OK, I Give

I can say with great certainty that I have never in my life peeled so many apples as I have this fall.  I’ve made apple butter, more apple butter, apple pies, apple pancakes, and now reading this recipe for apple muffins four ways, and knowing that my refrigerator is now empty of apple butter combine to make me want to go pick another 25 pounds of apples and spend my vacation up to my elbows in peels.

I think it might be time for one of these.

This one is from Linens-N-Things, which, have you heard is going out of business?  Unfortunately, I was there last night (when I was thinking about Christmas gifts, not apples or apple peeler/corer/slicers) to see what kind of bargains I could find.  Walking in under the giant, screaming neon GOING OUT OF BUSINESS banner, I found a bunch of diasppointing 10% off signs.  Aparently the “storewide clearance sale” is not urgent.  But anyhow… me.  Right, we were talking about me. Me and my hang-ups for kitchen appliances.

Maybe it’s not the kitchen appliances I have an issue with, it’s storage.  I hate to store things.  I would rather get rid of somehting I don’t use regularly than shove it in a cabinet.  It’s the oppisite of being a pack rat.  This is why I have no fall or winter clothes to wear right now.

I remember feeling that the apple peeler/corer/slicer was the height of excess and that I would NEVER buy one because you use it, what? Once a year?  HA!  I can’t tell you how many times in the past month I have cursed myself for not buying one.  I think I may return to the “storewide clearance” at LNT today and pick myself up a new piece of kitchen excess.  Maybe I’m turning a new leaf.  Maybe I’m getting old and lazy.  Maybe I’m going to start collecting things I don’t need.  Who cares, I can peel a bushel of apples in five minutes or less.  No scraped knuckles, no pruny fingers.  I give.

Cameron’s Camo Cake

The camouflage cake was a hit. I used this cake (yum, like a big, moist brownie), with this frosting. Add about a gallon of food coloring, one tank and several army men, and you get birthday perfection.

I frosted the cake the night before the party and had a terrible thought when I woke up that what if all the green frosting colors melted together in the refrigerator? I was so worried that the mixing and blending and smoothing of camo shapes with various palate knives would be for nothing and we’d have a big nasty green blob cake! Luckily that wasn’t the case.

Here it was the night before just before I found that it was almost too big to fit in my refrigerator and almost had a breakdown on the kitchen floor.

And here it is just before the candles were lit (sorry it’s a bit washed out). I made the army guys look like they were holding the candles. It was such a fun cake to make. Now if only Charm City Cakes would open a Connecticut branch…

S’mores Bites

Last night I was trying to come up with a quick and easy way to use the ingredients I already had in my kitchen to make a fun and interesting treat to take to one of the barbecues we’re going to this weekend. Among the random ingredients I had on hand were graham crackers, a bag of stale mini marshmallows (only the best for my friends), a bag of chocolate chips, and half a bag of mini chocolate chips. Hmm… I smell S’mores.

Now you may remember when I tried to make S’mores Becky Balls (on a stick). Those, while delicious, were a failure. I figured that this new idea couldn’t possible fail. I would warm four mini marshmallows on graham crackers in the oven, then smoosh them, sandwich-style, with another graham cracker and dip the whole business in melted chocolate. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well… they’re pretty. And they’re good in the way that anything dipped in chocolate is good, but they just don’t taste s’mores-y enough. Perhaps if I had used fresh marshmallows? Full-size marshmallows? Or maybe Marshmallow Fluff? Ohhh… Fluff! I bet that would have worked. Oh well, I’m out of chocolate and graham crackers. If anyone has the urge to try this out with Fluff, let me know how it comes out!

Failed, AGAIN.

This has not been my week. It started when I made a lasagna and realized, as I began to assemble it, that I forgot to buy mozzarella. Next I took the doorknob off of the danger door so I could paint it and not only did the paint come out looking like crap, I now can’t figure out how to get the knob back on. Then I cut out fabric to make two new tote bags, only to realize too late that I cut them out the wrong size. Sigh… This should have been a sign. But no, I continued to try new things and, of course, screw them up.

