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Wednesday
Sep082010

Curiosity Killed the Cookie: Another Experiment in How Not To Make Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not sure about whether or not curiosity killed the cat, but it sure did compromise these cookies. 

That's right: I've been messing with chocolate chip cookies again. It all started about a week ago, after a lifetime of conscientiously creaming the butter and sugar at the beginning of making chocolate chip cookies. I had received a big ol' parcel of freebies from Nestle Toll House (giveaway coming in a few days!) and had cookies on the mind.

A question occurred: "what would happen if I swapped the order in which the flour and sugar are added?".

Well, needless to say I was gonna find out.

And so, instead of creaming the butter and sugar, I "creamed" the butter and flour, and then added the sugar in, bit by bit, later on in the recipe, at the time when I would normally be adding the flour. I didn't mess with the actual measurements of the ingredients, though.

So what happened?

Well, the fact that these were going to come together differently was evident right away. The flour clumped up with the butter like...well, pie crust. (this makes sense, right?)

And then, adding in the eggs and other ingredients, things seemed to start looking like normal cookie batter.

Adding in the sugar, bit by bit, the dough looked, smelled, and felt pretty normal. I added in the vanilla and chocolate chips.

I let it chill for a while. Normal-looking. I spooned it on to the baking sheet, finishing off some of the cookies with these cute Nestle chocolate and white chocolate chip mini morsel toppers.

When the cookies came out of the oven, they looked completely perfect: lightly browned on the edges and bottom, soft in the middle.

But then something strange happened. As the cookies cooled...they turned into cookie crackers!

They looked right. They smelled right. They even tasted pretty right. But the texture was...well, disappointing. Crackery. Weird.

As I found out on Baking911.com, I had basically skipped an important step by making this switcheroo: "Creaming incorporates the maximum amount of air bubbles so a recipe will rise in the oven and be light in texture." So while I can't get technical about the chemistry of why this crackery texture was the result, I can say that while I was happy to have seen for myself what happens when you skip this step, I'm not likely to do it again.

Here's the recipe I used--feel free to try my experiment for yourself, or honor the good Mrs. Paul Franklin, Wife of Governor, from Phoenix, AZ, and follow the directions correctly (listed correctly below). By the way, this is the book the recipe is from--isn't the cover just too much?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

From Favorite recipes of America desserts Including Party Beverages, Vol 1  

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sifted flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot water
  • 1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate morsels or pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Procedure

Cream butter and sugars; add egg and beat well. Sift together dry ingredients (except for chocolate); add to creamed mixture. Add hot water; mix until well blended. Add chocolate pieces, nuts, and vanilla, and blend just until incorporated. Drop from teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Makes 3 1/2 dozen small cookies.

Tuesday
Sep072010

Hot Dog! Chilly Willy Ice Cream Sandwiches on Hot Dog Buns Recipe for Serious Eats

CakeSpy Note: I created these for a Labor Day entry on Serious Eats. Even though Labor Day is over, they're a great way to use leftover hot dog buns!

When it comes to Labor Day food, the general rule is "it's more fun on a bun." Happily, dessert can be part of the party when you combine ice cream and hot dog buns to make Chilly Dogs.

I was delighted when I first came across this confection at Snacks!, a bodega in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. Unlikely as it may seem, the combination of toasted hot dog bun lined with peanut butter and jelly, then topped with ice cream is actually quite delicious—the light sweetness of the bun works nicely with the ice cream, with just enough sponginess to absorb the flavor of the ice cream, but sturdy enough that it will keep it contained for a sweet hand-held treat. Of course, it might get a bit messy toward the end, but isn't that part of the fun of outdoor eating?

For the full post and recipe, check out Serious Eats!

Tuesday
Sep072010

Ask CakeSpy: What Cupcakes Should I Try in NYC?

Dear CakeSpy,

Living in New Jersey, I have access to all of the great cupcakeries in NYC, but choosing which one to visit on a day trip is a rather daunting prospect. I'm rather curious about Crumbs, especially as I hear they have a s'mores cupcake, but don't want to make the wrong decision. What to do?

Sincerely,

Buttercream Daydreamer in Belmar

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dear Buttercream Daydreamer,

When I think New York, I think bright lights, big city, and huge cupcake presence. When I lived in New York as a college student, there were two main choices: Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village (largely credited with kick-starting the cupcake trend) and the Cupcake Cafe in Hell's Kitchen (which has since relocated down the street; I preferred the old location). At that time, I have to confess that while I liked both, my affections leaned slightly toward Cupcake Cafe, which offered up cupcakes with extremely buttery and not extremely sweet frosting. They were a bit more of an acquired taste, but I probably could have eaten my weight in them.

These days, it seems like there are more and more amazing cupcake bakeries every time I have gone back. While I don't feel as if I am qualified to weigh in on the best, I am going to suggest that you check out this very throrough roundup of "The Best Cupcakes in New York City" on Serious Eats.

To cross-reference this post, I went ahead and did some research on some of the ones that offer s'mores flavors. From the "12 best bakeries list", I have put an asterisk next to the shops which offer a s'mores cupcake flavor specifically listed on their menu (however, be sure to call for availability).

