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Wednesday
Sep162009

Getting Baked: Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Baked Cookbook

Chocolate Chip walnut cookies
How many times have I said that you simply must buy Baked: New Frontiers in Baking?

Well, if you don't own it, clearly I haven't said it enough. Here's how the book has renewed its place in my heart yet again this week: the absolutely perfect Baked chocolate chip cookie.

Now, I have made a fair share of chocolate chip cookies in my life, and am more than willing to admit that while they've been good, they've never been perfect. And while I don't want to go all dramatic on you and say these are the best chocolate chip cookies ever, I can say with absolutely no hesitation that these are the best cookies that have ever come out of my kitchen: chewy in the middle, ever-so-slightly crispy on the outside, slightly puffy and not too flat.

The secret? Well, at their retail location I suspect that they probably put crack in the cookies, but the recipe owes its awesomeness to stressing the importance of fresh ingredients: I promise, if you use fancy butter, fresh eggs, and real vanilla, it really makes all the difference.

I only messed with their recipe slightly, omitting 2/3 cup of the chocolate chips and substituting walnuts. If you like your chocolate chip cookies a little fancy, it's a delicious variation.

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Ever so slightly adapted from the recipe in Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup walnuts


Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and creamy. Scrape down bowl and add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Mixture will look light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat for 5 seconds.
  3. Add the flour mixture, bit by bit, mixing after each addition.
  4. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Cover the bowl tightly and put in the fridge for several hours (Baked suggests 6; I did 2 and they were still delicious).
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.
  7. If you want big cookies, use an ice cream scoop to scoop out 2-tablespoon sized balls. If you want smaller ones, use two teaspoons (one to scoop the dough and one to release it). Use your hands to shape into perfect balls and erase any imperfections. Place on prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes for smaller cookies, 12-14 minutes for larger cookies. Make sure to rotate pans at the halfway mark to ensure even baking. They're done when the edges are golden and the tops are just starting to lose their shine.
  8. Remove pan from oven and cool on wire rack. They are great warm, but you could also let them cool, if you're so inclined.
  9. These babies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Doubt they'll last that long though.

 

Wednesday
Sep162009

Royal Sweet: Princess Cake from Svedala Bakery, Seattle

Princess Cake from Svedala Bakery, Seattle
When Kristina of Svedala Bakery sent a message saying she'd recently made a batch of Princess cake and invited me to try some, the response was swift and without hesitation: Y.E.S.

And so a sojourn was made to Svedala's small location in the Pike Place Market (in the same corridor as Daily Dozen Donut Co.) and she gave us two pieces to-go.

The first thing you'll notice about Svedala's Princess Cake is that it's pink, as opposed to the more frequently seen green (remember how it became a CakeSpy obsession a while back?). Why so? Well, it's actually a green reason: since they color and flavor all of their baked goods naturally, they've found that the color they can get from beet juice is much more appetizing than natural green dyes, which tend more toward a drab green.

But you're not going to want to linger on the color for long. At this point, you're going to want to get this cake in your mouth.
Princess Cake from Svedala Bakery, Seattle
Svedala's princess cake is--how else to put it--transcendent. It's a beautiful balance, with lighter layers of sponge cake and a rich whipped cream which is somehow light at the same time that it coats your mouth with a creamy flavor, anchored by more substantial vanilla bean pastry cream and fresh jam layers, and it's all held together by a rich, almondy marzipan. Once slices are cut, the marzipan layer all but melts into the cake, which makes for a perfect marriage of flavors, especially along the edge of the cake. While I had initially expressed a concern that the marzipan layer might be too thin for safe transport, I have been assured that the cake does transport better as a whole cake, and that the baker has been considering some different options to help the cake maintain form better.

If you are in Seattle, this one is a must-try. Since the Princess Cake is not available every day, please do call ahead for availability.

 


If you are not in Seattle, don't despair: you can find more Princess cake lore here, and a recipe for an American variation on the Princess cake here.

