Sunday, September 27, 2009

White Chocolate Orange Cookies

I've baked a lot of things in the past two years.

Cakes. Cheesecakes. Cupcakes. Brownies. Blondies. Ocassionaly pie. And, of course, cookies.

Out of all of these things, which one do you think scares me the most to make?

Would it be the cheesecake, so prone to failure that just a few seconds of overmixing, overbaking, or even breathing wrong can cause unsightly cracks that are only made perfect by slathering a bunch of chocolate ganache on top?

Would it be cake, that seems to always stick to my pans even though I lather them with butter, flour, and cooking spray?

Brownies? Blondies? Pies? Cupcakes?

None of these.

You know what scares me the most?


Why, Alex?! They're so easy to make! You just make dough, refrigerate, drop into little balls on a pan and bake 'em for a few minutes!
Easy as 1, 2, 3!

I wish.

I really do wish it were that simple for me, but it's not. Cookies are, and will always be, my most feared baked goods to create. I love how creative you can be with them, don't get me wrong. A cookie is like a blank canvas. All you need is some butter, sugar, and flour, and you're pretty much good to go. Oh, and vanilla extract. Pure, please.

You can add anything. Chocolate chips. White chocolate chips. Cinnamon. Maple syrup. Heck, you can even add oats, raisins, and apples if you seriously wanted to. The possibilites go on and on and on and on...
It's not really what goes in the cookie that scares me. It's how the cookie turns out that does.

For some reason, whether it be crazy Floridian humidity or the fact that my baking sheets are like 32049204930 years old and have seen more cookies than the cookie monster, my cookies almost NEVER come out the way I want them to. Like this one time I tried to make the infamous "whoopie pies".... Yeah. Somehow instead of nice, fluffy, chocolatey cakey cookies, I got chocolate crisps that looked like flat tuiles. Lacey holes and all. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? I don't know. I don't want to know. The logic escapes me. Cookies escape me. I wish cookies didn't escape me, because I love a good, gooey, chewy cookie dipped in milk. But I'm cursed with the inability to make perfect cookies.

Thankfully, taste makes up for lack of desired texture. Especially in these White Chocolate Orange Cookies.

First off, the orange flavor is IRRESISTABLE OH MY GOD. And paired with the white chocolate? Holy. Crap. Make these. Now. Do it. Even though I didn't get the perfect chewy texture I wanted when I baked these, THEY STILL CAME OUT SO GOOD. Not only that, but since I kind of added a spicy kick to it, the ginger really brings out the orange flavor. The result is out of this world. Seriously.

So even though cookies escape me, I'm really glad that sometimes they do come out okay, or, at least, edible. And thank God they did because I think this is one of my favorite cookies, ever. So light. So yummy. Soooo good. They don't spread much during baking, so make sure to flatten them with your fingers a bit or with the back of a spoon.

White Chocolate Orange Cookies
6 tablespoons butter, very soft
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup fine white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest from 1 orange,
Juice from 1/2 orange
1/2 to 3/4 cup white chocolate chips (or chopped white chocolate)

1. Beat butter and sugars together until fluffy.
2. Add the egg and vanilla extract, but don't mix yet.
3. Sift together the nutmeg, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and zest. Add to bowl.
4. Add the juice from 1/2 orange.
5. Mix all together until well combined. Be careful not to overmix.
6. Fold in white chocolate chips. If your dough is very, very sticky, add 1/2 cup of sifted flour.
7. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll cookies into desired ball shapes and flatten on sheet slightly with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Bake cookies at 350 for 8-10 minutes (mine went for 8.) or until the bottoms begin to turn a golden brown.

Note: These cookies DO NOT SPREAD MUCH. So make sure to flatten them a bit. If you want chewier texture, leave them on the pan a bit before removing them to a cooling rack. If you want them crispier, leave them in for longer.

Don't worry if the cookies look a bit "doughy" in the middle... They will set up on the sheet and cooling rack.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Banana Split Cupcakes

You know what I read today?