I’ve had this idea in my head for a dessert that I wanted to make. It’s based off of a candy-type thing a friend of my sister’s makes with crushed Oreos mixed with cream cheese and dipped in chocolate. They’re frighteningly good and we call them Becky Balls. I was wondering if I could combine other cookies with other cream cheesy things to make different varieties of Becky Balls and I decided to try making s’mores balls with graham cracker crumbs and marshmallow fluff. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Then I saw these adorable cupcake pops from Bakerella and fireworks went off in my head. What if I put s’mores Becky Balls onto lollipop sticks?! How cute would that be? In my head it was cute. In real life, not so much.

I mixed one sleeve of crushed graham crackers with 4oz. of softened cream cheese and about a cup of Fluff. Then I rolled them into sticky little balls and put them in the fridge where Luke saw them and asked, “are those meatballs?” No. After they chilled and firmed up, I put them on sticks and dipped them in melted chocolate. My hopes were high, I mean, see how fun they look? And I just know they’re going to taste good. Chocolate, graham crackers, cream cheese, and Fluff? Yum.

Yum? Yes. Success? No. After the third pop was being dipped, I heard a “thunk” on the counter and saw that the first pop I dipped had fallen off the stick and hit the counter in a sticky mess. Crap. Maybe I pushed the stick in too far. I tried a few more. “thunk” “thunk” “thunk”. GAH! OK, maybe the chocolate is too warm and the Fluff is melting. I stirred the melted chocolate to cool it off a little and I put the other balls I made onto sticks. Those were the same graham crackers and 4oz. cream cheese with a cup of peanut butter. Mmmm… I dipped two peanut butter pops and watched as they both broke in half and slid down the sticks in slow motion.

So disappointing. The sticks are obviously not working for these so I decided to salvage what was left and make them candies instead of pops. Oh well. They’re still yummy, just not as cute. And the s’mores ones – they’re fantastic. Better than the peanut butter ones, if you can believe that.

Maybe I’ll take the weekend off from trying new things and start over again next week. My luck, I’ll set something on fire or stitch myself to the sewing machine table next.

Many Thanks

This year, to thank the nice mail delivery person who has to drive up our long driveway to deliver over-sized mail, and the nice maintenance man at work who vacuums my office (you have to work here to appreciate how rare it is that I get my office vacuumed almost daily), and anyone else who has done something nice for me, I baked thank you cookies.

These are gingerbread cookies from my Gooseberry Patch cookie book, and they’re mostly made of butter which means they’re delicious. I cut out various sizes of circles, and then with a simple thinned down buttercream frosting, I piped out “thank you” or “thanks” and even a few “gracias” when I got tired of writing the same thing a hundred times over on the big ones. On the smaller ones I made snowflakes, which was way more fun. I also made a few batches of pumpkin butterscotch cookies, put them all in clear bags and tied them with silver ribbon. Ta-da! Delicious Christmas thanks.

I wish I could send one to each of you who reads this sometimes lame, sometimes boring, always chatty website every day. Thanks a bunch!

Sweet

In the spaces between beading and sewing and paper-crafting lately, I’ve been baking. It is the Christmas season, after all. Time to make so many batches of cookies that they start coming out of your ears. Last week was a week of baking mishaps, but really, is it ever truly a mishap when it’s made of sugar and butter? After scoring big with Dorie Greenspan’s most delicious World Peace Cookies, I turned back to my new favorite cookbook, Baking From My House To Yours, and decided to make the Brownie Buttons. These are tiny brownies baked in a mini muffin pan, then dipped in white chocolate. Mmmmm… As mysterious as the World Peace Cookies were for having no eggs in them, the Brownie Buttons were similarly curious, having almost no ingredients and only two tablespoons of flour. Unfortunately when I pulled my mini muffin pan out of the cabinet, I found that some strange chemical reaction had been happening which caused the non-stick coating to bubble off of the pan while it sat. Yuck. I scraped the flakes off and scrubbed the pan, but didn’t want to bake the brownies directly in the pan in case the coating was still flaking off. Instead I used little paper liners, figuring that I’d peel them off when the brownies cooled so I could dip them in the white chocolate and they’d look as pretty as they were supposed to. Well, it was a nice thought. The paper will absolutely not come off of the brownies. They taste good, that’s for sure. (I had to “dispose” of the brownies I crushed and tore apart while trying to pry the paper off.) But I can’t make my pretty Brownie Buttons, so in a bag they went, labeled “Failed Experiment – PLEASE EAT” so Luke would know it was safe to taste them.