 

Monday
Sep142009

Cookie Monster: The Bacon, Cereal and Orange Juice Breakfast Cookie for Serious Eats

Bacon, cereal and orange juice Breakfast Cookies
You love breakfast. You love cookies. So why have they been kept separate for so long?

They join forces in one whopper of a cookie for my latest feature on Serious Eats: the Bacon, Cereal, and Orange Juice Breakfast Cookie! Each of these monster cookies contains an AM trifecta of deliciousness, balancing sweet and savory with plenty of butter on top.

Worth waking up for in the morning, or have I made you want to vomit into your coffee? Either way, it's an interesting recipe, based on one that I found in a 1980s cookie cookbook!

Check out the full entry here.

Friday
Sep112009

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Nanaimo Bar Links

Blonde Nanaimo bar from Happy Donuts, Anacortes
Nanaimo bars are, simply put, heaven on a plate: rich little nuggets consisting of three layers of awesomeness: a thick, cocoa and coconut crust anchors a dense slab of custardy buttercream, all topped off with a substantial shellac of soft but firm chocolate. They're a specialty from the city of Nanaimo, but can be found in bakeries in the BC environs as well.

But did you know that there are some very delicious variations on the classic? Here is an assemblage of sweet variations of (and in some cases, embellishments upon) the delicious Nanaimo Bar:

Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake: so rich you will probably die, but at least you will die happy.

Raw Nanaimo Bars: you won't burn down the house for these babies.

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars: the creamy, rich peanut butter adds a subtle savoriness to the bars.

Nanaimo Bar Ice Cream Cake: two beautiful things just got more beautiful.

Cappuccino Nanaimo Bars: Coffee adds a nice flavor dimension to this sweet variation.

Cherry Nanaimo Bars: Rich, but with some natural sweetness too.

Peppermint nanaimo bars: this is what Thin Mints want to be when they grow up.

White chocolate and pecan Nanaimo Bars: White chocolate lovers can't miss this sweet variation.

Vegan Nanaimo bars: Because it's not always all about the dairy.

Nanaimo bar mix: If you don't want to make your own, I won't tell.

Chocolate nanaimo bar pie: Once again, two awesome things get awesomer.

Gluten free nanaimo bar: Free of gluten, but not free of delicious.

Bonus: If you're in NYC, Dirt Candy is serving up several variations on the Nanaimo bar!

Wednesday
Sep092009

Some Like it Hot: Hot Cocoa Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
Summer is totally awesome and all, but it seems to me as if there are way too many light, fruit-based and altogether too-virtuous desserts that prevail during those hot and sunny months. But as the days gradually start to get shorter and cooler, there's a sure-fire antidote, which can be summed up in three beautiful words: Hot Cocoa Cake. This is not a cake for wimps: it's unimaginably rich and decadent. Often, recipes for it call for a fudge-like frosting to be applied directly to the still-hot cake; however, as I've always preferred chocolate desserts that have a flavor contrast, I tried them with cream cheese frosting on a whim. The flavor combination works like a dream; when served at a party, they disappeared rather quickly.

Hot Cocoa Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cakes (makes about 18; adapted from this recipe):

Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 sticks (4 oz. ea) butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Mix together flour, sugar, and salt. 
  3. In a saucepan, bring the butter, cocoa, and water to boil and pour over flour mixture. 
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients to the mixture and stir well. 
  5. Fill cupcake cups 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes. Because you won't see the cakes browning at the edges, use a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake to test doneness.
  7. Once cool, frost generously with cream cheese frosting; if desired, garnish with walnuts.
Cream Cheese FrostingWalnuts
For the frosting:

 

 

Ingredients
  • 1 (8)-ounce package of cream cheese, softened (do not substitute low-fat; it just doesn't work the same way)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 cups confectioners' sugar (depending on your desired consistency)
Directions
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt until the butter is completely incorporated into the cream cheese and it has a smooth consistency. Add the confectioners' sugar cup by cup, stirring after each addition, until it has reached the desired consistency.