That people actually have a "traditional" way to eat a banana split.


I didn't even KNOW there was such a thing as rituals when eating a banana split. I mean. Really, the last thing on my mind is how i'm going to eat a banana split when you put a big bowl full of ice-cream, whipcream, banana, hot fudge with a wicked cool cherry on top in front of me. The only thing I'm thinking is: "Where is my spoon and I swear to God my *insertfriendnamehere* better not eat that cherry"... Definitely not sitting there contemplating specific ways to eat my banana split.

But did you know that people actually do that? Some people say that what you're suppose to do is eat the ice-cream flavors IN SPECIFIC ORDER. Someone said that they like to start light (strawberry first), then go right for the chocolate, and then end with the vanilla... Another person said that they only eat the whipcream with the banana and leave the ice-cream till afterwards... Are you serious?! Hello! Banana splits were totally not meant to be deconstructed! And no part should ever be ignored. Maybe other people are into that... but as for me, I think I'll stick with just delving in and appreciating all the flavors at once. Oh yes. Sugar overload. It's one of lifes necessaties. Especially concerning banana splits.

Not to mention someone said they don't even like the cherry on top! Pshh.

The only way a banana split should be deconstructed is if it's reconstructed to make something even better. Yes, people. Banana split cupcakes. They exist. Thank God do they exist.

Banana cupcakes topped with a light vanilla buttercream, drizzled with chocolate syrup and then topped with candied cherry-halves... It sounds complicated, doesn't it?

Well, it's not at all! As long as you have some spotty bananas, butter, chocolate syrup, and cherries (don't have to be candied!), you are good to go. And if you're into some crushed walnuts, you could add those too! (Unfortunately allergies were put into consideration when making these cupcakes... so no nuts on these babies).

The cupcakes are insanely easy to make but BE WARY -- they make A LOT. I was using a mini-cupcake pan for the majority of them and WHOA, I made enough to put Friendly's banana split out of business. For real.

While they don't give you the ice-cold sweet treat you may be looking for... if you want to enjoy all the flavors of a banana split in a cute little munching form, this is definitely the way to go. Plus, I have a hunch that their less calories than a normal banana split. Just sayin'.

If you do make these though, I better not see you wiping off that frosting or taking off that cherry.
And if you do, well... I'll have it ;)

Banana Split Cupcakes
(Makes about 36 mini cupcakes, and about 24 regular cupcakes)

Banana Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 stick butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup milk

**Additional toppings:

Candied cherries, halved,
crushed walnuts,
chocolate syrup (homemade or store bought)


1. To make Banana Cupcakes, Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour muffin pans (or just spray liberally with cooking spray.) In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture. Pour batter into muffin pan.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and place on a damp tea towel to cool.

To make vanilla buttercream frosting, in a large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add salt, vanilla, confectioners' sugar and milk. Beat well. Add more/less sugar/milk for desired consistency.

How to set up cupcakes: Using a piping bag or other, pipe frosting on COOLED cupcakes. Put half of a candied cherry in middle. Melt chocolate to syrupy consistency (or use already made chocolate syrup), and with a small spoon drizzle chocolate over cherry and frosting. Garnish with finely chopped walnuts if desired.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Accidental Oatmeal Cookie Brownie Bars.

Don't you love it when things barely work themselves out at the last moment?

I have this thing. This problem, you see. No matter what i'm baking, or how many times i've foolproofed a recipe, I always, ALWAYS, mess something up. Whether it be in missing the vanilla... putting too much flour... oh, or that time where I forgot to melt chocolate (FOR BROWNIES) because I was too busy thinking about what shoes to wear. Yeah. Something ALWAYS happens.

This time was no different. I went out on a mission to make Eating Well's brownies. Their suppose to be 86cal a pop and I really haven't made brownies for awhile, so I thought hey -- why not! They'll be brownies but a little more healthier. And chocolate is a must in my life. Must must must.

