The Bells of Dr. Pepper

The baking bug fell upon me, as it is wont to do when I have much that I should be doing but also have a severe deficit of productivity. And lack of wherewithal. And stuff.

I toyed again with macarons making, as I do when the temperature and the humidity both hover in the 90s. I relish a challenge. But once I dried out the almond flour, the whole monumental macaron making process smacked of effort. Too much.

So I needed something simple. Well, simple-ish. And with little clean-up.

A woman at school always makes a superb Southern specialty: Coca-cola cake. It’s chocolate-y and Coca-cola-y and, best of all, alliterative. I couldn’t live up to her recipe, so I decided to tweak that ol’ recipe in a few ways.

First, let’s make it more Texan. Dr. Pepper instead of Coke. Yeah. (If you don’t know why Dr. Pepper is more Texan than Coke (which is Georgian!), go here.)

Then, a DP flavored buttercream icing instead of a cocoa glaze. Oh, yeah.

So. For the cupcakes, I found a Coke cake recipe online that consisted of ingredients already living in my cupboard and into which I substituted in that Whataburger staple, Dr. Pepper. (In case I haven’t made it clear, this was one lazy Sunday. Like a four-hour-nap, stay-in-pajamas-all-day lazy Sunday. Going to the store was not an option.)

The cakes came together wonderfully. Fluffy and chocolaty and a hint of Dr. Pepper.

ignore the splatters, please...

ignore the splatters, please…

The rest of the Dr. Pepper went in a pan where it bubbled away until it was a thickish syrup.

This was about a cup of Dr. Pepper...whatever was leftover from the recipe went into the pan.

This was about a cup of Dr. Pepper…whatever was leftover from the recipe went into the pan.

For the frosting, I found a Coke frosting recipe on the iCoke mobile website (I KNOW!), and subbed in that Dr. Pepper syrup and a bit of vanilla extract.

I even broke out my frosting tips to decorate these babies and experimented to make it look “frothy” like a bubbly head on an ice-cold DP.

Three frosting style examples...

Frosting style examples…

I gotta say, together, it’s a lot (A LOT) of sweet and a bit of cocoa. Sort of a Dr. Pepper float sort of thing. The recipe needs some tweaking for it to really ring that elusive flavor bell, but for a first shot, it’s pretty good.

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

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The Kouign of Baking Therapy

I’ve been neglecting my house and the grounds surrounding it. Not that I live in a palatial estate. Just haven’t mowed in a while. Or weeded. Or done any sort of maintenance, for that matter.

I figured it could wait until Spring Break. So I let it. When I mowed, though, I realized that something was amiss. The yard seemed swampier than usual, even after a heavy rain. (let’s hear it for Houston’s thick clay soil, everyone!)

Yeah. The main sewer line was backed up. So I crossed my fingers and hoped that it was just from the rains. But this morning, alas! It was still there. Soggy. Stinky. Gross. A plumber must be called to repair a collapsed concrete line built about 60 years ago. As luck would have it, I apparently get a teacher discount, and while I paid a very reasonable rate, I won’t be taking any trips anywhere for quite a while.

I’m talking nowhere. Not even for a lovely spring breaky brunch. *sigh*

What to do but bake something tasty? And buttery. And caramelly. Enter the beautiful Kouign Amann, that Breton pastry of legend. Say it like this: Queen Aman. I first saw it on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate and knew that this pastry and I were destined to meet. It looked wonderful and the host gushed over its attributes. Flaky. Gorgeous. Fabulous.

Plus, it’s a yeast dough with many steps, so, yeah. Plenty to keep my mind off the fellows digging up my yard.

I began with David Lebovitz’s recipe, making sure that the “warm” water was between 100 and 110 degrees — this has been my downfall many a time with yeasty breads, so I was very careful. Used black sea salt. It gives it a weird, pocked appearance that I’m going to call charm.

The charming pock marks.

The charming pock marks.

Now, I follow his directions to a T, making the dough and letting it rest and hour and rolling it out and covering it with the good butter (Kerrygold is superb. Or Plusgras. Don’t skimp) and some sugar (vanilla-infused here, y’all!).

