Monday, August 26, 2013

Baking Bad

Baking Bad
Episode One:
Caramel Apple Cake
9:25 PM, Saturday, August 24:
Me: This cake is turning out to be a disaster. What's my deal?
My mother: I don't know. I'm sorry.
Two hours after that fateful text, I emphatically proclaimed to the air in my kitchen that I would never bake again and that I've been living a lie - parading around as a wannabe baker when I couldn't even frost a simple cake.
If this were an episode of Breaking Bad, I am certain that Gus would have shot me for producing a bad batch. Or, even worse, the Mexican cartel cousins would have been sent to keep me from producing such an atrocity ever again.
I'm sure I would have tried to offer a peace offering, and my last words would have been along of the lines of "WAIT! Would you like a piece of mediocre ca..."
It would have been too late.
I had been given my chance.
I would have been found lying in my kitchen in a pool of blood and cake batter the next morning.

That's probably a tad overdramatic. But just a tad.
Lets's go back to the beginning, shall we?
First, the back story:
My parents and I always eat Sunday lunch together. Since Sundays are nutsballs for us, we take that opportunity to indulge our food desires.

My mother always wakes up at 4:00 AM, or some other ungodly hour of the morning, to prep the lunch and make sure everything is set for an easy post-church, oven-to-table set up.
This always includes dessert.
Not a Sunday goes by when that woman does not have a delicious dessert prepared for us.

So, when I began this lovely little blog challenge for myself, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to relieve my mother of one task on her Sunday morning schedule. I happily texted my mother to make sure she approved of this idea. She responded with "That would be great!" and I quickly began the planning.

I've been craving fall lately. My thoughts have been consumed with tights, sweaters, football, and party planning. Granted, party planning is always on my mind, but it definitely is hightened during the fall months.
Because of this, I thought it only fitting that I make the Caramel Apple Cake that is from the same Baked cookbook I used for the Cowboy Cookies.

Oh, goodness. Apples! Caramel! Cake! It's a trifecta of deliciousness.

I made the cake, and it was wonderful. Three 8 inch cake pans came out of the oven and patiently waited to be flipped over and frosted. One of the layers stuck ever so slightly to the bottom of the pan, but I wasn't deterred. This was going to be amazing.
I could feel it.
I had a wedding that night at work, so I packed the cakes away and returned home later to make the frosting and finish the process.

Somewhere between work and my house I lost my mind, because when I came back, everything I did was the worst.
I dropped 3 cups of flour all over the floor.
I almost added baking soda instead of baking powder.
I dropped the trashbag as I was pouring the failed batch of frosting into it, so as if to mock me, the failed frosting ended up on the floor, my legs, the bottom of the trash can.
Basically, the frosting was everywhere except in the trash bag, which was the one place I wanted it to be.

I apparently also became illiterate, because I couldn't follow the most basic of instructions.
Sugar? They must mean powdered sugar.
Cook? They must mean don't cook.
Like I said, I lost my mind.

The next morning, I tossed the pathetic attempt at a cake in a carrying device and headed out the door.
I warned my parents of the how awful it would be. Just imagine the scene from Anne of Green Gables where Anne shouts "Don't eat it, Miss Stacy!" Except I shouted "Drown it in ice cream and make sure a strong pot of coffee is on standby!"

All in all, the actual cake was delicious. It was just that stupid frosting. I'm sorry I did wrong by you, Apple Caramel Cake. It wasn't your fault.

I hope you all haven't lost faith in me. I promise to make it up to you somehow.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cowboy Cookies

Have you ever made a challenge/goal for yourself only to have a slight panic attack when you looked at your schedule only to to see you would hardly be home to make that goal a reality?
That just happened to me.
Yes, I probably take things too seriously, but whatever. 
A goal is a goal!

Step one - Pull out all of the cookbooks to decide which one would be the lucky winner as the first "branch out" recipe. There was much excitement, let me tell you.
(We all know the real step one is choosing which music you will listen to during the baking. For the Cowboy Cookies, I went with a classic Kanye West album).