Buttercup Bake Shop
Sweet Revenge 
Robicelli's
Sugar Sweet Sunshine
Tribeca Treats*
Tonnie's Minis
Amy's Bread
Kumquat Cupcakery
Spot
Chickalicious Dessert Bar*
Two Little Red Hens
Baked

Finally, my thoughts on Crumbs. I have been there a few times. My experience: the first time I visited I had a cupcake that was a fairly dry affair which had initially turned me off toward them, but after several positive reviews, I gave them another try. To my delight, on several succeeding visits I have had perfectly delightful cupcakes there which didn't suffer from dry cake disorder and were, on the contrary, quite moist and flavorful. Flavors I have tried: Vanilla/vanilla, Baba Booey, Artie Lange (favorite!), and Half Baked.

So while I don't have a single answer to the "what cupcake should I try" question, I hope I've left you feeling better equipped to tackle this delicious day trip.

Always sweetly,

CakeSpy

Sunday
Sep052010

Sweet Love: Ode to the Vegan Oat Bar, Caffe Ladro, Seattle WA

Vegan Oat Bar might not sound like the sort of sweet that would inspire a sonnet, but it is. Let me prove it with a terrible one:

Oh vegan oat bar
beautiful morning sweet
what a lovely thing you are
for me to happily eat

You may not have butter, eggs, or milk
but I don't feel deprived
'cos unlike some pastries of your ilk
you don't taste contrived

You're so sweet, tart, and nutty
when push comes to shove
I have a confession, buddy
I think I'm in love.

Reading that poem, I hope that two things have come across. First, that I should never pursue writing poetry professionally. But more importantly, what I hope that it's conveyed is that this bar is a very special treat which is worthy of love and affection. It's good--seriously good. Starting with a rich cookie base, it has a layer of rhubarb which adds a tart layer of flavor and soft, lightly gooey center, which is all crowned with a generous oat-and-crumb topping which is sweet, lightly salty, rich, and startlingly addictive. Not just "good for a vegan treat", this bar is so good that you'll never miss the butter. And as someone who generally firmly believes that the secret ingredient is butter, and lots of it, this is a bold statement.

This is all to say--this is one sweet treat worth seeking out.

Vegan Oat Bar, available at Caffe Ladro in Seattle; for locations, visit their website.

Saturday
Sep042010

Roll Over: The Apple Cinnamon Roll from 3.14 Bakery, White Center WA

Sure, you could go to 3.14 Bakery in White Center and get pie.

But wouldn't that be kind of, well, obvious?

No, be the one who boldly walks in and buys a cinnamon roll. Or at least, the one who buys a cinnamon roll in addition to some pie.

We (Mr. Spy and I, that is) had the good fortune of being gifted one of these behemoths by beloved CakeSpy Shop customer Stacy, and I can attest that it is a fine specimen of cinnamon roll.

For one thing, it is huge. Not sure if the pictures really show it, but the plastic container is one of those jumbo salad-bar type clear containers, and the cinnamon roll basically fills the whole thing. Not that quantity equals quality all the time, but it sure does make an impressive presentation.

But even more importantly, it's an incredibly satisfying carbohydratey treat. For some, the cinnamon roll experience is all about the goo and the glaze--the 3.14 roll may not be for you. If you are able to find room in your heart to enjoy a cinnamon roll which showcases the earthy yeast flavor of the soft dough with an assertive but not aggressive spread of butter, sugar and spice and flavor (in this case, chunks of baked apple), then you're going to be pleased by this cinnamon roll.

Plus, aforementioned enormous size allows you to share without feeling deprived (even halving it will give two eaters a huge serving).

You can find these cinnamon rolls (and pie, I guess, but I haven't tried that) at 3.14 Bakery, 9602 16th Ave SW, White Center. Find them on Facebook here.

3.14 Bakery on Urbanspoon

Friday
Sep032010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

The WowWee Entenmann’s Donut Maker is perfect for when it's "Time to make the donuts".

Sweetest and awesomest discovery of the week: Bake It In A Cake (pictured top)

Soak up the sun: stained sunglasses cookies!

Simply hypnotic: spiral moon cake recipe via House of Annie

Bananarama: Chocolate banana brownies, via Cookie Madness

Sweet! In Seattle, the lovely and amazing Urban Craft Uprising is now accepting food vendors. If you're a baker or cook, you should apply (you will make money. Trust me. Craft show vendors and shoppers are hungry people.)

Not for birds: dessert "Nests" made with angel hair pasta, honey and pistachio.

Sweet interview: check out this interview I did with the lovely Laura Lavigne.

How you know you've made it as a minor internet cake celebrity: you're featured on Cake Wrecks!

Making the BAKED brownie awesomer would be difficult, but Crepes of Wrath makes a valiant effort with this pretzel-and-toffee variety.

Maple walnut blondies with maple butter sauce? Oh, my. Oh, yes.

Probably it makes me a bad person, but this article about a "biscuit brawl" makes me laugh.

Sweet memories: learn something new about the eclair. 

