Monthly Archives: February 2015

Another Birthday Cake

Jason cake

It is Jason’s big 4 year birthday, and while I didn’t do anything overly spectacular, I was certain he would like the pull-apart cake made with the mini-cupcakes. And since I have just finished the Valentine cake, I had a partial box of cake mix ready to go.

I think there is something simple about the circular resulting cake, even though it can only be a single layer when made with the cupcakes. There is not much to tell about making it. Again, the basics I followed are described in the Mini Cupcake article. The frosting is white butter cream, and I mixed some black in order to pipe the message.

Valentine’s Pull-apart Cake

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For the grand kids’ Valentine, I decided to make a pull-apart cake. This cake is made from mini-cupcakes; I invite you to look at the article I wrote about making the mini-cupcakes if you are interested in making the cupcakes richer than they would normally be coming from a cake mix box. Otherwise, you need to use a little more of the cake mix to get the 36 mini-cupcakes;

I can no longer find the article that tells what I used before I started making the richer version of cupcakes as formulated by Blake’s Decorette Shop. I believe that I weighed out half of the cake mix, and then divided the water and oil in half, and used 2 eggs- you can’t divide 3 eggs in half. Anyway, as I remember this gave me enough batter for 36 mini-cupcakes. Now, I am using the recipe in the Mini-Cupcakes article mentioned above. It only uses a quarter of the box of cake mix.

I used a “Triple Chocolate” cake mix; after all, Valentines Day is all about chocolate, and so I felt it appropriate to make the cake chocolate.

This photo shows the layout of the cupcakes to make the Valentine heart. There are 25 cupcakes in the heart, so you will have extras. One thing I like to do with the extras is to place them around the edges of the cake board as individual items and not as part of the basic design. Otherwise, I would have a lot of left over cupcakes that I would end up eating, and I don’t need to do that.

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I used a butter cream frosting on the cupcakes; the frosting is thick enough to fill the gaps between cupcakes. Then I used white butter cream frosting to pipe lace around the heart, and to pipe the letters on the heart.

Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everybody tries to improve on the Toll House cookie by making it bigger or adding to the flavor. But for me, the Original is still the best. There are enough parameters that you can manipulate to make the cookie just as you like it. By that, I mean it can be either a soft, chewy cookie, or a crisp, crunchy cookie. It all depends on what you want to do about cookie spread.

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Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12 oz.) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

*If omitting nuts, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour.

Now we need to know how to control cookie spread in order to change the characteristic of the cookie from crisp, to chewy. When the cookie is cooking and spreads, it drys out and becomes crisp. To make a chewy cookie we want to delay the spread. The easiest way to do this is to allow the cookie to be less cooked. This can be done in a several ways- reducing the heat of the oven, reducing the time the cookie is in the heat, and finally, making the cookie colder before it goes into the oven. Also, be careful that you are not dropping the next pan of cookies onto warm cookie sheets; this starts the cooking process before the pans goes into the oven.

As the recipe is now, I get a medium crisp cookie. I have gotten more moist, chewier cookies in using all the different suggestions. I have reduced my cooking temperature by 25 degrees; at other times I have reduced the cooking time by 5 minutes. And I have placed the pan of cookies in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to cool them.

I think all the additions and variations on the chocolate chip cookie recipe have failed to make it any better. This original recipe still has a lot going for it.

Lemon Sauce

If you have been watching the sweet sauces I have posted, you will have noted that I do not like a sauce with corn starch, and I have been searching for a good lemon sauce. I have found one that I want to share with you.

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March 9, 2015 Update of the following
I kept getting inconsistent results as I tried to repeat this recipe, and finally, I think, I found the problem; it takes a lot of heat to get the sauce to thicken. So in the Directions, I am adding information about thickening the sauce. My results now are a thick lemon sauce that is not quite as stiff as a lemon curd.

Lemon Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of lemon zest
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature

I found that two large lemons provided both the necessary juice and zest

Directions

Cut the butter into 5 or more pieces. It has to be able to melt easily in the hot egg, sugar,and juice mixture.

