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AP Stats almost killed me, but I drowned my sorrows in these brownies.

18 Jun

Once in a while a recipe makes a serious impression on me. Recipes get stuck in my head all the time, and I usually make them, feel satisfied and move on. This time though, I made these brownies within days of finding the recipe even though it was during AP testing week. No really, I took my AP Statistics exam, came home, and made brownies without skipping a beat. The super sweet taste was a nice way to wake up my haggard brain and let me momentarily forget the sense of failure associated with that horrible, horrible exam. My parents, sister, and I devoured them in two or three days, and I’ve been craving them ever since.

The best part about these brownies is that it requires no cracking of eggs, careful measuring of leaveners or melting of chocolate. I usually love intricate recipes as I’m quite methodical when I step into my kitchen, but this is the perfect recipe for those days that my brain is reduced to mush. Make them for someone studying for an exam, someone who passed an exam they spent months stressing over, or even better: make them for someone who feels like they failed an exam they spent months stressing over. It will make them feel better for a short while. I know I did.

One box of chocolate cake mix, one can of evaporated milk, one stick of butter and…..

One package of caramels. My stroke of genius was getting my favourites, Reisens, which are chocolate caramels covered in chocolate. These replaced the caramels and chocolate chips in the original recipe, and streamlined the process. Now that’s only 4 ingredients. You could always add more, like coconut (which I did), chopped nuts, dried fruit, M&M’s, oats, or maybe ramen if you are a college student.

Combine the cake mix and milk in a bowl. Next time I make these, and there will be a next time, I think I’ll use half the amount of evaporated milk and use regular milk for the rest.  I might even leave out the evaporated milk from the brownie completely and use all regular milk to reduce the sweetness.

Next, melt some butter in a bowl.

Add this to the cake mix and milk and combine. Side note: It’s particularly helpful having a sous chef (aka older sister) to help you slowly pour melted butter so that you can get a good action shot. Thanks Em! 🙂

The mixture will be thick like cookie dough, not like brownie batter. You’ll want to combine the main ingredients before you add the special ingredients of your choosing.

Once it’s combined, cut the dough in half and press half into a greased baking dish. I made sure to make a lip around te edge for that melted caramel-y goodness that was soon to be added. Put this in the oven to get all good and cooked.

While that’s cooking, put a bowl of the caramels and some more evaporated milk on a pot of boiling water. You need to use evaporated milk here to get the correct texture. I used the double boiler method, but you may be able to get away with microwaving this if you are extremely careful, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Then, when your caramel is completely melted, take it off the heat and try not to eat spoonfuls of it…

Your bottom half of the brownie is nice and firm and cooked now, and ready for some caramel love.

See how that edge prevents the caramel from touching the sides? this helps make the cutting and cleaning process much easier! On a clean surface (like a cutting board) you’ll need to roll out the other half of the dough into a shape roughly the size and shape of your dish.

Carefully place it on top of the caramel. If any gaps remain, just se any leftover dough from your mixing bowl to patch up the holes.

Once it’s cooked you come to the hardest part: The waiting. You need to let this cool to room temperature and then put it in a fridge so that the caramel can become chewy rather than runny. I highly recommend licking the caramel bowl/spoon to help make it through these difficult hours. Yes, HOURS. 😦

Once the brownies have cooled, or your patience has reached its end, carefully cut the brownies and share with people you love.

Just make sure you REALLY love those people, because you may end p wishing you hadn’t shared at all. 😉

 

The original recipe came from Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) and you can find it here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/05/knock-you-naked-brownies/

Here’s my version with tweaks:

Post-AP Stats Caramel Brownies

  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • ⅓ cups Evaporated Milk (or, if you don’t like sugar, try regular milk)
  • ½ cups Evaporated Milk (don’t substitute regular milk here!)
  • ½ cups Butter
  • 1 package Chocolate Caramels (or regular caramels + chocolate chips)

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, mix cake mix, 1/3 cup milk, and melted butter. Stir until combined. Mixture will be as thick as cookie dough.

Press half the mixture into a well-greased 9 x 9 inch square baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set aside.

In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water) melt caramels with additional 1/2 cup evaporated milk. When melted and combined, pour over brownie base.

