Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones– and a new address

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip SconeIt’s been a while since I’ve updated! Big things have happened in the Brooklyn Baker world, so let’s get right to it.

First of all, I’m no longer in Brooklyn! My husband and I moved to Astoria, Queens, last month. It wasn’t until a friend expressed concerned over the name of my blog that I even thought about it! Don’t worry, I’m kicking around new names. I’m currently a fan of The BQE Baker, though I haven’t done any research yet to see if this name has already been taken.

So that’s the con of moving. The pro is that I have the biggest kitchen I’ve had since we left Ohio. It has a built-in dishwasher! And an oven with a built-in timer! And the oven temperature is spot-on! Our kitchen table fits in the kitchen! It’s a whole new world over here and I’ve already baked twice. The first experiment was Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Stuffed Cupcakes, from “The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook”, which I have made before but somehow haven’t written about! So here’s a quick pic of the ones I made two weeks ago:

Cookie Dough Stuffed Cupcake

And here’s a shot of the inside of them, from a long time ago (excuse the poor picture quality– I hadn’t learned how to take a nice picture yet):

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The second experiment happened yesterday when I made the Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones from “Baked Explorations”. I’ve made a few things from this cookbook, but I have to say this was probably the easiest recipe yet. The KitchenAid mixer didn’t even need to be plugged in. Everything went in a bowl and got mixed by hand and then dumped onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and shaped into a circle.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip SconesIt took a little longer than the recipe suggested to bake– I think it’s because I made my circle a little too thick. But once it was done, oh man, did it taste good. Thick and chewy, with a nice scone-y crispiness to the outer edges.

I hope to start baking a lot more frequently now that I have a kitchen that can handle everything! I really want to experiment more with royal icing. I have a few events coming up where I want to make decorated cookies, so I have to make sure my skills are up to snuff!

 

 

Cake decorating class at Carlo’s Bakery

For Christmas this year, my sister-in-law and her husband gave me a gift certificate for a decorating class with Carlo’s Bakery. After perusing the options, I elected to take the “Bow and Flowers” class so I could learn fondant skills. In this class, students learn how to cover a cake with fondant and then make a bow and flowers from fondant.

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The class met in the Lackawanna facility where cake consultations and decorations for specialty cakes happen. Our class was held in the same room that plays host to “The Next Great Baker” on TLC. Those boxes along the ceiling are lights for filming. It was already fairly warm in the room, so I have a lot of respect for the contestants trying to work with cake melting under those lights!

The first step in decorating our cakes was to cover the already frosted cake with fondant:

cakebeforeOur instructor gave us a quick demonstration:

fondant

And then we kneaded our own balls of fondant until they were soft and pliable and took them over to another Carlo’s employee to run them through the sheeter to get them nice and thin:

sheeter

We then set to work covering our cakes. My fondant was not working with me. It ended up tearing in a few spots and I had to patch it up and it sadly didn’t look so great. Then I noticed I had air bubbles in the top. The instructor came by to help me with those and pointed out that it wasn’t air– it was the frosting underneath melting. My hands were apparently too warm and by rubbing on the fondant to get it smooth, I was melting the frosting underneath. We got it looking okay and then it was on to crafting the fondant bow.

cakebow

I had more luck with this. It was a pretty simple process of putting together four pieces of fondant at different lengths.

Then it was on to the flowers! The instructor showed us a very simple way of making hydrangeas and my classmates had various amounts of luck and patience. We were told that we could use cookie cutters to do other things if we wanted, and it seemed that a lot of people abandoned the flowers and just decorated with polka dots or shamrocks (it was a few days before St. Patrick’s Day). I decided to stick it out with flowers and just do a few polka dots around the side, as the flowers were too heavy to stick to the cake.

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Two different instructors asked if I’d made these flowers before as they looked great! At least that made up for my hole-y fondant covering!

One of the great things about the class is that we got to take the whole cake home– which would have been great if I had a party of people waiting for it at home!

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As it was, my husband and I had a slice that night and he had another the next day and then we sadly had to throw the rest out. It was just too much cake to keep in the house! It was quite delicious though– a layer of chocolate cake and a layer of vanilla cake separated by fudge frosting, covered with vanilla buttercream. And the fondant was marshmallow fondant, so it actually tasted pretty good! We nibbled all the little flowers off before we threw the cake away!

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All in all, I had a great experience. I would like to take another class, though the cost is somewhat prohibitive. They generally run about $125, which isn’t an insane amount of money for the materials and instructors’ time, but it is still quite an investment.

