popover pan". I scrutinized pictures from all angles, looked over the dimensions, and read numerous reviews on all the different brands offering a version of the same thing. I put a lot of effort into this, because I wanted.. hoped.. prayed.. I could actually make it work.

Thanks to Amazon Prime, I was able to get started 2 days after ordering. Those 2 days, I waited in nerve-racking anticipation. My eagerness to just dive in and do it was consuming me. I had no plan but I really felt like something would just click once I got my essential petite popover pan. Basically, I was an idiot. ALWAYS plan when taking on a project, especially when the odds of screwing up are more likely than not. Can't stress this enough.

In the past 24 hours since my petite popover pan arrived, I've almost had a panic attack (or five), wanted to give up (more then 100 times), and pretty much hated every miserable second of every minute of every hour of my existence. You get the gist. If you hate me and want to revel in the details of my torture, see my Twitter for your sick pleasure.

Because I was so excited, I woke up super early yesterday to get started. I knew I wanted to use Ina Garten's Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe for my cookie vessel, simply because it's delicious and I firmly believe in using what I already know I love. Upon making the cookie dough, I realized that it was a little too soft and way too sticky to use for this. I literally stared at the dough, stared at my sticky fingers, and stared at my petite popover pan and felt completely defeated already. It was way too early for that. I would not let the cookie shot win.

I added an extra 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour to the already prepared dough. I also had an extra 2 pounds of standby flour because this shit was just not cooperating. It was less sticky but still somewhat too soft. I soon realized that the dough was the least of my problems. Although, I now had the petite popover pan, I didn't have anything to create the opening of the cookie shot glass. It took every little bit of creativity and craftiness in me (which isn't much- I hate crafts with a passion) to figure out what to do next. I'm not a freaking DIY person, I B-U-Y. If I were a DIY person, I would make my own coffee instead of going to Starbucks everyday.

I tore my kitchen apart and found a box of small sample-sized Dixie cups. I've had these damn cups since my 9th grade science fair project. I think I can work with this. Obviously the diameter of the Dixie cups is too large. So I cut a slit down the side and halfway through the middle to manipulate them a bit. To keep their new shape, I wrapped the Dixie cups tightly in aluminum foil.

I then began to roll out the cookie dough. Eff. Why did I have to use chips instead of chunks or flakes?! The chips became a new obstacle, because they awkwardly would not roll down with the dough. I started taking my anger out on the dough and added extra pressure with my pin as I rolled it out. Most of the peaks of the shitty chips broke and kept sticking to my rolling pin. It was necessary for me to adapt again, because clearly the dough had to be a certain thickness and it wasn't taking "no" for an answer. Grrrr. I also realized this when I wrapped the foil plugger I made with the dough and the whole fat thing would not fit into the slot of the petite popover pan.

Only 2 of the 12 that I prepared actually fit. As you can tell, it was going really well. So I put those 2 pieces of crap in the oven and baked them. I also wrapped some parchment around them so that it would stabilize the structure while baking and be extra easy to remove from the pan. Needless to say, I had to remove the thick dough from the other useless foil pluggers in order to unwrap, reshape, and re-foil. This really sucked. We're now on hour 5 or 6 (feels like 50) of this bullshit. It was at this time that I made the conscious decision to call it quits for the day. Nothing was going right for me and I didn't want to deal with this crap dough any longer.

After 15 minutes (in 350 degree oven), I took a peak at the 2 cookie vessels in the oven and they were doing exactly what I wanted them to do. I rotated the pan and let them bake for an extra 3 minutes so they would get more golden. When I pulled them from the oven, I was shocked. They looked freaking normal. I must have done something right, which I guess doesn't say much considering I still had a whole mound of dough on the counter that I absolutely despised. But, screw you, I was thrilled. I couldn't even look at the dough anymore and I felt like it was mocking me, so I just put some plastic wrap over it and threw it in the refrigerator. It was ruining my life.

While the cookies were still somewhat warm, I pulled my crafted foil plugger device out of it. This is the most awkward thing in the world because it's like pulling a tampon out of a vag. That was not PG and extremely gross, but I felt like it just needed to be said. I placed the cookie vessel upright and this effing thing actually stood up on its own. Holy hell. Kill me. It's working. I knew I had to sleep off my day's endless frustration. I just couldn't take anymore abuse from this project. I was too annoyed and too tired to keep going. However, the last 30 minutes of the day did give me a little hope that my ingredients, time, and money I spent on a petite popover pan weren't a total waste. That would have sent me over the edge.