Kerrygold butter lives up to its name.

Kerrygold butter lives up to its name.

Yep. I follow that recipe right up to the folding part. Because you’re going to want to add a step. One that I saw on that show. One that will make you want to make this RIGHT NOW.

So you’ve folded your dough over neatly in a little tri-fold. Now. Take your rolling pin and beat that butter like a drum. Whack it into the dough. Like a red-headed step-child. (I’m from the south. It’s okay to use that particular idiom.) Beat it like you’re the University of Texas and it’s A&M. (HAH!) Seriously, though. Smack it.

Pre-beating...

Pre-beating…

Post-beating. Look at the yellow Kerrygold butter peeping through.

Post-beating. Look at the yellow Kerrygold butter peeping through.

Then roll it out and add another layer of sugar and do the tri-foldy thing again and now continue with Mr. Lebovitz’s recipe.

You should have a lovely stack of dough and sugar and butter sitting pretty on your plate. To rest for an hour.

SONY DSC

Seriously. Black sea salt on top and golden butter peeping through cracks. This is an awesome pastry.

Then into the pie plate with MORE butter and sugar…

Sprinkled with liquid gold...

Sprinkled with liquid gold…

Let's take a closer look at that wonderfulness...

Let’s take a closer look at that fabulous butter oozing through the field of sugar and salt…sort of awesome.

…to caramelize after 45 minutes into this:

Oh. YEAH.

Oh. YEAH.

A buttery, crispy, oozy pan of amazing that (almost) makes up for the gigantuous home repair price tag.

I can’t write about the lovely aromas coming from the oven. I just can’t. There are no words. It’s heaven.

Hell will be waiting for it to cool. And I’m off to do that.

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

Please, Sir, Can I Have Samoa?

I deserve a treat. After spending the day with ten teen robotics competitors, I deserve a treat. (I no longer need a drink: we took care of that after the 10-hour competition day. I’m okay there.)

So I deserve a treat. One I can have without leaving the couch. Or my pajamas.

I want cookies. My favorites, though, are Samoas. You might know them as Caramel deLites. The Girl Scouts renamed them. Why, I can’t say, but I do know that I’d rather nosh on cookies named for a lovely, warm, sunny country than a stripper. (Gentlemen! On the center stage! Caramel deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeLite!)

But I digress. Sue me. It’s pajamas-on-the-couch day. My problem now is that the Girl Scouts, whose presence is ubiquitous at the entrance of grocery stores, do not deliver to my door.

Lucky that I plan ahead. In my fridge: a bag of shredded coconut and a carton of heavy cream. So I can make me some of them there cookies.

Really.

They’re nothing more than shortbread cookies with holes in them (Read: Jammy Windows tops!) covered with caramel, sprinkled with coconut, and drizzled with chocolate.

Easy-peasy.

So. Make up a batch of the Jammy Windows shortbread. Cut them ALL into rings, though, and bake them according to the recipe. (But only let the dough rest for an hour or two…this is a cookie emergency.)

While they’re chilling, toast up the coconut. Don’t be alarmed if an alcohol-y, piña-colada-y fragrance wafts tantalizingly from the oven. But keep those eyes on the prize. Burned coconut is no one’s treat. I used a sweetened variety, and so I checked it every two minutes. It browned all of a sudden, just like the good peeps at Bon Appétit warned on their website… Be warned.

Bake up the Jammy Windows rounds…let’s call them shortbread from now on, yes? No jam in these wonders.

Shortbread rounds

Wee lone stars in each. For Texas. Yee haw!

Whilst they cool, make a batch of caramel. I used Martha Stewart Classic Caramel Candies recipe, but only because Alton’s recipe had soy sauce in it. WTF and I’ll make that later.

Almost to the Firm Ball stage. Tee hee.

Almost to the Firm Ball stage. Tee hee.

Mix the toasted coconut into the caramel and let it sit until it reaches a thick, spreadable consistency.

(THIS IS WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG! See “THAT WAS THE PLAN” below.)