 

Tuesday
Sep082009

Cake Byte: More CakeSpy Celebrates a Year of Collaboration with Taylored Expressions

CakeSpy for Taylored Expressions
Booyea! You know what this month marks? 

CakeSpy is celebrating one year of collaboration with with Taylored Expressions, a rubber stamp company! Cuppie has taken part in many rubber stamp adventures this year from a trip to the beach to the latest Halloween costume party. All of the Cuppie stamp sets and coordinating products are available at Taylored Expressions. And check out the company blog to see how you could win a custom painting by yours truly, Head Spy Jessie!
Now that's the sweetest news I've heard all week!

 

Monday
Sep072009

A Sweet End of Summer Treat: Cakes Grilled in Orange Shells on Serious Eats

Cakes baked in orange shells
If Labor Day is the last hurrah of the outdoor grilling season, why not go out with a sweet bang? Wow your guests with these totally awesome cakes which can be baked on the grill in orange shells, which I recently wrote about for Serious Eats!

It's a little trick I discovered in an old Boy Scouts camping guide. Basically the idea is simple. First, you slice the top third off of an orange, and hollow out the bottom part:
Slice the Orange...Hollow out the orange

Then you fill it about 3/4 full with your favorite cake batter:
Oranges filled with cake batter

Then you either bake it according to the cake's recipe instructions, or throw it on the grill for about 15-20 minutes (shifting frequently if on grill):
Off the grill

Once done and cool, you can eat it as-is, or make it even awesomer by giving it a healthy dollop of frosting and garnishing it with a piece of the orange leftover from when you sliced the top off.

Either way, it's a sweet treat for the dwindling days of summer! Find the full recipe at Serious Eats!

Monday
Sep072009

All You Need is Luv: Cupcake Luv, Kirkland, WA

Seduced by a Peach Cupcake by Cupcake Luv
You know what all of the recent cupcake backlash made me want to do?

Eat a cupcake, that's what.

So I was particularly excited when I happened to discover a new-ish custom cupcake business based in Kirland, WA called Cupcake Luv, which had a booth at the Mercer Island Farmer's Market.
Cupcake Luv
They had a gorgeous array of beautifully decorated cupcakes. They were a bit spendy ($3 for a "regular"; $5 for a "jumbo") but most variations were filled and all of them were beautifully decorated, so it took away a bit of the sting.

I picked up the "Seduced by a Peach" (vanilla butter cake filled with a chunky peach chutney, and finished with buttercream with peach puree); while generally I shy away from fruit flavors (too healthy!), it seemed really fresh and seasonal, and was a flavor I hadn't seen anywhere else.
Inside of Peach Cupcake from Cupcake Luv
The cupcake itself, which was a vanilla cake filled with fresh peach preserves and topped with a peach buttercream, was satisfyingly heavy--a good start. The cake itself was moist and finely crumbed, and nicely complemented by the sweet, creamy frosting. Unfortunately, it was the beautiful decorating that was its ultimate fatal flaw: since the piped frosting was applied directly above the filled part of the cake, it didn't have much to hold on to, and so when the cupcake was bitten into, the frosting tended to flake off and a precious morsel even fell to the ground (just picture it in slow motion: noooooo!).

Construction aside though, it was a pretty delicious cupcake. Just make sure to eat carefully, perhaps even with knife and fork.


Want to feel the Luv? Check out Cupcake Luv's website here; they can also be found at Kirkland's Wednesday and Friday Farmer's Markets; Issaquah and Woodinville's Saturday Farmer's Markets, and Mercer Island's Sunday Farmer's Market. For more information on the Farmer's Markets including locations, visit pugetsoundfresh.com.

 

Sunday
Sep062009

Sweetness in Chicago: CakeSpy at the Renegade Craft Fair!

