This week's Illustration Friday theme is "Caution", and I suggest proceeding with serious caution before crossing the street in this part of town--these look like some tough cookies!
Let's talk about TrixieBakes. I had seen them before: I'd walked by their booth at the Madrona Farmer's Market, but had never purchased one of their brownies because at $4 a pop, they weren't exactly cheap. But after reading the DailyCandy feature on the brownies, paired with a reader writing to tell me how amazing they were, I knew I was going to have to fork over the cash.
Since I am one of those few people who prefers blondies to brownies, of course I had to go for the "blonde bombshell", described on their site as
A luscious blondie with an indecent amount of brown sugar and pecans
You can never be too rich or too dense. Ok, that's not really how the saying goes, but it definitely applies to this big blondie.
Doesn't that just give you a shiver of anticipation?
So, I enjoyed the blondie for breakfast the next morning, and I am happy to report that it was a particularly fine specimen of blondiehood: dense, chewy, and full of butterscotch-y flavor. The pecans were a particularly nice touch, adding a slight crunch and flavor contrast.
But getting back to the price. Was it worth it? Well, no doubt about it, $4 is a lot for a brownie or blondie--I think that most will agree on that. But when I reflect on my blondie experience and how decadent and satisfying it was, I do believe I got $4 worth of joy out of the experience. I'm probably not going to indulge too frequently, but maybe that just makes it more special?
TrixieBakes blondies and brownies are available at the Madrona Farmer's Market each friday, 3-7 p.m.; they're also available at Flying Squirrel Pizza Co., 4920 S Genesee St., Seattle and Pauline Patisserie, 2315 NW Market St. Seattle; also online.
Continuing our monthlong celebration of birthdays and all things sweet, Jen from the very sweet site Beantown Baker has dreamed up a thoughtful way to share birthday cake with friends who are far away: cupcakes baked in Mason Jars! Here she goes:
One of the things I love most about baking is sharing my baked goods with other people. Whether it's baking something for a friend who had surgery, got a promotion, or for no reason at all, I get real joy out of baking for other people. Since most of my family is 1000+ miles away, they don't usually get to experience my baked goods. Last fall when we were coming into what I call birthday season, 6 birthdays from Oct-Dec, I really wanted to bake for my family members with birthdays coming up.
Since cupcakes are my favorite thing to bake, I decided to send them cupcakes. I had seen this idea online and decided to give it a shot. I sent cupcakes in a jar to family members across the country. They were all pretty shocked when the packages came. It was fun to get the phone calls from each of them thanking me for the creative way to share my baking with them. My Dad loved it so much, I've been told that he tells everyone about it. As a not-so-subtle hint, he also gave me a box of new jars for my birthday. I think he's expecting more cupcakes in a jar this year for his birthday!
How to Make and Ship Cupcakes in Mason Jars
- Bake cupcakes as directed and allow to cool completely. Remove cupcake liner and cut cupcake in half either vertically or horizontally. Place 1/2 of the cupcake into a sterilized 1/2 pint wide mouth jar. Add frosting to jar. At this point, add some fun extra, such as crushed Oreos or sprinkles. Place the other half the the cupcake in the jar (if you cut the cupcake vertically, it is easier to put both halves in the jar and pipe frosting between the two pieces).
- Frost the cupcake as if it weren't in a jar. Add lid and ring to jar. Decorate with ribbon if you want. Be sure to tell your recipients to slide the lid off the jar as opposed to just pulling it up. Otherwise half of the frosting will stick to the lid.
- Mail immediately or place in freezer for a day or two then mail them. I like to freeze them and let the thaw as they are traveling to the unsuspecting recipients.
Yellow Funfetti Cupcakes
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup sprinkles
- Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line with parchment paper two 8×2-inch pans (These cakes rose over the top of my 2-inch pans - you could very well have a mess on your hands if you try 1.5 inch pans). Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat for 3 minutes on MEDIUM-HIGH speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.
- Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl before each addition. Add the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer. Stir in sprinkles.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a knife or off-set spatula. Lift up the pan with the batter, and let it drop onto the counter top a couple of times to burst any air bubbles and allowing the batter to settle. Center the pans onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top and comes away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let cool completely in the pans before removing the cakes and frosting.
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
- 1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
- 3 cups powdered sugar - I used 2 1/2 cups
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.
Keep updated on all of Jen's sweet adventures on beantownbaker.com!
Bacon in baked goods. It's hardly a new culinary trick, but it has enjoyed a bit of a vogue in recent years, showing up in everything from chocolates to brownies to cupcakes...and now, chocolate chip cookies.