Turn out remaining brownie dough on work surface. Use your hands to press it into a large square the same size at the pan. Set it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

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Girl Scouts

18 Apr

So the summer in between high school and college I knew I wanted to get a job. I also knew that I either wanted to get a job to work with kids or in a bakery. I started looking for jobs at summer camps and came across one for a Girl Scout camp in Washington that would last the entire summer and pay me a healthy sum of money which I could use to pay for my food for the first year at least. I am almost done with the application, and will be sending it off soon, and am seriously hoping that I get the job because it will keep me busy all summer rather than forcing me to sit and do nothing for 3 months anxiously awaiting college. Right now I’m crossing my fingers that my application isn’t too late and that they’ll take me on. Thinking about this made me remember that I made samoas a while back with that butter cookie dough that I posted and I thought you might all like to know how to make them!

The recipe I used had a recipe for the cookies which I will use next time because I didn’t really think the recipe I used went with the samoas. It was too much of a soft butter cookie instead of the usual harder sugary cookie. I’ll post the entire recipe at the end so you can do everything properly. 😉

I started out with making little rings out of the cookie dough. I used a small biscuit cutter for the outside and the large end of a piping tip for the middle.  Just a hint: It’d be a lot easier to make these circles rather than rings!

For the topping I used sweetened coconut flakes, caramels, chocolate. I also used milk and salt, but they wouldn’t allow me to photograph them…I think they were being camera shy.

Start by spreading the coconut on a lined baking sheet. You need to bake it at 5 minute intervals, taking out the pan and stirring everything so it cooks evenly.

When it’s all light-medium brown you know it’s done. It’s fine if there is still some parts that are really light still, it’ll add to the chewy texture. I think I consumed at least a handful of this straight out of the oven…I love toasted coconut!

You then need to grab a glass bowl and throw in the caramels with some milk and salt. You then microwave this in intervals stirring in between. This is NOT done:

This is done:

There will still be small lumps, but when you stir it, they will melt, like this:

Next, pour in the coconut, and toss until coated. It should form a sort of sticky, soft dough.

To assemble, you take a cookie and spoon on some of the coconut mixture until everything is covered. It was slightly difficult because I was trying to keep the hole in the middle like the original cookies. Next time I’ll just do slid shapes, no cut-outs! Also, you need to work relatively quickly in order to prevent the caramel from hardening. When it started to get hard I just stuck it back in the microwave for a bit until softened.

Once all the cookies are covered you can set them aside and melt your chocolate chips. I actually had mine melting in a double-boiler while I was assembling he cookies so I was all set. Carefully place a cookie in the chocolate to cover the bottom. It may help to stick the cookies in the freezer for a bit before doing this so that the caramel is really hard and easier to hold on to when dipping.  Once all the bottoms have been dipped, place the extra chocolate in a ziploc bag and pipe stripes on the tops of the cookies.

Stick these in the fridge for a few minutes while you start cleaning up…you’ll need to scrub hard, I promise!

After you have licked *ahem* washed the bowl clean of all the chocolate and the other of all the caramel/coconut mixture, you can take your cookies out fo the fridge and put them in containers.

I think I want to explore making ThinMints next. The blog I used also has a recipe for them so I’m dying to try them. At least this way, I can have fresh girl scout cookies during the off season!

Here’s the recipe and the link:

http://bakingbites.com/2008/01/homemade-girl-scout-cookies-samoas/

Homemade Samoas

by Baking Bites
Cookies
1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
up to 2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky (it’s possible you might not need to add milk at all). The dough should come together into a soft, not-too-sticky ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky.
Roll the dough (working in two or three batches) out between pieces of wax paper to about 1/4-inch thickness (or slightly less) and use a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a knife, or the end of a wide straw, to cut a smaller center hole. Repeat with remaining dough. Alternatively, use scant tablespoons of dough and press into an even layer in a mini donut pan to form the rounds.
Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. If using a mini donut pan, bake for only about 10 minutes, until edges are light gold.
Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Topping
3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 tsp per cookie. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it gets too firm to work with.

While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate.
Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies.

Double the Pleasure

27 Feb

You know what I love? Late Arrival. I love it because I usually wake up without an alarm somewhere between 7-8am leaving me plenty of time to get ready and enjoy the morning. I especially love it because fo the first time ever, I got to bake before I went to school last Friday. I decided that I would get up at 7am, get ready and have an hour to bake in my sun-filled kitchen. It was nice and peaceful to be able to start my morning off by baking a batch of scones and then eating one still warm from the oven as we drove past piles of snow on the way to school. It was also nice to be able to take pictures of the final product in the bright, natural light as opposed to the dim flourescent lighting that I usually have at night. Overall, it was an experience that I’ll no doubt try to recreate again this year.