Cuppie Love in Chicago
Get excited, Chicago. Your city is about to get even sweeter.

A veritable tornado of sweetness is coming your way on September 12th and 13th: I (Head Spy Jessie) will be taking part in the annual Renegade Craft Fair! But I won't be alone: there will be a veritable cupcake posse on board as Rachel from Cupcakes Take the Cake, Sandy from Iron Cupcake and Sheela of Miel y Leche Catering (home of the Elvis Cupcake!) all converge in the fair city of Chicago as well!



I'll be sharing a booth with the lovely and amazing Abbey Christine (check out her awesome work here, or see her work pictured left--why yes, that is a Peewee Herman finger puppet!).
On Sunday, there will even be a Cupcake Meetup at Molly's Cupcakes (coordinated by Cupcakes Take the Cake), followed by a group jaunt over to the craft fair to visit my booth!

 

I hope that I'll see some of your smiling faces there! I will have all manner of sweet artwork and accessories on sale, including original paintings, stationery and gift items--even some new products which I did in collaboration with Eleven Eleven Industries, including CakeSpy checkbook holders, passport covers and more!


Here are the details (or, for more info, visit their site!):
Renegade Chicago!

Oh, and did I mention the most important part? I will actually be driving to the fair from Seattle...making a pastry road trip of the journey! Look out for updates on sweets from Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Minnesota and more while I work my way over to Chicago! And of course, feel free to pass on any suggestions along the way.

 

Sunday
Sep062009

Sweet Freedom: Nut, Egg, and Dairy-Free Cookies by HomeFree

Cookies by Home Free
Every so often we receive product samples, and a parcel of chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies from HomeFree Baking was intriguing, not because of what was in them...but what they were without.

Made in a dedicated allergen-free kitchen, these cookies are (wait for it): peanut free, tree nut free, dairy free, and egg free (in addition to being suitable for some wheat and soy allergies, although the cookies do contain oats and soy lethicin). The cookies also contain no trans fat or cholesterol, and are made without corn sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors, MSG, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Cookies by Home FreeCookies by Home Free
It begged the question: if they're devoid of all of these things...what is in these cookies? Well, here's the ingredient list for the chocolate chip cookies, in case you're curious:

 

Organic whole barley flour, organic cane sugar, natural chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liqueur, non-dairy cocoa butter, anhydrous dextrose, soy lecithin [an emulsifier], vanilla extract), organic oleic safflower oil, organic tapioca starch, organic whole oat flour, organic turbinado sugar, pear juice from concentrate, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), organic vanilla extract, salt, baking powder (non-aluminum), soy lecithin (an emulsifier), xanthan gum, cream of tartar, rosemary extract.

 

So how did they taste?

The mini chocolate chip cookies were very crunchy, and while the flavor was sweet and nicely balanced, it lacked the richness that I usually expect from a chocolate chip cookie, instead bearing more of a dry, crackery sweetness.

The singly-packaged oatmeal cookie was a lot softer, and smelled sweetly spicy upon opening the package. The texture was very nice, lightly crumbling but moist. The taste was lightly sweet, but overall we couldn't get past the fact that it tasted like a "healthy" cookie--almost like the outside of a Nutri-grain bar, but without the filling. While this is not an unpleasant flavor, sometimes you look for something a bit mroe indulgent in a cookie. Overall though, the more delicate flavor and softer texture of this cookie made it our favorite of the two styles sampled.

Final thoughts? These cookies are quite impressive considering all of the ingredient challenges they face--I mean, they're basically cookies made without the key ingredients of most classic cookies. If you do suffer from allergies, they are a great way to get your sweet fix without too much compromise; also, for parents bringing treats to their children's schools, they're a great choice because they're probably going to be safe for most children with allergies. However, I've got to say that Chez CakeSpy, ultimately we're probably going to stick with the real thing.

Want to try them yourself? Check out their site at homefreetreats.com.

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