In a heavy bottom pan, cook the eggs, sugar and lemon juice over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened. It requires a temperature of the mixture to get into the 165 degree F range for the mixture to thicken.

Remove from the heat and add the butter and zest. Stir until smooth and the butter is all melted into the mixture. Transfer to a storage container.

Place plastic wrap on the surface of the mixture to avoid a scum forming. Refrigerate.

When ready to use, stir until smooth again


This sauce has a very strong lemon flavor, but is ideal for spreading on sweet breads such as the Steamed Bread Pudding, or even as a topping for ice cream.

I originally tried to make this sauce in a bain marie, or double boiler. The sauce would not get hot enough, and didn’t thicken. Then, as it cooled, it separated. I was able to save the sauce by reheating it in a heavy bottom sauce pan and stirring and raising it to a temperature of 168 degrees F. Don’t let the sauce boil, and don’t let the temperature go over 170 degrees F.

I used lemons- about 2.5-3.0 inches in diameter.

S’more Bites

I have a couple problems with the S’mores Bars Recipe, and so I have been working on a slightly different version. I do not like to work with marshmallow creme, and decided I needed a version of the recipe that uses plain old marshmallows instead of the creme. I also don’t like pan cookies, and these seemed to be bad because even as they were cut into bars, with the many layers showing, they were messy to eat. I wanted to encapsulate the chocolate and marshmallow in a crust. I also like small, 1 or 2 bite cookies that even a child can enjoy; nothing so large that it is going to break and get all over the floor.

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My first attempt at the getting rid of the marshmallow creme was to just use marshmallows in the pan cookie bars. That failed in that the marshmallows are protected from the heat by the top crust, and they never melted. But that also didn’t answer my desire for a more encapsulated cookie.

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My next attempt was to use the basic recipe, but then to form the cookies in my miniature muffin tins. The first trial I used melted chocolate and mini marshmallows. as filling for a crust cup I formed in the muffin tin cups. In that trial, I also put a top crust on the cookies. I didn’t like the total encapsulation of the cookie in that it no longer showed that it was S’more based. That trial and results are shown in the S’mores Bars recipe as Update 1. Since the basics of the S’mores Bites is different from the bar cookies, I decided to continue my exploration here as a separate article.

Daughter Mindy also pointed out that she likes to see a slightly cooked- brown on the marshmallows, and totally encased, that was missing. She also suggested that I look at using the chocolate spread that is now available rather than melting the chocolate.

Now, I have made those adjustments, and I feel that both taste-wise and looks, we have a fairly nice cookie- the S’more Bite.

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S’more Bites Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jar of chocolate spread
  • 1 bag miniature marshmallows
  • Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 36 miniature muffin tins.

    In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.

    Scoop 1 Tablespoon of the dough into each muffin tin. With fingers, push and pat the dough into the shape of the muffin tin cup. Place some chocolate spread in each cup- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon. Place mini marshmallows (3-4) on top of the chocolate.

    Bake for 12 minutes. Cool in the pans on racks. Remove from the muffin tins; before trying to lift the cookie out of the tin, chip any overflow of marshmallow away. I had to get my finger nails down the side of the cookie to pull it out.

    In this picture, the step-by-step process of preparing the S’more bites for cooking can be seen.

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    I also discovered that you can use cupcake papers in the muffin tins and do away with the greasing of the tins; the result are papered S’more Bites which are less greasy to handle and easier to extract from the muffin tins.

Baked Eggs

In my post about Christmas in Seattle, I mention that we had Baked Eggs for breakfast at Serious Biscuit. I have been experimenting with making them myself, and I think I have a good recipe now.