At this point, melt some chocolate and dip the bottoms of the cookies in it then put them on wax or parchment (or a silpat sheet) to set.

Spoon, pour, or spread a thin layer of the coconut/caramel mixture onto each of the shortbread rounds (Remember? We’re not calling them Jammy Windows any more. We decided that earlier. Check if you don’t believe me.) and place them on parchment paper or waxed paper (or silpat) to cool and set.

Once the caramel has set up nicely, melt some chocolate chips — semi-sweet, bitter-sweet, whatev. Drizzle horizontal lines across the cookies. Or just splatter them any which way. You’ve worked hard and waited enough.

Let the chocolate set up and then voilá! Tons of (much cheaper than the boxed variety) lovely, caramelly, coconutty, chocolaty, buttery fabulosity for your pajamas-on-the-couch day. Or breakfast. Again, whatev.

THAT WAS THE PLAN!!!

And it was a good plan. I was so confident in my plan that I wrote out the entire process before starting anything!

However. Pride goeth before and all that.

A combination of my new super-heating restaurant-quality pan and a less-than-accurate candy thermometer left me with a thicker, chewier coconut/caramel combo than is easily spread. So I spread it on as many cookies as I could…

It looks, well, Samoa-ish.

It looks, well, Samoa-ish.

…before it seized. Not wanting to throw it all out — it WAS tasty still — I began to roll it into small sticks. Creating something horrifying and wonderful all at the same time!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you (DRUM ROLL)…

COCONUT TURDS!!!!!

COCONUT TURDS!!!!!

Yes. Coconut Turds. Tasty, tasty turdy-looking hard caramel and coconut.

The stuff spread on the cookies hardened into crunchy, tasty disks that popped right off the cookies. So my teacher peeps will be getting plain, tasty, caramel- and coconut-less shortbread cookies tomorrow. Ah, well.

To conclude on a positive note: when you get the itch for some nostalgic, coconutty loveliness, make these cookies. But learn from my mistakes:

  • When you’re making that caramel, heat it ALMOST to the Firm Ball stage (BWAH HAH HAH!!!!) or risk crunchy coconut turd candies.
  • Call the properly make cookies whatever you want.
  • Save considerable money by making them instead of buying the Girl Scout version…then donate all those savings to the Girl Scouts. Win-win.

Now, back to the couch and the Samoas and some serious Netflixing.

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

Bakin’ Pixelation

So my wee niece — the wee one, not the wee-est one — is apparently in love with Minecraft. Which I don’t get. It smacks of an endless game of hide-and-seek where you hide from weirdly pixelated creatures while seeking weirdly pixelated gemstones in weirdly pixelated mines. Pixelated.

86px-BabyMooshroom

A MOOSHROOM a cow-mushroom hybrid from Minecraft. A pixelated one.

Cakes, however, and cookies and whatnot are things I do get. And the wee niece’s birthday turned out to be a time to attempt several challenges at once: cookie pops, marshmallow fondant, and carving and stacking cakes…to make a MINECRAFT cake. WOOT!

Time management tends to be my downfall, so this time I planned things out thusly:

DAY ONE:

My day to make the marshmallow fondant, which has to sit overnight and which turns out to be a tasty confection — much, much better than the fondant you’re thinking of — and happily easier than it would seem. I colored it as closely as I could with Minecraft colors, even leaving some streaks to provide a sort of — you guessed it — pixelation.

Pink and blue and green and brown and green and brown...

Pink and blue and green and brown and green and brown…

Use gloves. Seriously. Use gloves! I found a box of latex-free food grade gloves at a local restaurant supply company that is open to the public, and I highly recommend them. ( the gloves AND the restaurant supply!) Avoid fingers tinted an odd color that will spark stares and unwanted conversations.

I wanted to add as many (PIXELATED) cookie characters as I could. I eyeballed the Fat Daddio square cookie cutter set before realizing that it was an unneeded purchase. *SIGH*

Instead, I dug up the fabulous Sweetapolita cookie pop recipe and threw a buttery batch together and chilled it, then rolled it out and cut squares with my trusty pizza cutter. Huzzah for multi-taskers!