Well turns out that something, somewhere in that recipe went horrrrrrribly wrong and somehow my batter came out so entirely thin that instead of giving me brownies when I poured them into the pan, they gave me more of a brownie BASE than anything else. It was soooo thin. I refused to believe that I was gonna get brownies out of batter that thin. I almost thought I had a poured it into too big of a pan but nope -- 8x8 is what it called for. So 8x8 is what I used.

I'm not really sure how I got the result that I did, but thankfully, I had a back-up plan.

The quaker-oatmeal-cookie to the resue plan.

I just happened to have half a batch of oatmeal cookies in the freezer in case of emergencies... like cookie cravings. But! I got an idea and decided to try it. Anything to save these brownies. I really didn't want to waste all that chocolate, and ingredients. And chocolate.

So I took out my oatmeal cookie dough that USED to have chocolate chips in the batter (<_< Wonder who ate those...), went ahead and crumbled (yes, crumbled) the dough to form little clusters, or balls, and sprinkled them over the brownies until they were entirely covered. Then I popped them into the oven and prayed for the best.

Really good freakin' oatmeal cookie brownies.

The base was perfect for the cookie dough and everything baked evenly. Total "YES *FISTPUMP* moment for me the second they came out of the oven and cooled. The top got a littttttttle overbaked, but overall it was a very yummy, chewy brownie cookie bar...thing.

So if you happen to have cookie dough sitting in your fridge, but you wanna make something a little bit different -- go for the brownie base. Or, you can just TRY and make the original recipe work... But what fun is baking when something doesn't go right? ;)

(P.S.: These are best dunked in milk. With a bigger glass full than that one.)

Oatmeal Cookie Brownie Bars
Combination of Eating Well and Quakers recipes

Brownie Base Ingredients:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, American-style or Dutch-process
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (50-72% cacao), coarsely chopped
2 1/2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chopped into mini chip-size pieces, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup, blended with 3 tablespoons lukewarm water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts, optional

Oatmeal Cookie Ingredients:
(Note: you will only need to use half of the cookie dough batter for this)

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins, chocolate chips, walnuts (optional)

1. Make your oatmeal cookie dough first! since we have to let the dough sit in the freezer for a bit.

2. To make oatmeal cookie layer, In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

3. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy.

4. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins (if using); mix well.

5. Divide dough into two large balls. Wrap in non-stick foil or food wrap, and stick in freezer. Let sit while you make the brownie layer.

6. To make the brownie layer, first, position your oven wrack in the middle and preheat your oven to 350. Line a 8x8 baking pan with foil, letting the foil hang off the edges (this way you can just lift them out of the pan without cutting them out and ruining them) remember to spray your foil with non-stick cooking spray like PAM so it doesn't stick.

7. Sift (or whisk) flour, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together into a small bowl.

8. Combine the 3 ounces coarsely chopped chocolate and oil in a large, microwave safe bowl. Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 20 seconds or so, until chocolate is smooth and velvetty. DO NOT MICROWAVE FOR TOO LONG. Just until melted.

8. Remove from the microwave and stir in granulated sugar, corn syrup mixture, vanilla and salt until the sugar dissolves.

9. Vigorously stir in egg until smoothly incorporated.

10. Gently stir in the dry ingredients. Fold in the walnuts (if using) and the remaining 2 1/2 ounces chopped chocolate just until well blended.

11. Turn out the batter into the pan, spreading evenly.

12. Get out one frozen portion of your cookie dough, unwrap, and start using your fingers to form small portions of the cookie dough into teaspoon/tablespoon sized little balls. Sprinkle evenly over brownie layer until you can only see a few bits of brownie through the dough.

13. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool for an hour or so. To remove from pan, take both side of foil and lift up out of the pan, and rest on a cooling wrack until completely cooled and ready to cut.

14. Cut brownies into small bars. Should yield about 20 bars from the pan.

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