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I think one of the interesting things about the baked egg dish is that it has all of the capabilities that you find in an omelet but the eggs are not dried out and hard cooked; the eggs of a baked egg dish are more like poached eggs; the yolk is still separate and is cooked soft. And the flavoring of the dish can be anything you like with your eggs; I will be using a small amount of meat and cheese. At different times, I have used both diced ham, and crumbled bacon as my meat. I have used both scallions and yellow onion at different times. And I have used both straight shredded cheddar cheese, and a mix of cheeses with success. Again, your imagination is the limit to what you can do.

Perhaps the most difficult issue with this recipe is finding the right oven-safe dishes to use. They need to be about 10 ounce capacity for 2 eggs plus toppings. I have some small Corning casserole dishes that I like to use because they have a detachable handle I can use to move them into and out of the oven. I also have another set of Corning dishes with handles that work. Some people have ramekins that are large enough, but my largest ramekin is only 8 ounces.

So here is your base, starting recipe.

Baked Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oz. ham, diced
  • 1 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 oz. green onion, diced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. While the oven is heating, prepare the eggs and topping.

Break the 2 eggs into a small dish ready to use.

Chop and dice the topping meat, cheese and onion into a second small dish; mix the topping so it is ready to use.

When the oven is at heat, place the butter in the cooking dish and let it melt in the oven and warm the cooking dish. When it is melted, empty the eggs into the cooking dish, and then empty the toppings on top of the eggs.

Bake the eggs for 8 minutes.

I find that I need to let my eggs cool for about 5 minutes before I try to eat them; they are hot! But they are so enjoyable with the soft yellow yolks all in one piece, and the white also seems to be fluffier than any fried cooking style.

Coffee Flavored Liqueur

Many years ago, we were drinking quite a bit of Kahlua. We would use it straight, as Black Russian mix, and as a dessert topping like on ice cream or a sweet bread. Anyway, that could get quite costly. The wife of a work colleague gave us a recipe for making our own. The trick is to give it plenty of time to meld; 3 months seems like a minimum period.

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After making the recipe recently, I was almost at the point of not publishing it because of the economics. I priced out the ingredients versus the cost of commercial Kahlua, and it appeared that nothing was saved by making it myself. Then, I made a slightly different version- the label on the Kahlua bottle says that it is a Rum and Coffee Liqueur and we had been making it without any Rum. So I made a batch with 20% of the alcohol coming from rum. Now the question was which tasted better.

So I organized a tasting party, and offered the participants three versions of my Kahlua. It surprised me that the version of choice was the home made version without the rum! It even beat out the commercial Kahlua in this blind taste test. So I decided that even if the economics of making “Kahlua” at home were questionable, because it tastes better I should give you the recipe.

Kahlua

(Betty Griffing 1970)

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 cups granulated sugar (or 4 cups Splenda)
  • 2 oz. instant coffee
  • 1 quart or fifth of brandy (an inexpensive brandy is preferred)
  • 1 vanilla bean, chopped coarsely (or 1/4 cup [-4 Tsp] extract)

Mix together sugar and water and boil for 20 minutes.
Let cool. Pour into glass container that holds about 60 oz.

Add liquor and vanilla bean.
Seal tightly and put in cool, dark place for 30 days. Do not refrigerate.
Strain chopped bean after 30 days. Then return to the cool, dark place for a couple more months minimum.


I use the Instant Espresso Coffee and Christian Brothers Brandy.

This is the old, original recipe I got in 1970. More recently, daughter Jenn loaned me a small paperback book named “Classic Liqueurs- The Art of Making and Cooking with Liqueurs” written by Cheryl Long and Heather Kibbey. One of the recipes in the book is for “Mexican Coffee Liqueur”. The biggest difference in their recipe is that they use 80% vodka instead of all brandy. They also add a small amount of chocolate extract and a drop of red food coloring. One interesting comment they make in their book is that you can not make a good “Kahlua” using just vodka- you need some brandy.

So, if taste isn’t an issue, than I suggest just buying the real Kahlua. But if you want a better taste, then you might want to experiment with making your own Coffee Flavored Liqueur; after all, both versions I made beat the real Kahlua for taste in our blind taste test!