The tiny rectangles are for the pixelated piggy snouts.

The tiny rectangles are for the pixelated piggy snouts.

All baked up, these will keep until I’m ready to decorate them!

Then, make up a batch of Rice Krispie treats and press those suckers down flat so they can be cut into squares…to create pixelated peeps.

(and I’m done for day one!)

DAY TWO:

Cakes. Bake those suckers the day before so you can chill them. I looked for dense, tasty recipes, so of course I wandered over to my foodie crush, Alton Brown. I’ve had exceptional success with his trés leche cake, and I’ve been dying to try his devil’s food, so I was all set. Two batches of trés leche and one of the darkest, deepest, most decadent devil’s food EVAR.

All of these plus one in the oven!

All of these plus one in the oven!

You’ll need about a dozen eggs: five for each the trés leche and four for the devil’s food…but it’s worth it. Oh, yes. It’s worth it.

DAY THREE: Oh, the fun stuff!

Give those lovely cakes a crumb coat (I used a basic vanilla buttercream for both), roll out the fondants, cut them, and apply to cakes. Sculpt the Rice Krispie treats into trees and pigs and monsters and that Steve dude that apparently wanders about as pixelated as a daffodil.

These steps so consumed my day that I have no pictures of the process. But please enjoy this photo of a Minecraft pig:

Piggity.

Piggity.

The square cookies turned into piggies and creepers (these weird pixelated green things that explode. or something), but the tiny piggy nose cookies went away. Didn’t work. Best to draw the snout on with royal icing.

DAY FOUR:

BIRTHDAY PARTY DAY!

Rolled out the blue fondant for “water” pixels and threw everything into boxes and rushed cake to party site.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand here they are:

Devil's Food on the left; Vanilla on the right

Devil’s Food on the left; Vanilla on the right… please to notice the “torches” in the “stone” on the DF cake.

Piggies and creepers!

Piggies and creepers!

A close-up in which you can see the (saddled) pig and Steve and a wee Minecraft "cake."

A close-up in which you can see the (saddled) pig and Steve and a wee Minecraft “cake.”

IMG_2241[1]

The DF Creeper cake…note the angled “torches,” please. And the pixelated water and…um…grass?

Well, that’s that. Awesome fun foodie adventure, plus fondant usage is finally under my belt. Plus, it’s good to be back online taking random foodie pics and accompanying them with dialogue…

What fresh, new (preferably unpixelated) challenge awaits, lurking on the horizon?

I mean, of course, other than catching up on grading…urk.

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

Insert Peter Gunn Theme Here…

So I’ve been an absentee blogger lately. But there’s a reason. For real and for true.

But it’s secret.

I’m working on top-secret recipes. Realio, trulio secret cookie recipes. Chocolate cookie recipes. With special ingredients. And patient, honest, understanding victims…er, tasters.

But I thought I could post a follow-up to some of the previous recipes. So here goes:

  1. The applesauce works crazy well with a mix of Braeburn and Pink Lady apples — for applesauce AND butter.
  2. The shortbread part of the jammy windows travels superwell if you freeze them first.
  3. About 5% of the jammy windows don’t form a seal and sort of bleed out. It’s gross but still tasty.
  4. Thanks to the fabulous Stephanie at 52KitchenAdventures and her awesome advice, her Nutella macarons ALSO travel superwell if you freeze them first. (seriously. i took 4 dozen each of the jammy windows and the macarons in my carry-on on a flight from Houston to Pittsburgh and nary a cookie was squished!)
  5. Cookie tables at weddings are the most superlativiest, best things ever and I think they should be incorporated into EVERY get-together, celebration, and meeting EVAR. (see the proof below)

It’s 96 dozen cookies of awesomeness!

Okay. To follow up with five things I added to the recipes and pages, I present to you stuff I’m doing that keeps me away from, well, here:

  1. Those super-secret recipes.
  2. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month, theoretically with RouBarb as a buddy, though I have 4,048 words to her 0. (not bragging. just a fact. yeah. okay. bragging just a little.)
  3. I just attended one of the most fabuloso weddings I’ve ever seen. Just stupendous.

