Saturday, July 11, 2009

Catching Up...

I can't seem to stop baking. It's really becoming an issue--although I am not complaining. I love being able to bake again every day...I had forgotten how much I need that daily time for meditation. I realize that chocolate chip cookies can't be a religion, but they're close enough.

On Monday, I made Better Than Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake Muffins. Now, Let me begin by saying how surprised I am that I haven't yet featured these little numbers on this blog before. the BTCCCC Muffins are my go to recipe when I'm lacking in time or just need a sure-fire crowd pleaser. In fact, I used to make these at least once a week when I was at UF.


These muffins were my second recipe. I had baked a Death By Triple Chocolate Orgasm cake for one of my best friend's birthday back in 12th grade, and, impressed with the fact that he now had a personal baker, said friend (let's call him "Matt," since that's his name), Matt, asked me to make him blueberry muffins. Matt has a thing for blueberry muffins. We used to go to the Whole Foods Market at night and buy muffins and then drive to the beach (this is what kids who don't drink in high school do...). Now, I don't know if you've ever been to the Whole Foods Market at about 9 pm and purchased a blueberry muffin, but you should try it. At any time of the day, really.

So I baked him these blueberry muffins...and they went over really well. So I got creative. I used the basic muffin recipe and then substituted chocolate chips for the blueberries and created a spice mixture (laced with a little bit of espresso) to be sprinkled over the tops of the muffins...and the BTCCCC Muffins were born!

I really love this recipe--there's no butter, which is a huge time saver, and the flavor of the muffins is to die for. I cranked out two batches in the time it would probably take to start a cookie recipe. Each batch, makes about 30 muffins, which is the only problem, since I have only one mini muffin pan, and that makes only 24 at a time.

When you bake mini muffins and only have 6 in a 24 muffin pan, the cooking spray and excess spices left from the first bake tend to continue cooking, even though there are no muffins in those spaces. So while the second batch of muffins reached its tail end, the cooking spray was turning to steam in my oven.

I had gone to put on makeup while the muffins baked, since I had to run out as soon as they were done...and when I went to open up the oven to check on the muffins, steam burst out and hit me in the face--which was not good, since my mascara was wet. Naturally, I closed my eyes...but then quickly realized that my eyelashes were stuck together! Fortunately, I managed to separate them and then remove the muffins from the oven...but I learned my lesson: don't lean over a 400 degree oven until your mascara has dried.

Better Than Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake Muffins
(I apologize for the quality of this picture. I forgot to take one at home, and the lighting in the theatre is very dark...)


Tuesday was Seth's birthday. (Seth is one of the actors in the Shakespeare Fest.) Last year, I baked a really sick extra chocolate cake, and I figured that I needed to try something I made Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cheesecake Cookie Bars. My biggest problem with this recipe--because I've made it once before with much success--was that I lacked the right pan in which to bake this insane concoction.

Bar cookies are really just cookie dough baked into a cake or bread pan and then sliced up into bars. Picture a chocolate chip cookie cake, only much thicker (because there's more leavening in the recipe) and not round.

So I mixed the chocolate chip cookie dough (a slightly different recipe from my Better Than Chocolate Chip Cookies) and the chocolate cheesecake mix. Then in a 9" cake pan (which was definitely not big enough) went a large portion of the chocolate chip cookie dough. I baked it at 375 until the sides started to brown and then in went the cheesecake and the remaining cookie dough. By the time such occurred, the original cookie dough had already risen almost to the top of the cake pan. So these were MUCH thicker than I had intended. And now had cheesecake, which takes FOREVER to cook, on top. (General rule of thumb: the thicker/denser the batter or dough, the longer it's going to take to cook all the way to the center.)

I checked on the Cookie Bars about 1 million times that afternoon, and yet the center refused to cook all the way. I think it was more than an hour later (which included the first bake of the cookie foundation) that I was able to remove the Cookie Bars and then cool and slice them.

I worried that the bake time had perhaps ruined the batch, so while they chilled in the refrigerator, I whipped up a batch of Better Than Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake Muffins, just in case. Then my sister Allie came home from camp and bravely tried a Cookie Bar (because, y'know, I really had to force her...) and deemed them yummy.

Apparently my fellow actors agreed! (Once again, sorry for the quality of the photo!)

Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cheesecake Cookie Bars


I took Wednesday off from baking, but received that night from Pierre, another actor in our merry band, a request for homemade caramel. "Oh dear," thought I...caramel is probably one of the most temperamental of all of the recipes I've ever tried. It ranks up there with meringue on the "probability I'm going to mess this one up" scale.

But if caramel Pierre wanted, it would be caramel he would get. I made my Mocha Caramel Macchiato cookies, hold the macchiato. (I didn't feel like making icing, and they really didn't need it anyway.) I creamed the butter and sugars before I started the caramel, since the caramel needs to be added to that mixture before it has time to harden...and then I started cooking the sugar. To my surprise, I didn't burn anything and I didn't have to start over. It came out perfectly! I quickly poured 1/2 a cup into the butter/sugar mixture...and then ALL of the sugar caramelized. I had to spend several minutes chopping up the pieces of caramel with my spoon. I waited for everything to cool before I even thought about adding the one wants scrambled egg cookies. Then I finished making the recipe as normal. When I put the cookies in the oven, the caramel chunks cooked and slowly melted, giving the cookies more spread than usual. As they cooled, the caramel hardened, and the chocolate chips assumed a permanently melty composition.

The end result was a soft, chewy, utterly evil (thanks, Lisa) cookie. I am very proud of how they came out. There was nothing left by the end of rehearsal--and here's why:



And now I have a rather big project (which I have set out for myself) to accomplish this week...stay tuned.


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