Thursday
Sep022010

Totally Stuffed: Cupcake-Filled Croissants Recipe

The list of foods that are made more awesome by being stuffed in croissants is pretty immense and far-reaching, from the sweet (chocolate, almonds, cream cheese) to the savory (ham, cheese, hot dogs).

So I was pretty sure that a buttery blanket of croissant dough would have the same awesomeness-enhancing effect on leftover birthday cake (or, in this case, a leftover birthday season cupcake, from the delectable Jubilee Cupcakes).

And guess what? It turned out pretty good. While the frosting can melt out a bit and get messy, it does lends an extra-buttery richness (and a nice color contrast, as mine had pink frosting), and the cake crumbs give it an extra-carbohydratey boost, perfect for carbo-loading if you're about to run a marathon (or, you know, just a tasty snack if you're not).

Want to give it a try? Here's how I did it.

Birthday Cake-Filled Croissants

Ingredients

  • 1 leftover cupcake (or, 1 leftover slice birthday cake)
  • 1 package ready-to-bake croissants (you know, the kind in a roll)
  • Extra butter, to brush on top (if you're into that)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to the temperature directed on the croissant package.
  2. Unroll the croissants. In the center of each, place a chunk of birthday cake, crumbled up (with frosting!). Roll them up, or (as I did with some of them) form the dough into little dumplings around the cake.
  3. Place on a sheet. If desired, brush tops with melted butter (why not?).
  4. Bake for the time specified on your croissant package. When you open the oven, you may discover that the frosting has oozed a bit out of the sides, but don't worry--plenty was probably able to melt into the croissant dough. Plus, once it cools just a bit, you can kind of scrape off the oozed bits and eat them (if, like me, you have no manners, that is).

 

Thursday
Sep022010

Cake Byte: CakeSpy is About To Make Chicago Awesomer, September 11 and 12

Oh, Chicago, you're about to get so, so sweet!

For one thing, I'm coming your way for the Renegade Craft Fair next weekend. You'll find me and my crafty BFFAbbeyChristine cute-ing it up at the fair...come say hi! 

Second, I will be part of the HOOT! Owl group show at the Renegade Handmade store. It's a group show with a unifying theme: it's all inspired by Renegade Handmade's owl logo! My entry is pretty freaking adorable: it features a series of cupcakes and owls enjoying some delicious Tootsie Pops! Wonder who's gonna bite it first? One, two...three!

And, it goes without saying that you will vote for me, because it is a competition in addition to being a group show! And I could win a free booth at another Renegade Craft Fair, which means that I might come and show my art in your hometown! Well, if your hometown is New York, Austin, San Francisco, Chicago, or Los Angeles, that is. Voting will open in just a few days, but here's the link to bookmark.

For details on the Renegade Craft Fair, visit the official site!

Thursday
Sep022010

Huckleberry, But Not Finn: Huckleberry Cupcakes for September at Cupcake Royale

What's a ton funner than climbing a mountain, and many times more delicious?

The Blue Mountain Huckleberry Cupcake from Cupcake Royale, that's what.

That's right: it's September, and it's time for a new flavor of the month. Here's what they have to say about the new variety:

Our fine friends over at Foraged and Found collect these delicate little woodland wonders and bring them to us fresh and direct. Baskets of sparkling huckleberries, packed with sweet Pacific Northwest goodness, fill our bakery in anticipation of being baked up into the perfect cupcake. So, that's we do with them, and we top it off with a huckleberry buttercream that's as pretty as it is delicious.

These are blue mountain huckleberries. They're a little different from the ruby red gems you might be picturing. They're  a bit sweeter, akin to a very fancy wild blueberry...only better! They make for one super delicious cake, and one beautiful hue for a buttercream!

Which just goes to show that a sugar high is better than, say, a Rocky Mountain High, any day of the week.

You can find this flavor all month long at all four Cupcake Royale locations; for directions and hours, visit cupcakeroyale.com. Stay updated on their daily goings-on and the progress of their upcoming Bellevue location via Twitter!

Monday
Aug302010

Sweet Giveaway: Matryoshka M-Cups Giveaway!

Things that are sad: CakeSpy's birthday week is over. And (bad spy) the giveaway schedule had a slight hitch: friday's giveaway never went up! Yikes (must have been too busy eating Birthday Cake French Toast!).

Things that are glad: There's a final giveaway to cap the week and say thank you for the totally sweet memories. 

That's right: here's another giveaway, this time for the lovely and amazing M-Cups by super-creative company FRED! Here's a description:

This set of 6 dry-measure cups nests neatly just like traditional Russian matryoshkas. They accurately measure 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 full cup, and they’re built from heavy-duty, food-safe, long-life engineering plastics. M-Cups are useful, easy to store, and quite charming...so why not doll up YOUR kitchen with a little Russian folklore? Each set is packaged in a full-color printed giftbox.

They're a popular seller at CakeSpy Shop, and now you can win a set for free! How? Simply answer the following pressing cake question below. US and Canadian entrants only this time, please! The giveaway will close next Tuesday, September 7, at 12pm PST. Good luck!

Here's the question:

What is your least favorite dessert, and why?

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