Step two - Read through all of the recipes and narrow it down purely based on the ingredients that are or are not currently in the kitchen.

Step three - Make sure your music is at an appropriate level and begin!

The Cowboy Cookies were the winner for the first post, mostly because I had all of the ingredients.

Side note: I greatly admire all people who are able to keep a fully stocked pantry.

Back to the cookies.

The recipe came from Baked Explorations, which I love. It's so fun to look through!
Fun fact - I first glanced through this cookbook while I was waiting to surprise the manager at the Borders in Largo, MD. That sounds a lot more scandalous than it was.

So, you know how cookie recipes go. Mix the butter, sugar, brown sugar together. Add the egg(s). Then the other random dry ingredients, and what not. End with flour, oatmeal, chocolate.
The recipe called for two cups of semi-sweet chocolate chunks, but alas. I keep a poorly stocked pantry, so I was devoid of semi-sweet chocolate chunks.
So, I went to plan B - chopping up semi-sweet baking squares.
However, I ended up with only a cup of those, so then I went to plan C, which was adding a cup of milk chocolate chips to the mix. I figure it's chocolate, so how horrible can it be?

Once everything has been mixed together, cover the mixing bowl in a soft blanket (or foil) so the dough can take a cold, four hour nap. It's the luckiest dough ever.

Once the dough's refrigerated naptime is over, proceed to scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet. The dough blobs end up being about 1 inch in diameter. Try not to eat as much of the dough as I did. Blast!

Side note - I hate treating people like they don't know anything about baking. Probably because I absolutely hate it when other bloggers do it to me. Like, "Then you're going to want to put the chocolate chips IN the cookies." Oh, really? I thought we'd just be setting them on the counter to look at while we ate the cookies.
So, please don't be offended if I make a comment about how big the cookies are supposed to be. I am guessing all of you are familiar with the average size of a cookie.

So - fill the cookie sheet with cookie dough blobs, stick the cookie blobs into an oven, wait for a few minutes, then pull out the cookies, let them cool, and then partake in the deliciousness.
If you're like me, you bake them at 7:00 in the morning and take them to work with you so you won't be tempted to eat all of them.
Also, if you are like me again you will forget to take a picture of them as proper bloggers do, so you'll be forced to take one at your office while they are still around.
And you'll love sharks.
We're still playing the "if you're like Emily" game, right?

I digress.

These cookies were a super easy first recipe. I mean, they're cookies, so I kind of feel like I cheated the new goal.
I'll make it up to you next week, Goal! I promise!
Moving on, these were tasty little morsels. My co-worker said "It's like meeting a Care Bear! And he's real!" I'm not entirely sure what this means, but she said it with a smile on her face, so I'll take it as a good thing.
Obligatory photos!

1 3/4 flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups rolled oats
14 Tbs. unsalted butter
3/4 sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
3/4 thin, salty pretzels (optional) to sprinkle on top of the dough blobs prior to baking.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Baking! Challenges! School!

(When someone asks where my happy place is, I describe this picture. Dough! Rolling pin! Flour!)

Two truths and a lie:
1) My hair is unruly.
2) I am super good at keeping up with a blog.
3) I dream about cake.

If you guessed #3 as the lie - you are wrong! It is #2.
(And, yes. #3 is unfortunately very true. Last night my dream was pretty much just me in the kitchen baking a chocolate cake, and then bringing it to work to distribute to people. What does this mean? Other than I am a boring person who dream about real-life experiences) Oh, well!

And now a confession:
I am a cookbook hoarder. It's true. I have so many, but I always end up using a tried and true recipe and tell myself that I'll branch out the next time.
Well, no longer, I say!
I made a deal with myself that I would bake one new item per week from my currently owned cookbooks. I am writing it on here as a way to keep myself accountable. Because I'm sure you all will yell at me when next Monday rolls around and I haven't baked anything. Don't yell! I'll bring you a treat to eat!

I mean, what better time to begin a new goal than at the beginning of the school year, right? Excitement!