The scones I made were from this recipe from Joy The Baker a great blog I just discovered.

http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2011/01/orange-and-dark-chocolate-buttermilk-scones/

Orange and Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones

makes four large or six small scones

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons orange zest (I just used the zest of a whole orange which was about this much)

2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold buttermilk

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used semisweet)

 

Place rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  I use my fingers to rub the butter and dry ingredients together.    In another bowl, combine egg yolk and buttermilk and beat lightly with a fork.  Add to flour mixture all at once, stirring enough to make a soft dough.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead about 15 times.  Roll or pat out into a 1-inch thickness.  Cut into 4 large or 6 small  squares.     Place on prepared baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees F for 12-15 minutes.

 

I used a scone pan (I’m so English, I know) instead of a baking sheet, that’s why mine are triangles. Also, since I didn’t know how rushed I’d be I only took pictures of the final product:

They were a great texture just make sure not to handle the dough too much, otherwise they’ll be rock hard. Next time I might add in a teaspoon of vanilla or replace the sugar with vanilla sugar. I would also double the dough since it really did only make 4 regular sized scones or, 8 small ones in my case. These scones were perfectly sweet and sophisticated like scones always are.

This morning (being a Sunday) I decided to make something a little more savory and a little more fun. If you’ve every heard of Voodoo Doughnuts you have heard of the famous Bacon Maple Bars. If you have been there and tried one, you know how genius the combination is. Now I didn’t exactly feel like making doughnuts, though I am contemplating doing it in the near future especially as I just discovered we have a pan for baking doughnuts instead of frying them… Anyway, I made bacon maple pancakes! 🙂

Since I’m still pretty sick, I didn’t bother making pancake batter from scratch and just used a cup of Snoqualmie Falls Lodge Pancake and Waffle mix with 3/4 cup of milk (not water!), a dash of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla. The cinnamon and vanilla really make it taste like it’s been made from scratch, so don’t skip it if you do try them.

I took two strips of  bacon that had been cooked and chopped them up relatively finely.

I heated up my pan with a little olive oil and started pouring. I worked with two pancakes at a time, sprinkling bacon on the tops of them as they were starting to bubble.

Then, I gently flipped them…

As you’ll see at the end I like my pancakes a little more brown, don’t judge me!

They look so lovely from the underside with all that bacon peeking through!

I then stacked them on a plate, drizzled with some maple syrup and leftover bacon bits. Let’s just say that I was a very happy person this morning and I’m definitely making these again.

I want to know what strange food combinations you like? Many people think maple bars and bacon is weird, french fries and chocolate milkshakes or salted caramels. Do you eat something that may seem strange, or do you know someone with a strange eating habit? I’d love to know in the comments below! 🙂

 

No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of These Cupcakes

11 Feb

So one of  my friends, Camille, turned 18 on Tuesday and my other friend Marisa and I made her cupcakes. Camille is a vegan, so I found a recipe that would be both animal friendly and also promised to be “better than any regular cupcake that I have ever tasted” as one commenter put it. I decided to quickly make the cupcakes before Marisa came over so that they would have enough to cool so we could decorate them together. I was super surprised at how fast they were to make that I totally forgot to take pictures of the process.

I’m still amazed that it only took me five minutes to make the batter. I just used a bowl and a wooden spoon to mix it, and after I filled the paper liners I was able to hand-wash everything since I didn’t have to worry about raw eggs. Not only did these cupcakes keep my kitchen clean and took no time whatsoever, they tasted amazing. They were light and fluffy like a box-mix but super yummy like homemade.  Oh, and the coolest part? When you add in the vinegar it reacts to the baking soda and changes the colour of the batter. That’s right, you get to have a mini science experiment with your cupcakes that results in a slightly red colouring that’s really pretty.

I was able to make 12 regular cupcakes and 6 minis (or babies as we dubbed them). I ended up using the last of the cupcakes liners I got for my 17th birthday from Bake It Pretty. I definitely need to buy some more, their colours stayed bright after baking which made me happy. 🙂

Here’s the link to the green ones: http://www.bakeitpretty.com/item_14/Carnival-Stripe-Baking-Cups.htm

I don’t think Bake It Pretty sells the gold minis anymore, but I found them here: http://www.globalsugarart.com/product.php?id=22339&name=Assorted%20Mini%20Gold%20Spiral%20Baking%20Cupcake%20Liner%20(Pkg/120)

So I had to try one of the cupcakes so I broke it in half and saw the pretty reddish tint on the inside.