When I visited Volunteer Park Cafe for the first time the other day with my buddies Neil and Judy, we tried out their "Miss Piggy" cookie--a generously sized chocolate chip cookie studded with bacon bits.
In general, I don't seek out bacon in baked goods, feeling like it's more often a shock-value addition than something intended to really bring out the flavors--but in this case, I did feel as if it actually worked. The bacon was used sparingly, so the taste was more of a whisper than a shout. While our consensus was that perhaps the bacon could have been slightly more crisp to add a texture contrast to the chewy cookie, it was overall a pretty successful use of sweet and savory. And for vegeterians, I'm pretty confident that the same would hold true if the cookie had been made with Morningstar's soy-based bacon.
What do you think about bacon in baked goods? Is it simply a shock-value addition, or are there delicious merits?
The Miss Piggy Cookie, Volunteer Park Cafe (call for availability), 1501 17th Avenue East, Seattle; online at alwaysfreshgoodness.com.
We all need to make a stealthy exit sometimes--so why not add some gateau to your getaway with a super-sweet cake complete with prison-break nail file from Criminal Crafts?
These two-layer cakes are indeed edible, and come in a variety of cake and frosting combinations; they are coated in apricot glaze before shipping to preserve freshness; each cake has a (non-edible) durable 6" metal file (safely wrapped in a parchment paper seal) hidden in the lower layer. Of course, as they specify in their shop, "We’ve never actually tried to make a jail break with one, but seen it done in movies, so we’re fairly certain it should work" -- though refunds are not offered in case it doesn't.
Of course, there is some fine print:
This item is for delivery in the US only and will NOT be shipped directly to prisons, mental health facilities, government offices or HS detention, you’re just going to have to take it in person, and as we’ve spelled it out in delicious dark chocolate, “Good Luck”.
And finally, to sweeten the deal:
As a special offer we’re offering a 20% discount to anyone ordering who is under investigation for tax fraud or if your last name is Madoff. Please convo for more info on felony specials.
Sounds like one sweet escape!
The late 1800s were a pretty eventful time in the USA: in New York, the Brooklyn Bridge was opened and Lady Liberty was installed; in the West, Billy the Kid and Jesse James bit the dust; the nation also grew, officially adding Washington, Montana and the Dakotas to the Union. And according to Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, the cookie of the decade was the Hermit:
One of our earliest favorites--rich with spices from the Indies, plump with fruits and nuts, Hermits originated in Cape Cod in Clipper Ship days. They went to sea on many a voyage, packed in canisters and tucked in sea chests.
Now, you may be wondering where this morsel got its funny name. There are a few theories uncovered on historycook.com:
Some say that the cookies were named because they look like a hermit's brown sack-cloth robe, but the earliest recipes are for white and round cookies. One possible lead is that the Moravians, an ethno-religious group well-known for thin spice cookies in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, were sometimes called "herrnhutter" in German or Dutch, and that might have sounded like "hermits" to an English-speaking cook.
Funny name and hazy origins aside, there's definitely another reason why hermits have lingered in our cookie jars: they're rich, cakey, moist, and satisfying. Adding raisins makes them taste vaguely virtuous, if you're into that--I'm not, so I substituted chocolate chips, and it worked out quite deliciously. They got even better when I sandwiched a slab of cheesecake filling between two of them (I think frosting would also work fantastically).
- makes about 3 dozen small cookies or 24 large cookies; if you're interested in the cheesecake filling shown in the top photo, you can find the recipe here -
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cups brown sugar, packed
- 1 eggs
- 1/4 cup cold coffee
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup chocolate (or white chocolate) chips
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
- Mix butter, sugar and egg thoroughly. Stir in coffee.
- Sift dry ingredients together; mix bit by bit into the butter/egg mixture.
- Once incorporated, add the chocolate chips and nuts and stir only until incorporated.
- Chill dough for at least 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 400 F.
- If you want small cookies, drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto your cookie sheet; if you're not scared of a big cookie, do as I did and use an ice cream scoop.
- Bake 8-10 minutes for small cookies, 12 or so minutes for larger ones, or until there is the slightest crispiness on the bottom (as they have a light brown hue from the coffee, you've got to be careful about this!).
As you probably know, me n' Mr. CakeSpy are pretty big fans of ClaireSquares, a San Francisco-based baking company which specializes in a sort of stylized take on Millionaire's Shortbread (they're able to ship them too--you can order here). But they've just introduced an adorable (and exceedingly decadent-sounding) new product: a chocolate-covered mini ClaireSquare! Here's the official announcement:
After six months in the test kitchen, our cutest addition to the Clairesquares family has finally arrived.