“Mint Thins” or Homemade Thin Mints

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It’s Girl Scout Cookie time again! Here in New York City, it’s sometimes difficult to procure a box of those delicious, delicious treats. If you’re lucky, someone in your office is the parent of a Girl Scout and you’ve got the hook-up. Otherwise, you’re left scanning the Girl Scout Cookie Finder app, hoping someone has set up shop somewhere near you.

Or… you can just make your own. The Internet is full of copy cat recipes, and countless cookbooks include pages dedicated to “Peanut Butter Patties” (Tagalongs) or “Caramel Coconut Cookies” (Samoas). Yesterday I decided to tackle the cleverly named “Mint Thin” recipe from “The Cookiepedia”.

The recipe is actually pretty easy and straightforward. I found the toughest part of baking was dealing with the sticky dough, which clung to my countertops, rolling pin and fingers with ferocious tenacity. But once the dough was wrangled into rounds, it was very easy to deal with.

The chocolate coating also had its difficulty. For starters, I had to double the recipe to coat all 48 cookies I ended up with. And secondly, the coating melts really, really fast. I suppose tempering the chocolate¬†would have been the best way to deal with it, but the recipe didn’t call for tempering and I didn’t feel like futzing with a thermometer. Using dark chocolate candy melts also would have solved the problem, but candy melts have a tendency to taste a little bit plasticky, and I didn’t want that in this particular cookie. So what did I do to solve this problem? I let the cookies firm up in the fridge in a single layer on baking sheets covered by parchment paper and once they were easily handled, I transferred them to the freezer where God intended Thin Mints/Mint Thins to live. While frozen Tagalongs are my very favorite Girl Scout delicacy, frozen Thin Mints are a close second.

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If you can find a Girl Scout selling her wares, I recommend supporting her and buying a box or two. But once those are gone, you should whip these up yourself at home. You’ll feel good for having supported a worthy cause and a local girl, but you won’t go broke buying box after box!

Funfetti Cake!

Funfetti Cake

2015 appears to be the year of royal icing and cakes. This Christmas, I finally mastered the production of royal icing, which has stymied me for some time. While I’m still clumsy with it, at least I know how to make it and actually get it onto cookies now, so I plan to practice, practice, practice in the upcoming year!

Cakes, on the other hand, have always more or less cooperated with me, so this year, I plan to dedicate more time to the presentation of such cakes. My sister-in-law and her husband gifted me a class from Carlo’s Bakery¬†for Christmas, so at the end of this month, I’ll be learning how to correctly apply fondant to a cake and decorate it. The best news is that I get to bring the cake home afterwards!

So, to kick off my year of cakes and royal icing, I decided to bake this Funfetti cake I saw skulking around on Pinterest. The cake recipe is incredibly easy and I think that many different frostings would compliment it, though I went with a very simple vanilla
buttercream. The only real change I made was baking my layers in a 6-inch pan as I didn’t want to cart around a giant cake. The recipe made enough batter for the two 6-inch cake layers AND nine cupcakes. I simply popped the cupcakes in the oven at the same temperature as the cake and started checking them for doneness around 18 minutes.

The decorations on the cake featured in the recipe were very simple, but I wanted to go a little bigger. I baked the cake to take to our friends’ home for dinner, on a night that fell between that family’s father’s birthday and my husband’s, so I knew it needed to be festive to serve as a birthday cake. Additionally, our friends have three children all under 10 years of age, so I knew the sprinkles would be a hit with the kids.

cake1

That looks like a LOT of sprinkles, and it is, but it’s not as much as you might think. The cake itself requires 2/3 cup plus a tablespoon of sprinkles, so I ended up buying four little plastic containers of sprinkles and hoped that it would be enough for the cake and the decoration. I’m afraid my fear was unfounded, as I currently have two of those containers left unopened. Now I have to find another recipe to work those sprinkles into! Birthday cake ice cream, maybe?

I’m happy to report that the cake sliced beautifully and is really, really fun on the inside. I was worried that my sprinkles might settle to the bottom of the cake, but they didn’t! And the layers looked just perfect.

cake3

If you’ve got a celebration coming up, I highly recommend this recipe. You can dress it up or down as much as you want. You can leave it as two layers or cut it into four like I did. You can go nuts with sprinkles, or if you’re a better decorator than me, pipe some buttercream flowers on top for a real throwback grocery store cake look.

Stay tuned for more cake and royal icing adventures!

 

Mudslide Cupcakes

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It’s been way too long since I last updated, so here’s an original recipe, just like Colonel Sanders would post!