Just three. In my head, that list seemed MUCH more dramatic. Boo. And with that anticlimactic non-explanatory list, I’m off to write some more, cook some more, and purposefully ignore all predictions on election returns until I wake up in the morning and know for reals who’s president tomorrow.

Laters. And in case you don’t know the reference in the post’s title, I give you the best version of all time. It gives my actions an air of clandestineness…or clandestinity. Not sure. Enjoy.

 

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

The Stink of Success

Recently, Nikki T. shared with me information about a product she found called PB2. Dehydrated roasted peanuts. Yum, right? 85% less fat than ordinary, hydrated ones. Oh, YUM. Low-fat foods are always so AMAZING. (end sarcasm here…)

Yick.

But part of me was intrigued. Especially when I checked it out online. People raved about the stuff. It wasn’t, however, easily obtained anywhere near me, and peanut powder didn’t possess the persuasive powers necessary to compel me to purchase it through the internet. And I thought that was the end of it.

Until I visited my local HEB and found this on the end of an aisle:

So I brought some home.

It’s been sitting on the counter for a while now, waiting for me to hit the appropriate combination of inspiration and desperation for something peanutty. That perfect storm hit today.

I hit the internet and found on the PB2 website some recipes, settling on Chewy PB2 Cookies. Looked easy enough. And 50 calories each? Oh, SO worth the effort. I hoped…

So. Mixed up all the drys in a bowl. The PB2 was aromatic and roasty smelling. Nice…but there was something lurking. An aftersmell that I couldn’t place. But not bad…

Dried, roasty, peanutty powder chunks.

Then with the wets…

Looking peanut butterier…

Still nice. Thick and sticky…and that aftersmell got a bit stronger. Still not bad. Still couldn’t place it, though. After adding the flour, things didn’t gel…had to spritz in more water. And more…

Finally, a dough appeared. But it was sticky. STICKY. Stickier than just regular peanut butter. I tried to do the cute and ubiquitous criss-cross fork pattern in one and got this:

No cute criss-cross here.

After several sticky failures, I sprayed up the fork with some cooking oil and got what I was looking for…sort of.

Crissed and crossed and shiny slick

Chucked them in the oven for ten minutes, and that aftersmell grew. It blossomed and floated about and finally I realized it. Chickpeas. There’s a definite dried, cooking chickpea-ish aroma in this stuff. Not unpleasant, but not what you’re looking for in cookies.

Out of the oven, they were pretty and puffy.

Fluffy and puffy. Don’t poke them…

I couldn’t shift them off the Silpat for about thirty minutes. Just too puffy and delicate. Poked one to test it and it deflated.

When cooled, they were…okay. A bit crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside with a nice texture and tasty, roasty, peanutty flavor. Passable for peanut butter cookies. Pretty amazing for low-fat peanut butter cookies, though. So a success!

Not sure where to go now.

Peanut butter frosting? Oh. Yeah.

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

C is for Macaron*

I’m a bit of a Hermione. I like to learn things. And get them right. And be a bit show-offy about them. Then move on to something else.

So, macarons have recently come to my attention.

Not macaroons, those flavorous lumps of coconutty sweetness.

Macarons. Light, crispy, chewy, soft, luscious, buttercream-sandwiched pillows of heaven. Poncy. Exquisite. Difficult. Well, let’s say difficile, because they are, of course, French. And they are trés difficile.

But I’m a girl who relishes a challenge. Tell me something is near impossible, and I am all over it.

At first, I was mildly intrigued. Saw them on TV. Saw them on Pinterest. Saw them on Martha Stewart’s website. (don’t judge me!) I said to myself, “Hmmm. That might be a hoot.”

Then I tasted one. After that first eyes-rolling-back-in-my-head bite, I was hooked. No longer mildly interested, I now craved these puffy pleasures with a blinding lust. Yes, lust. Have you ever had a sweet little cloud of heaven melt on your tongue? No, you haven’t. But I have. Oh, I have.