Then I baked a new batch of World Peace Cookies and screwed those up, too. I didn’t realize until it was too late that I didn’t have enough brown sugar. I substituted granulated sugar for the bit if brown sugar that I was short, but knew that brown sugar provides moisture to the dough, so figured I’d wait to see how dry they were an maybe add a little water if needed. I also wanted to try making them with dark, dark chocolate to see how they’d taste. I used Lindt 85% cacao chocolate that I chopped into little bits. One of the keys to this recipe is not overmixing the dough. In fact, undermixing it is the best thing to do. Unfortunately, the missing brown sugar problem resulted in crumbly dough, forcing me to add water and mix more than I really wanted to. The dough didn’t feel right as I was wrapping it up to chill in the fridge, and the next day when I baked them, they came out all wrong. First off, they were flat, which I think is a result if the extra mixing. And secondly, the dark chocolate was so dark, it was bitter. But the cookies still had a great texture, they were soft and chewy, and there was no way I was going to throw them out. Vanilla ice cream to the rescue! The sweetness that was missing from the dark chocolate was replaced perfectly by making the cookies into ice cream sandwiches. They are so amazingly good that I have to force myself to forget that they’re in the freezer. I almost ate this one when I took it out to photograph, but forced myself to put it back.

Then on Monday, I was trying so hard to not leave the house at all, but we didn’t have any of the basics, no milk for breakfast, no English muffins. Luke had nothing to eat for breakfast (at 10:30pm) but I really didn’t want to get dressed and go to the grocery store so I decided I’d make muffins! I had a can of pumpkin in the pantry that was aching to be cracked open. Pumpkin muffins it would be. I got everything out, preheated the oven, and realized that I didn’t have any eggs. Grrr! I would normally pester my neighbors for eggs in a situation like this, but they were away in Maine and Luke won’t let me get chickens, so I had to come up with another plan. I turned to my absolutely favorite cookbook, Cookwise. It explains the science of cooking, the hows and whys. If your cookies come out flat, this book will tell you why, and how to fix it. Don’t have any butter and want to use oil? This book will tell you if you can get away with that. I love this book. So I looked up eggs. What do eggs really DO in baking? Can I go without them? It turns out that in baking, eggs are really a binder to hold the crumb together. They also provide moisture, but mostly they provide structure. Fine! I can put up with crumbly muffins. But will they rise? I can’t put up with flat muffins. Those are called pucks. Just to be safe, I added a little more baking soda and baking powder to the batter, both of those provide the rising power, and I added a bit more pumpkin to add the moisture lost from not adding the eggs. Amazingly, they came out perfect. They’re light and fluffy and crumbly and delicious! This is what I love about baking, and truly the point I wanted to get to nine hundred and forty nine words ago, don’t be afraid of baking! Baking is fun, and things don’t always turn out the way they were supposed to, but they still turn out. Make something else out of them. The brownies that won’t part with their liners – I’m going to crumble and put in the freezer to sprinkle over ice cream later, or make into a pie crust. If the muffins hadn’t turned out, I would have crumbled in the food processor for a crumb topping, or at least given them to the birds to eat, but at least I tried. That’s what matters. Baking is fun, and you can always eat your mistakes!

Like Minds

I was just browsing one of my favorite cooking blogs, Smitten Kitchen, when in the sidebar, I saw a little picture of delicious chocolate cookies and the title World Peace Cookies. This just made me laugh and made me have to share this link with you because I have recently been obsessed with these cookies. The are easy and chocolaty and so incredibly delicious. I told my sister on Thanksgiving about how wonderful they were and she called me on Sunday morning as she was in the middle of making them. She laughed at how I wrote “Try not to eat them all yourself” as the last step to the recipe, but that’s only because she hadn’t yet tasted how wonderful they were. See, the last batch I made were devoured my me and Luke and we didn’t feel bad at all about not sharing. The recipe is by Dorie Greenspan and the reason for the title is that Dorie feels that if everyone had one of these cookies, there would be peace on earth. I’m with Deb, of Smitten Kitchen, though, that if everyone had one of these cookies, the people in my general area would not be feeling particularity peaceful because I would be hitting them with whatever was nearby in order to steal their cookies from them. If you’re looking for a new, and ridiculously easy cookie this cookie-making season, try the World Peace Cookies. And try not to eat them all yourself.