Day [freaking] 2:
This morning, I woke up feeling good... well, not that good (less excited than when I woke up yesterday). More than anything, I felt motivated to finish this ridiculous project I had dumbly convinced myself I was capable of completing. I took the dough out of the refrigerator before taking a shower and getting ready, so that it could [un]chill out and I wouldn't have to work with a big rock.

The "getting myself ready for the day" was just what I needed. I got a sudden burst of energy. I was pumped. I was ready. I had my "Happy Place" playlist all set up. Refrigerating the dough overnight turned out to be helpful. Perhaps it just needed a time out to think about all the hell it put me through. I kneaded and abused it a bit to make sure it knew I was the boss today. The dough beatdown was key. After that, it was much easier to manage. And, somehow, everything that was an absolute disaster the day before was now going much more smoothly than I expected. The "Happy Place" playlist also kept my patience high and blood pressure low. Here's how it went down..

24 hours later, I have the cookie vessel. Halle[freakin]lujah. But oh no, wait, this nightmare isn't over yet. Dominique Ansel lined his cookie shots with a thin layer of dark chocolate. I followed his lead and lined mine with chocolate, too. I ended up melting a bunch of chocolate (can't tell you how much exactly because I did it like 5 times more after the first). Because I'm obsessed with a pop of color (see here and here), I also dipped the bottom of the cooke shotglass in more chocolate and then into a bowl of sprinkles. That's how I roll. These monsters needed all the help they could get, so you know I just had to do it.

They sure looked cute now, but then I had to bring out the milk (leftover from this) to test these assholes. Umm.. I tested one and it failed. There's nothing worse to bring spirits down than spilled milk.. literally. I quickly realized that any part inside the cookie vessel that wasn't lined with the chocolate was going to cause the milk to leak out. So, I melted more chocolate and slathered all of them again. Tested another one.. FAIL. OMG. I was really anxious and pissed off at this point. Like, are you kidding me? How could something so adorable make me feel so much hate? This is real life, people. It's not perfect. In fact, sometimes, it downright blows. So where do I go from here? Slather more chocolate, I guess. What else could I do?! (Please, someone give me another solution here!) I started melting all the effing chocolate I had in the house, because a thin layer was obviously not going to keep these bitches from leaking. Just saying. 

I felt like shit and a half. How the eff would you effing feel? I almost started throwing the remaining cookie shotglasses against the wall or in the garbage. Either way, I was over it. But everyone knew I was working on a project and I dreaded breaking the news that I had nothing to show for my 36 hours of misery.

We're on to the third cookie shotglass. Milk goes in.. wait for it.. nothing comes out. OMG OMG OMG. It's a Christmas miracle, I tell ya. The third shotglass with the third layer of chocolate... my heart just stopped because I was in disbelief. Seriously, this really happened and it made me SO happy. (See it unravel, here-- I unravelled many times prior this, clearly.)

So, I knew one worked for sure. The other 10 or whatever.. not so confident. I've never been more nervous to share baked goods in my life, and I hated it. Obviously, I wasn't going to poor milk in every single one just to be positive that it wasn't going to leak. So, as I handed them over, I made sure to provide the appropriate disclaimer of [perhaps] faulty execution-- i.e. Lower your expectations and pour over a plate first. Or just eat the damn cookie and eff the milk.

I recruited a few brave souls to put my cookie shot to the test. My heart was pounding so hard that it was about to jump out of my chest. Simultaneously, I was on the verge of peeing myself. Guess what, friends? Sometimes, dreams really do come true. Watch the Milk and Cookie Shot in action here and here!!

The Milk and Cookie Shot was definitely an adventure.. a one-time-only sort of adventure that I will never attempt again. But don't let me discourage you. Maybe you can learn from my never-ending sequence of mishaps. After all, that's why I'm here-- to do all the screwing up first and to show you that, at the end of the day (or 2 days of legit hell), it's possible. To see it work was actually incredibly cool and rewarding, so the whole experience was totally worth it.

If I haven't scared the crap out of you by now and you are interested in pursuing this project (maybe need more details than the lengthiness of this blog post), feel free to reach out. I have 48 hours of [more] unfiltered advice for you. Get excited for that.

Milk and Cookie Shot-- It's been fun (hah!), but see you never. Love you, but actually [not-so-secretly] hate your guts.