We created a bite size square made of Irish styled shortbread and caramel, then drenched it in Belgian chocolate.
The first image shows mini squares passing through a curtain of chocolate; the second image shows Clairesquares' Minis passing out of the chocolate enrober cooling tunnel, ready for eating!
Starting on Saturday the 22nd at the San Francisco Street Food Festival, you can sample the sweet treats people have been raving about.
Upcoming Tasting opportunities:
- This Saturday, 11am to 7pm on Folsom Street in front of La Cocina
- Saturday 29th, 10am to 1pm Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, La Cocina booth.
- Available exclusively at Andronico's Markets starting in September.
I first discovered Crunchies, a (natch) crunchy South African bar cookie, when CakeSpy Buddy Naomi handed one to me and said "eat this". Of course I was more than happy to oblige. Now, these cookies (made by local catering company On Safari) vaguely resembled granola bars, but one bite made the difference achingly clear. These cookies have a flavor that granola bars could only aspire to: crunchy, salty-sweet, coconutty, and very buttery.
So what's the deal with these cookies?
As one South African blogger reminisced,
Growing up in South Africa, the one cookie-tin constant that every child will remember is crunchies. They were usually one of the first things that your mom let you bake and kept forever in an airtight container, so we all grew up on crunchies. To me, they were distressingly unglamorous....but they certainly were a stalwart of every cookie tin that I remember growing up.
Want to make some crunchies? While On Safari's recipe is proprietary, I did find a crunchie recipe on the Hulett's Sugars (a South African manufacturer of sweeteners) which seems pretty legit.
South African Crunchies
- 310ml (1¼ cups) flour
- 310ml (1¼ cups) breakfast oats
- 310ml (1¼ cups) coconut
- 185ml (¾ cups) Huletts White Sugar
- 20ml (4 teaspoons) Huletts Golden Syrup
- 125ml (½ cup) butter or brick margarine
- 5ml (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda
- 45 - 60ml boiling water
- Combine dry ingredients.
- Melt the Huletts Golden Syrup and butter together. Combine the bicarbonate of soda with the water and add to the butter mixture.
- Mix together with the dry ingredients.
- Press the mixture into a Swiss roll tin (or for a thicker crunchie, bake in a square 20cm x 20cm tin) and bake for 20 minutes at 150ºC. Gently press down the sides if they seem to rise too much.
- When light brown, remove from the oven and cut into squares. Switch off the oven. Return crunchies to the oven, for about 10 minutes to dry out.
- Allow to cool before removing from tin.
Continuing our monthlong celebration of birthdays and all things sweet, Stef from the amazingly creative site Cupcake Project has sweetly donated some of her sweet birthday memories--as long as a killer recipe for a classic Golden Glow Cake with an amazingly decadent chocolate cream cheese frosting. Here's her story (as well as a picture of her during her early days of caking it up):
I never understood why my friends enjoyed store-bought heavily buttercreamed birthday cakes. But, I don’t think my friends ever understood why I liked my birthday cakes. I was so excited for my mom’s homemade cake, but my friends would barely touch it. Oh well – more for me!
My birthday cake each year was a Golden Glow cake. It’s a somewhat dry yellow cake – not that exciting on its own. However, it was topped with homemade chocolate cream cheese frosting that I loved! To this day, chocolate cream cheese frosting is my favorite frosting.
Sure, I didn’t get professional decorations with cartoon characters, but nothing beats cake from mom! I should also mention that she got the recipe from her mom.
I have no proof that the above picture is from eating Golden Glow, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
- 2 1/4 c flour
- 3 t baking powder
- 1 t salt
- 1 1/4 C sugar
- 1/2 C butter
- 3/4 C milk
- 2 T milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 t vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
3. Add butter and ¾ C milk and beat for two minutes.
4. Add remaining milk, eggs, and vanilla and beat for another two minutes.
5. Pour into well greased, lightly floured pan.
6. Bake 25 - 35 min.
(CakeSpy note: the frosting in the pictures above looks thinner and glossier than it should; this is because we couldn't resist frosting some of the still-warm cakes and eating immediately)
- 1 8 oz package of cream cheese
- 3 T milk
- 3 C powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 squares (2 oz) of melted unsweetened bakers chocolate
2. Add powdered sugar gradually, blending well after each addition.
3. Blend in melted chocolate.