Pretend you don’t notice that this is a different liner. I only had 9 pretty ones left, so I had to use grocery store ones…

Anyway, Marisa arrived and we got to work frosting and sprinkling (yes, sprinkling) the cupcakes. I found out from Peta’s “accidentally Vegan” list that Duncan Hine’s Homestyle frosting is totally vegan. I was so glad I didn’t need to bother with making frosting!

They were seriously the most amazing cupcakes ever. Simple, clean, delicious, and most importantly animal-friendly. 🙂

This is seriously fool-proof and very rewarding so you should go make some before you go to bed. Or while sleepwalking. Or quickly before school. Whatever suits you!

Here’s the recipe:

http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/vegan-chocolate-cake/Detail.aspx

I added in the vinegar last because I wanted to see the reaction, and plus I had horrible images of it bubbling over.

Happy Baking!

And so it begins…

6 Feb

I’ve been baking with my mum since I was barely tall enough to see over the kitchen counter. Only recently have I really gotten passionate about baking to the point where I check a dozen different baking blogs multiple times per day, and have a long list of recipes that I’m dying to try. When I bring treats to share at school I practically get mauled. It seems like when people see me with a tray of cookies or a box of cupcakes everyone I know in a one mile radius is automatically notified. Another thing that seems to be happening more frequently, is people asking me for a recipe. This is the main reason for my blog: to share recipes and pictures with my friends and fellow bakers out there.

The first recipe I’ll share is one I made two weeks ago during my final exams. I made the dough ahead of time, and kept it in the refrigerator so that I could take out the perfect amount each day. I ended up giving most of them away to my teachers (who were in serious need of a pick-me-up) and a dozen or so went to various friends (who were also in need of a pick-me-up.) I always find it strange how people seem to forget to show teachers appreciation during first semester finals. I mean, who do you think is grading all those tests, listening to all those presentations, and reading all those essays? At the end of the week when we get to relax without homework, teachers are stuck with piles of things to score, and final grades to update.

Anyway, as soon as I saw the recipe posted on Bakerella’s website, I knew I had to make them, and I knew they’d be the perfect treat for my deserving teachers. They are Chocolate Crackle Cookies!

I started off melting the chocolate (Ghirardelli semi-sweet) in a double boiler.

I love how it comes in a gold package. It reminds me of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. I really love that movie!

In a separate bowl I mixed the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. The cocoa powder I use is also Ghirardelli, specifically “Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa”. I definitely don’t recommend using Hershey’s or store-brand cocoa because you need to do this recipe right! Besides, I have a thing against Hershey’s, but I’ll save that for another day.

When the chocolate is completely melted, set it aside to cool. While that glorious chocolate is melting, put the butter and brown sugar in a mixer.

Mix the butter and sugar until combined.

Then it’s time to add the vanilla and eggs. Once that’s combined it’s time to pour in that glorious chocolate…

After the chocolate is added, mix until combined. Feel free to lick the bowl for any last remnants of chocolate. I know I did!

With the mixer on low, alternate between the dry mixture and the milk until combined.

Divide your dough into fourths, wrap with plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge for 2 hours. Use this time to study for tests or to clean the kitchen. Or, you know, to watch a few episodes of Modern Family. You know you want to.

Take your first batch of dough and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes to make sure it’s super cold. While you do this put powdered sugar into one bowl, and regular granulated sugar into another. Then the magic begins. Divide the dough into 12 equal(ish) squares.

Take one chunk at a time and quickly roll between your hands. You will get a thin layer of chocolate all over your hands as it starts to melt, but if you wash your hands between every few cookies you should be fine. Once you have one ball rolled, first roll it in the granulated sugar.

Then roll it in the powdered sugar. After a few cookies, I found that I got better results if I flattened the cookie slightly, covered it in the powdered sugar lightly, and put extra on the top side. You’ll find a technique that works for you after a few cookies.

I baked six cookies at a time for 12 minutes. While 6 were in the oven I had plenty of time to get the other six ready. I was so excited at how pretty they turned out!

I think the best part was the underside. The sugar had caramelized on the bottom and formed a thin, sugary shell.

Then again, the tops were pretty awesome too.

Then, I used some pretty boxes leftover from Christmas and some polka dot tissue paper to package the cookies. All my teachers seemed to really appreciate them, and everyone who tasted them said they were amazing.

So here’s the link to the recipe on Martha Stewart’s website: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/favorite-chocolate-crackle-cookies

and the link to Bakerella’s gorgeous post that made me want to make them: http://www.bakerella.com/chocolate-crackles/

Happy Baking! 🙂