Friday, March 14, 2014

rustic apple pie

I don't remember much from math, but I do remember 3.14 (a.k.a Pi and the best excuse to make pie today).

So, Joanne Chang is the author of this amazing cookbook, Flour. I've made the Homemade Pop-Tarts from her book, which is constructed with the most perfect pâte brisée. I'm telling you, it's incredible. That's all I can say. Wait, no, I can say more. It's flaky, buttery, not too sweet, and oh-so-orgasmic. Yes, let me repeat that. Orgasmic. Needless to say, it's a go-to recipe for the rest of my life.

There's really only one kind of pie I make. Apple. It's not your traditional apple pie, but rather more rustic and way less complicated. There's no blind-baking and, surprisingly, no pie dish. This is probably the easiest homemade pie ever, and I can't believe I'm sharing all of my secrets right now. I swore I would take this one to the grave with me. Oh well. For the sake of butter, I'll let you steal this from me.. as long as you tell your grandkids where you got it.

So, here's the story. Basically, one day I was thinking about how traditional apple pies have a distinct end crust. Some people like that sort of thing, but I wanted to create a pie with a little bit of apple in every bite. This the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night...Literally. I distinctly remember not sleeping that night in anticipation. I wanted it to have the mind of a turnover and yet maintain the essence of a pie.

It was then that I recruited Joanne Chang's scrumptious pâte brisée for such a mission. And that's how the Rustic Apple Pie was born. Welcome to the world, you beautiful creature.

Rustic Apple Pie
Yields one pie to the face

3 medium Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored, and cut into roughly 1/2-inch slices)
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pâte Brisée (see recipe below)

1 egg, lightly beaten
sparkling sugar (optional, but recommended!)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pull out the pâte brisée from the refrigerator.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, use a spoon to combine apple slices, sugars, flour, and cinnamon. Make sure the apples are evenly coated.
3. Lightly dust a large working surface and rolling pin with flour. Unwrap the pâte brisée onto the working surface.
4. Roll the pâte brisée out until about an even 1/4-inch thickness (or desired thickness). 
5. Have a parchment-lined baking sheet ready. Use the rolling pin to transfer the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet: Roll most of the dough onto the rollin pin. Then carefully lift it on top of the baking sheet. Unroll the dough from the rolling pin.
6. Once the dough is positioned onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange the apple filling. Make sure all the apple is in there! See how I do it below.

7. It doesn't matter where you start on the dough, but just begin folding it over the apples. I like a little bit of apple to still peak out. The exposed apple will also help with ventilation of the pie, so it has some room to breathe. Each time you fold it over, make sure to press the down in areas where dough is overlapping so that it sticks together while baking. 
8. Brush the crust with the egg wash. Then immediately sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

9. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is just golden brown.
10. Allow to cool completely, about 20 minutes until cutting and serving. (It's best to allow the filling to set up a bit.)
11. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Pâte Brisée
Recipe by Joanne Chang
Makes about 18 oz. of dough

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp white granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 Tbsp cold milk

1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt on stir speed for 10 to 15 seconds or until combined.
2. Scatter the butter over the top. Mix on stir speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or just until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it and lumps of the butter the size of pecans are visible throughout.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk until blended. Add to the flour mixture all at once. 
4. Mix on stir speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough just barely comes together. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.
5. Dump the dough out onto an unfloured work surface, then gather it together into a tight mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top of the mound and then sliding your palm down the side along the work surface, until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.
6. Gather up the dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disc about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. (** I did not wait 4 hours before using it. Maybe 1 hour, at most. You can use once it's firm and relatively cold.) The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

What I LOVE about the Rustic Apple Pie:
-Easy for anyone despite baking experience.
-Very adaptable. (I've added cranberries and almonds to this during the fall. But honestly, I still like it best just the way it is.)
-Every bite has a little apple.
-Ratio of crust to apple.
-Year-round staple. It's appropriate for any time of the year. (Because what's more American than apple pie?)
-Tart of the apple. I purposely made this not overly sweet. (I've test-baked a lot of these pies with different apple filling variations. I find that the simplicity of just cinnamon, rather than overdoing it with other spices, allows the apples to stand out.)
-Having the last bite be as good as the first (except the fact that it's the last).
-Imperfectly perfect.
-Not labor-intensive.
-Glittering, semi-crunchy, sparkling crust! Holy goodness!

Congratulations to anyone who just noticed that I spelled out EVERYTHING. Because that's what I truly love about this Rustic Apple Pie.

