The Fabulous Baker Girl

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Congratulations Salli! May 21, 2009

Filed under: Icings and Frostings — amynb2008 @ 1:01 pm
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Salli is my daughter’s teacher. She just graduated with her Master’s Degree. As a former teacher and a big proponent of higher education, I was so excited for her. It’s a lot of work just going to school, but add in a full time job and a family…that’s incredible!

So, what did I do for the occasion? I baked a cake, of course!

Salli’s fellow teachers wanted to do something from her class to celebrate so I volunteered to make a cake…and decorate it. I’ve never really decorated a cake before. At least not in the way I envisioned this cake. I was a little stressed because I really wanted to make it look nice, but didn’t really have the skills to do what I wanted. I was tempted to use fondant, but decided against it since I had never used it before. Go with what you know is not a bad motto.

Since I don’t know how to make roses (yet) I decided to use her picture. I laminated it and did a simple border around it in red icing. I also used some edible glitter and did a border around the top and bottom.

It wasn’t perfect, but for my first attempt I think it turned out well. I was very pleased with myself! And the best part, Salli and the class really liked it. One of Ella’s friends even said I make the best cake…ever.

I used a simple buttercream to ice the cake. This is becoming my favorite. It’s easy to make and tastes delicious. The original recipe calls for part shortening and part butter, but I use all butter. The butter makes it taste better but adding shortening would make it a bit more stable for making more complicated decorations like roses.

Salli's Cake

Salli's Cakes.

 

Simple Buttercream

12 ounces butter
1 pound, 4 ounces Confectioner’s Sugar
1.25 egg whites (I use the egg whites out of a carton since they are pasteurized)
0.08 ounce (1/2 teaspoon) lemon juice
0.12 (3/4 teaspoon) vanilla
1 ounce water (optional)

Using a paddle attachment, cream together the butter adn sugar until well blended.

Add the egg whites, lemon juice, and vanilla. Blend at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add water if you want a softer buttercream.

Note: The original recipe uses 8 ounces of shortening and 4 ounces of butter.

 

Now I Can Die Happy May 1, 2009

Filed under: cookies — amynb2008 @ 9:00 pm
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I live a very happy existence.  I grew up in a loving (if a bit crazy) family.  I married a wonderful man who loves and supports me (even if he does occasionally forbid me to step foot into Target).   I have the three smartest, most beautiful, and most facinating daughters in the world.  My dog loves me.  My cat tolerates me.  I am lucky to be able to pursue some of my favorite hobbies.  I have it all.  Charmed…I would say.

Yet, in my baking life things have not always been this way.  For as long as I have been baking, I have been plagued by my lack of the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.  It has been the bane of my baking existence.

Until now.

After such a long search, imagine my surprise when I opened the new issue of Cook’s Illustrated and saw a recipe for…well…Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Oh ho…I thought.  That is quite a claim.  It definately had my attention but, to be honest, I was skeptical.

I’ve tried Tollhouse.  I’ve tried Neiman Marcus…King Arthur’s Flour…my own concoctions.  I’ve learned a thing or two…but I always come away wanting just a little bit more…something.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give this recipe a try.  I tried them out at the party I had a few weeks ago.  I mentioned them in my last post.  A passing mention where I confessed I didn’t follow the recipe.  Since I wanted to see what they should really be like, I decided to give them another try.  On a whim, I baked up a batch last night.

Let me just tell you.  Now I can die happy.  

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

I think these were the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made (and my husband agreed).  When I asked my oldest daughter to rate them on a scale of one to ten, ten being the best chocolate chip cookie she has ever had she gave them a 1225.  Really!  Can you get any better than that?

This time I followed the recipe to a T — even though is was a bit strange.  You have to whisk the wet ingredients together, then let them sit and then whisk again, doing this three times.  The idea is that the sugar has time to melt into the melted butter, resulting in better caramalization of the sugar.

The first time I made them, I added the butter last which didn’t allow this melting or caramelization to happen.  This time I added the butter according to the directions and right away I noticed a difference.  The batter was much more moist and smooth.  Everything was encorporated better.  Once baked, they spread out instead of staying in, more or less, little lumps.  

Don’t get me wrong, they were very good the first time around.  But this time…unbelievable!!  Even the batter alone was incredible.  

The cookies were the perfect thickness.  Around the edges they had just a hint of crispness without being at all hard or crunchy. The insides were gorgeously gooey and soft with just enough of a bite to sink your teeth into them.  The melted brown butter and dark brown sugar gave them a complexity and depth of flavor that I had never had in other cookies.

They were probably the only thing that could have made me feel better after Adam didn’t get kicked off of American Idol last night.  That… is saying a lot. 

And right now…they are my motivation for finishing this post.  So…

Sorry…gotta go!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Cook’s Illustrated June 2009

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

14 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Adjust oven rack to middle position.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line two  baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Whisk flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat.  Transfer butter into a large heatproof bowl.  Stir in remaining butter until completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to the bowl with the butter.  Whisk until fully encorporated.  Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.  Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for another 30 seconds.  Repeat the process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.  

Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, giving dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

Divide dough into 16 equal portions, about 3 tablespoons (or a #24 cookie scoop).  Arrange 8 portions per sheet, 2-inches apart.

Bake cookies one tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet half way through baking. 

Transfer baking sheet to wire rack.  Cool cookies completely before serving.

Yeah…good luck with that.