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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.

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Green With Envy

15 Feb

This is just one of those recipes that’s been in the back of my mind for a very long time now. I’ve always liked white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, but the macadamia nuts can sometimes overpower the cookies, so when I saw this twist I couldn’t believe I had never thought of it! Replace the macadamia nuts with pistachios! I love pistachios, I mean they are seriously addictive. Or, as Abby from NCIS put it: “Oxycontin is twice as addictive as heroin. It’s more addictive than pistachios. (Gibbs and McGee stare at her) Well, have you ever eaten just one pistachio?” That sums it up pretty nicely!

Sweet and salty is just a perfect combination. French fries and chocolate shakes anyone? 🙂

I started off with a big bag of organic pistachios which I had the pleasure of cracking one by one. Why does it seem like all these recipes harm me in some way?

After I cracked open a bunch of them, I chopped them up relatively finely.

Such a pretty colour! Once that was done, I began making the dough starting with the butter and sugar. I changed the amounts to 1/4 cup of dark muscovado, 1/4 cup regular white sugar, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. (if your cabinets lack dark muscovado, just replace it with a 1/4 cup brown).

keep mixing and scraping the sides until it’s nice and combined.

Then, add in the milk, eggs and vanilla taking care not to skimp on the vanilla!

Once thoroughly mixed, combine the flour, baking soda, baking flour, salt, and rolled oats. Just so you know, you barely notice the oats. These are NOT oatmeal cookies!

Add in slowly and in batches, scraping down the sides before each addition.

Then, fold in the white chocolate chips and chopped pistachios. Next time I might add in a small handful of toffee bits, as I think they’d taste divine.

Then use a cookie scoop or spoon to fill up a baking sheet. I’d roll them into balls first and flatten them into disks to help them spread more evenly because mine got a little crisp at the edges. Before you put them in the oven, put a few extra pistachio pieces on top for decoration.

Half way through the cooking time, turn the tray around to ensure even cooking.

When they are all cooled, bring them to people you care about or people who you want to like you. I even got two people to try them that had never had pistachios before, so I feel like they have mystical powers. 🙂

I had a bunch of pistachios leftover so I ended up using them on top of a spinach salad the next day after school. Yum!

Here’s the recipe: http://honestfare.com/pistachio-white-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Happy Singles Awareness Day

15 Feb

So today is Valentine’s Day for those with significant others and Single Awareness Day for the rest of us. It seemed like 75% of people at school were wearing pink or red, had flowers, chocolates, balloons, or stuffed animals. I heard 8 valograms (singing valentines) in one class period, and was given a handful of paper valentines and red candies. When I came downstairs for breakfast there was a stuffed toy, fudge, a forever 21 giftcard and cards from my parents. So, basically my day went really well, but my favourite part by far was handing out my Valentine’s cookies to my senior Inquiry class. I spent forever on them, but I was very excited at how well they turned out.

Ever since I first found the blog Bake at 350 I’ve been dying to try out some sugar cookies. I usually just buy ready-made frosting and spread it on the cookie and decorate with sprinkles. The idea of having consistently adorable cookies was too tempting especially when my senior inquiry teachers said we’d be making valentines for our classmates. The only problem is, there are 60 people in my class and 3 teachers. That’s a lot of cookies! I started Saturday afternoon by making the dough and baking the cookies.

Cream the butter for a few minutes until nice and fluffy.

Then add the sugar and mix until completely incorporated. Don’t forget to keep scraping down the sides so it mixes evenly!

Then add the eggs and vanilla extract.

Then pretend that there’s a few pictures with the flour and salt being added in, and of the finished dough. The truth is, I tripled the recipe, and my poor, old Kitchenaid was making horrible noises and I was more intent on keeping it alive somehow by holding on for dear life. Anyway, add in the flour mixture slowly, scraping the sides after before each addition. Then, once it’s totally homogenized split the dough into 4 sections (or 2 if you didn’t double the recipe). Wrap each section in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour or until firm.

Then pick you cookie cutter, flour the work surface, rolling pin and dip the cookie cutter in a plate of flour. I used the frilly one for the girls and the plain one for the guys. too bad the frilly ones spread out more than the plain ones so the girls’ looked bigger. Oops!

Then roll out your dough until it’s about 1/4th of an inch thin and cut out the shapes.

I made an assembly line where I had two trays of cookies going. I would have one tray in the oven while I cut out 8 cookies and put them on the second tray, after 5 minutes I’d turn the tray in the oven 180 degrees to ensure even cooking. Then, I put the other tray in the fridge to firm up so they would hold their shapes. I cooked each tray for about 10-11 minutes and cooled them for a few minutes before I put the refrigerated cookies in the oven, transferred the cookies to a cooling rack and started filling that tray. Yeah, it was hectic to say the least!

Then, when you realize that you are running out of space for cooling racks, place cooled cookies on a plate in a really cool design because the never-ending supply of cookies leaving your oven is starting to drive you nuts.

Once all the cookies are baked and cooled lay them all out on cooling racks and baking trays so you can begin piping.