Happy 3.14 to all the nerds, pie makers, and pie consumers everywhere today! P.S. I am all of the above.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

chunks and chips cookies

I hope you just got really excited from reading the subject to this post. Here's the deal: the chunks are chocolate and the chips are potato. Now let me break down my salty-sweet concoction into a recipe for you so you can make your own batch. This is for all the people who already saw my cookie-making on Insta and think I'm sending these to you. Love you, but no.

Chunks and Chips Cookies
Yields about 20 cookies
Adapted from Quintessential Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white, granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (the good stuff), chopped into chunks
1 cup potato chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
4. To the butter and sugar mixture, add the egg and vanilla and beat on low. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and remix to make sure that everything is well-combined.
5. Add the flour mixture and mix on stir speed until it just comes together. Do not overmix.
6. Add chocolate chunks and potato chips. Fold together or mix on stir speed for a few seconds.
7. Onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, portion out 1 1/2-inch, rounded scoops of the dough (I use a small  cookie scoop) and space them 2 inches apart.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned, rotating the sheet halfway through the bake time.
9. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes. Then transfer to a cooling rack or eat while they're still warm! 

And because my blog is about baubles and baked goods and I've been slacking on the bauble-sharing these days..

necklace: Baublebar (and this one)

I decided that my cookies and I should be twinning today! :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

sprinkled milk chocolate peanut butter cups

I gave up on being serious blogger when I got accepted into my dental hygiene program. Let's face it, it's too damn hard scheduling free time when I'm usually at work, school, or Starbucks. Seriously, though.. never home. It's tough sometimes, but I'm still making and sharing sweets. It has kept me from fully losing my mind and also, conveniently, keeps my future career in demand. Win, win. I haven't been able to dabble into some super creative baking adventures in a while, but I'm hoping that will change soon.. Like tomorrow since my last midterm was today. There's two more days of school this week but, mentally, I'm already on Spring Break.

Remember that time I made those Pretzel-Topped Peanut Butter Cups? Well, guess what? I discovered they are even cuter with a little pop of color, instead. I mean, it wasn't too much of a surprise since a little bit of color is just like a little bit of sparkle.. always better.

Sprinkled Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Yields about 60 mini cups

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2- 4 cups milk chocolate chips

1. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together creamy peanut butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until well combined.
2. In a microwavable bowl, melt 2 cups of milk chocolate chips in 30 second intervals until completely melted and smooth. Stir in between to distribute the heat and make sure not to overheat the chocolate!
3. Spoon a dollop of the melted chocolate into each of the cups of a silicone candy mold. Spread the chocolate around, creating an even, semi-thin later of chocolate covering all sides and crevices.
4. In each cup coated with chocolate, place a rounded ball of the peanut butter filling mixture in the center of the cup. The amount of peanut butter filling will depend on your specific candy mold. I personally like a good amount of peanut butter filling in each cup.
5. Stir around your melted chocolate (Hopefully, it hasn't hardened by the time you get to this step. Re-melt if necessary.). Spoon and smooth it down into each cup to fill completely and cover the peanut butter filling.
6. The chocolate won't hardened instantaneously, so you have some time to fill them all first. Then add your colored sprinkles on top to your liking.
7. Place the mold into the freezer for a couple minutes until chocolate has solidified again. 
8. Pop the peanut butter cups out and they are ready to eat!
9. Repeat from Step 2 with the rest of the chocolate.

My candy mold only makes 30 at a time, and the recipe will definitely make about double. However, I still like to work with only half the amount of chocolate at a time. It's more manageable, less messy, and I can avoid having an I Love Lucy moment. I hope you caught that old-school t.v. reference or else it was completely pointless.

The other change I made to this recipe is the amount of chocolate. In making these peanut butter cups again, I found that it's important to have more chocolate than you think you'll need. Just go with it. It works. I use it all.

Also, I used rainbow-colored nonpareil sprinkles. Back in the day, when I worked as a baker, I absolutely hated these sprinkles. Mostly because there was a time when I hosted birthday parties at the shop. Let me tell you, kids just do awful things with these sprinkles. Awful. It made me pretty miserable. But now that I'm not doing that anymore, we've sorted out our problems and reconnected. Yes, I'm still talking about sprinkles! These have just the right amount of crunch and color to make these peanut butter cups extra adorable. But again, use whatever will make you happy!

Happy Wednesday, lovelies! I kind of miss you.  xo