But the making of them smacks seriously of effort. After trolling the ‘net for hours and hours, I finally settled on what I found here for a recipe and here for a (FABULOUS) troubleshooting guide and here for a how-to video. I gathered and prepped all my elements and hardware beforehand (thank you for the great advice, video chick!) and voila! Disaster…

Disappointment. No feet. All crackly. *sigh*

The visual hallmarks of a perfect macaron are a shiny, sleek shell and a “foot,” or a pretty, ruffled base. Yeah. Not happening this first time.

Three (sort of) passable cookies.

Three came close…well…close-ish. Meanwhile, I started the second batch.

I’m wary but hopeful…there are wee feet appearing!

Not a total success yet, but better! A marked improvement.

Closer!

They sort of resemble the top half of a McDonald’s hamburger, but they’re shiny, and they’re smooth, and they have feetGigantic spreading Sasquatch feet, but feet nonetheless!

I made a Nutella buttercream filling for these lovelies that I found here. Yeah, I’m just cannibalizing tons of sites tonight. But it’s worth it for food porn of this quality — look at these!

Ready to pawn off on my teacher peeps!

Next time: lemon macarons with strawberry filling. Oh. Yeah. My new obsession.

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

*Oh, and here‘s why C is for Macaron. Careful, though. It’ll eat into your brain…

The Shortbread Trials

I’m a sick, sick girl

I just analyzed a gazillion different shortbread recipes that I harvested off the internet to figure out the average ratio of ingredients and the average time/temp combo.

Sick.

All this because of a conversation with Nikki T regarding the quaint custom of the Cookie Table. Apparently, at Pennsylvanian weddings, one comes across tables full of multitudes of cookies and cookies and cookies. And cookies. Such glories!

I mean, in the South, we’ve got the groom’s cake, which is usually some sort of chocolate or Devil’s food…go figure. I’ve come across candy tables on Pinterest, but they seem more child-centered. Nothing like a table full of cookies. A veritable cookie banquet. (hee. very-TABLE.) I felt like Veruca Salt just pondering it – except I wanted that cookie feast, not the stupid bean feast she sang about. What’s up with a bean feast, Veruca, you freak?

So I felt compelled to contribute to the aforementioned Cookie Table. The percolation began. And ended quite quickly. Since declaring myself the Jammy Genius of our little group and Queen of all Canning (except the realm of blackberries, in which even mediocrity eludes me) and being flush with the CrackJam and the lovely nectar that is my Ginger-Lemon-Fig concoction, of course logic dictated that I should craft up some cookies with jam! On shortbread! Mixed with orange zest!

Yes. And there my search began for the optimum shortbread ingredient ratio. On a spreadsheet. On my computer. With actual calculations and removing recipes with anomalous ingredients. In the words of the Great Kate, Golly Moses!

Turns out the ingredient ratios for shortbread are within normal ranges across the board. The times and temps, however? Geez. Anywhere from 300˚ to 375˚* for anywhere from eight to 25 minutes. Which would yield me the perfect buttery soft cookie that was crisp enough to hold that lovely jam? How could I tell without tedious trial and error? So began the Shortbread Time Trials (with lime zest, since that was the only citrus in the house):

                     

Like an OCD Goldilocks, I kept searching for the best combination. Too soft but oily? No. Good texture, but too soft to hold its shape? No. Crispy? No. Just…no. Until I found the JUST RIGHT combo.

Best temp/time for making shortbread for plain old munching accompanied by a glass of cold milk or a cuppa Earl Grey? 325˚ for 12-14 minutes. Best temp/time for making jammy windows? 325˚ for 18-20 minutes. In my opinion, the 350˚ trials proved too crispy-crunchy for me. Not a fan. If you’re all about the crispity cookie though, 14-18 minutes at 350˚ seems to be the optimum cook time.

I’ll post some pics actual Jammy Windows when I make them for reals…

Sincerely,

Bonnycate

*BTW, that’s Fahrenheit, y’all. I figured you’d understand that without me saying because I’m located in Texas and, well, baking cookies at 325˚ CELSIUS would be cray-cray fer totes. We want cookies, not charcoal.