I used a recipe for icing that I found on Bake at 350: http://bakeat350.blogspot.com/2010/01/royal-icing-102-or-201-or-whatever.html

She has great pictures of the process there, so I didn’t bother taking any. I used an electric hand mixer to mix it all since my kitchenaid bowl was dirty still, and I couldn’t bear to make it do any more work after what I had just put it through! while I was making my cookies, my friend Carina was decorating her own cookies that she had made. They turned out really well and I especially love how they were all really different, but they work so well together.

Anyway, start by piping on the outline. I used a pretty pink colour and an Ateco #4 tip on my piping bag.

Do this on each cookie.

Then, after they are firm to the touch (I waited a few hours) thin the icing by adding in a little water. I had two piping bags filled with this thinned icing. I didn’t have any squeeze bottles, so I just used clips to keep the piping bags shut and propped them up upside down against a bowl. First “flood” the cookie with the pink icing.

Using a toothpick move the icing around to fill the gaps.

Then, while the icing is still wet, use the other colour (in my case, extremely light pink) to pipe dots on to the cookie. They will sink into the icing and form flat polka dots.

Do this to all the cookies and then let them dry. I ended up doing this part late Saturday evening. As in, I was able to watch SNL and then the news at 2am. Then, put all the trays in the oven (turned off of course) so that your crazy cat doesn’t ruin them somehow while you are sleeping. (Yes, I’m paranoid.)

Then, when you wake up in the morning look at your beautiful cookies, and think of a way to use that extra pink frosting in your fridge.

I decided to try piping people’s name with it…EPIC FAIL

Then I decided to write the names with food colouring markers.

Then I added some dots around the edges with the extra icing.

Then, I let these dry for the rest of the day. I had also made some different ones for my teachers.

They were extremely adorable drying in my kitchen…I was glad it was all over so I could relax!

Then I got to spend an hour packaging them in individual cellophane bags and then put them in my giant white cake box.

Here’s the link to recipe: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=10000001933327

Overall, the result was definitely worth all the hard work. The best part was most definitely handing them all out and seeing the expression on everyone’s faces. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day!

One Tough Cookie

8 Feb

I am a serious chinese food junkie, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’ve tried many different chinese restaurants but I’ve never really found one with a truly memorable fortune cookie. They can be sickly sweet, stale, saturated with lemon, or like cardboard and I only ever really eat them because I feel obliged to after cracking it open for the fortune.

For my Religion and Philosophy final I wanted to do something special. I’d already made Challah for my project on Judaism and a cake decorated like a Tibetan sand mandala for my Buddhism project so I wanted to think of something for the philosophical half of the class. After much debate I came up with the idea for fortune cookies (bet you didn’t see that coming!)

I found a few different recipes, but I ended up combining a few different ones in order to get the best result. I enlisted the help of three of my friends and after a quick lunch of grilled cheeses for energy we started to make the batter. We had no idea what lay ahead…

I didn’t take pictures of making the batter since it was all a little crazy, but I think the pictures are more important to illustrate the folding process. But basically the batter consists of  egg whites, sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, water and flour. You could easily add cocoa powder or citrus extracts for flavour or food colourings for colour (pink for valentine’s day perhaps?) Once the batter is mixed it should be the consistency of pancake batter.

Then, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. A while ago I got some reuseable parchment paper which is an absolute lifesaver. You use it as many times as you want, things never stick, and you just rinse it once you’re done. Too bad I don’t remember where I got it. Anyway, take a spoonful of batter and flatten it out into a circle on the pan and place it in the oven for a few minutes.

The recipes I found said 5-7 minutes but I think it took me 12 minutes with my oven. Basically, cook until the edges are brown but NOT black. We don’t want burnt edges! You’ll want to start out with one fortune cookie until you get the technique down, and then you can get about 3 done in a minute after some practice.

When you take them out of the oven they should be nice and bubbly and soft. Oh yeah, they’ll also be so hot that when you are forced to shape them with your hands you have the strong urge to yell, cry, and throw the cookie all at once. But, you must be strong, forget about your poor fingers, and curse yourself fo not investing in a pair of “Ove-Gloves”. You flip the disk over and pick up a slip of paper…

from your pile of handwritten philosophical quotes…

Place it in the centre of the cookie, pull up the two sides parallel and pinch together. They should stick together so you’ll have a half-circle shape. Using your other hand, pull down the two sides of the cookie. This is a lot easier when you use the edge of a glass.

Then take it off the glass and hold together firmly until pretty solid. Then run to your sink and run your fingers under the cold water and dread the thought of making dozens more. 

Once you stop being a wuss and get the hang of things, you might actually begin to enjoy yourself. I know that as soon as my fortune cookies went from looking like oversized monsters to petite works of art, and I started getting a good supply of them, I got excited.

When I was all done, and my plate was filled all I wanted to do was sit and marvel at these amazing little cookies.

Despite the fact that these things were some of the most difficult cookies I’ve ever made, I think they are also the most beautiful. Plus, when I brought them to class everyone loved them, and I (embarrassingly) got a round of applause. They also tasted as good as they looked, the extra vanilla I put in made a big difference! While I don’t think I’ll be making them again any time soon, I won’t write them off for good. At least until I buy a machine that will shape them for me. 😉

The recipe was basically this: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/fortune-cookies-so-easy/Detail.aspx

I used 1 tsp of vanilla extract and no almond extract. I also ended up putting about twice as much water in too since it came out a little lumpy.

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! 🙂