A few weeks ago, a coworker asked me to make two dozen cupcakes for him to take home to his wife. He asked for one dozen kid-friendly and one dozen “adult”. We all know what “adult” means– booze or coffee. So I set out to combine the two. I Googled a few combos until I realized the answer lay in a frozen cocktail– The Mudslide. The Mudslide typically combines Vodka, Bailey’s, Kahlua, milk, ice and occasionally chocolate syrup together. I decided to skip the vodka in my cupcakes– the flavor of vodka never comes through– and focus more on the other flavors: Chocolate, coffee, Kahlua and Bailey’s. So without further, adieu, the recipe!

Mudslide Cupcakes

Makes roughly 18 cupcakes

Kahlua Ganache Filling:

4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Kahlua (or more, to taste)

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a heavy-bottomed pan on the stove until it’s bubbling, but not full-on boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Stir the chocolate and cream together until the mixture is smooth. Add the butter and the one teaspoon of Kahlua and stir until the butter is fully melted and incorporated. At this point, you can taste the filling to see if it is “Kahlua-y” enough for you. If not, feel free to add a little more, but do know that as the filling sits, the flavor will become slightly more pronounced. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until cool.

Chocolate-Coffee Cupcakes:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup brewed coffee, chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two muffin tins with 18 cupcake wrappers. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa in a large bowl and set it aside. In a small bowl, combine the coffee and vanilla, and set this bowl aside as well. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar one at a time, making sure the first egg is incorporated fully before adding the second. Stop and scrape down your bowl if needed. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the coffee mixture, beating after each addition. Scrape the bowl, remove the paddle attachment, and fold in the chocolate chips. Fill each cupcake wrapper about 1/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Be sure to check your cupcakes at the 18-minute mark for doneness as times can vary based on your oven. Once the cupcakes are done, allow them to fully cool before continuing to the next step.

Once the cupcakes are cool, use a small paring knife to remove a cone of cake from the center of each cupcake, making sure not to cut through the bottom of the cupcake. Remove the ganache from the fridge and give it a good whisk to loosen the mixture back up a bit. You want it to be about the consistency of thick frosting. Using a small spoon, place a dollop of ganache into each hollowed-out cupcake. You may very well have leftover ganache. Get creative with the leftovers. I imagine it would be very good heated up a bit and poured over ice cream.

Bailey’s Frosting:
16 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 cups (or more, if needed) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoon Bailey’s Irish Cream

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on low until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and Bailey’s and beat to combine. If the frosting looks too runny, add more powdered sugar to achieve a good spreading consistency. Transfer the frosting to another bowl, cover it and put it in the fridge. Wash out the standing mixer bowl to make the Kahlua Frosting.

Kahlua Frosting:

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 cups (or more, if needed) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons Kahlua
3 tablespoons brewed coffee, chilled

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on low until light and fluffy. Add the cocoa powder, Kahlua and coffee and beat to combine. If the frosting seems too runny, add enough powdered sugar to get it back to a good spreading consistency.

Now, you certainly can just spread the two frostings on your cupcakes with a butter knife or offset spatula and call it a day, but if you would like to swirl the frostings as I have, you will need a few things. I filled one small piping bag with the Bailey’s frosting and another with the Kahlua frosting without snipping the tip of either bag. I then fitted a larger bag with a piping tip. I then cut the tips off the smaller piping bags and put them side by side in the larger bag so that both ends were resting inside the piping tip. This requires a little patience and shifting, but it’s worth it in the end. Do a test pipe on a paper towel so you can be sure both frostings are coming out at once. Pipe the frostings onto your cupcakes.

I hope you enjoy these! My coworker liked them quite a bit and the extras were taken to my husband’s coworkers who were also impressed. The hidden Kahlua ganache is a nice surprise.

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Twinkie Cake

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Growing up, our kitchen cabinets never had less than two boxes of Little Debbie snack cakes. Both my father and I would take them in our lunches every day. So while I am well versed in Swiss Cake Rolls and Oatmeal Creme Pies and Zebra Cakes, I am less educated in the ways of the Twinkie.

I mean, I was always aware of the Twinkie– other kids brought them to school and I’m sure I tasted them here and there. I just was always more of a chocolate fan, especially when that chocolate had a hard glaze that gave a satisfying little snap when you bit through it.

As an adult, though, I’ve learned to embrace vanilla. It’s such a pure and clean taste. So when I saw Shauna Sever’s new book “Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques, I knew I had to get moving on the recipes.

For the first test, I tackled the Twinkie Cake. It’s a fairly simple yellow bundt cake recipe that baked up easily and beautifully. Once baked, I got to get super handsy with the cake, cutting holes into it using the cone method, and then sticking my fingers into each hole to create a tunnel running through the center of the cake. Continue reading