crisp halloween cookies

These were a big hit! They differed from the earlier (chewy) cookies in that the recipe called for 1 part butter and 1 part shortening and they were sweetened with 2 parts dark brown sugar to 1 part white granulated sugar. I did the same chocolate chips in the batter with Halloween M&Ms on top treatment that I did in the chewy cookie.

Oddly these cookies were chewier than the chewy cookie and had a pleasing amount of crispness. I baked them for (another) Halloween party and they were very, very well-received, particularly by the adults, who couldn’t stop raving. There was only one cookie remaining at the end of the party and I’m sure that if I hadn’t squirreled it away and actually offered it to someone, it would’ve been gone as well. Thank goodness I set some aside for the family before I left or else we would have been out of luck!

chewy (?) halloween cookies

This is the time of year when I am challenged to come up with some yummy, homemade seasonal goody for the myriad Halloween parties my kids attend. I don’t think I’m the most creative type, plus I’m loathe to slave over something that the other partygoers will not appreciate (i.e. shove in their mouths and swallow whole). Plus I’m a big believer in chocolate chip cookies as a popular party food. Whenever I go to a children’s party, if there are homemade chocolate chip cookies available, I am shameless about parking my butt at the buffet table so that I can better chain-eat them.

I usually go by the traditional Toll House Cookie recipe, but I’m not actually enamored of that recipe. It’s just feh to me. But it’s safe so I keep making it. This year, I have the King Arthur Flour Baking Companion at my disposal. There are a couple different chocolate chip recipes in there — a chewy cookie, and a crisp version. The chewy version (which I made today) is notable because it uses brown sugar and light corn syrup (no granulated sugar). It also calls for butter rather than suggesting shortening or margarine as substitutes. As a result, the dough spreads quite a bit in the oven.

I mixed in 1/2 the usual quantity of chocolate chips and did not add nuts. After plopping the dough on the cookie sheets, I topped each dough dollop with 3 Halloween M&Ms (they come in fluorescent green, purple, orange and black).

The finished cookie was very thin (as expected) but crisp to hard, in spite of the fact that I baked them for the low end of the suggested time. After they cooled, I put them all in a loosely covered Gladware container and I’m told they softened up a bit. I personally like crisp and overcooked chocolate chip cookies, but that wasn’t what I was aiming for today. I’ll be baking another batch of chocolate chip-Halloween M&M cookies for a party on Tuesday; I’ll give the other (intentionally crispy) recipe a whirl that day.

chocolate-chocolate cupcakes

This is another selection from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking. I wanted to make something small and simple for P.’s homecoming, back from Portugal. Cupcakes fit the bill for me and I wanted something chocolate (and boy-friendly for C. who’s not been thrilled with some of my recent “exotic” baking projects — the blue cheese-walnut fougasse and the coconut cake, to name two). And I’m always a sucker for Chocolate ganache.

The cake was very soft and moist, and not excessively chocolatey, but the ganache elevated it to perfection. Dark and chocolatey and with only a whisper of sweetness, it just brought the cupcake to a whole new level of goodness. And they were pretty to look at, even without any embellishments (sprinkles, silver ball thingies, whatever).

coconut tea cake

This really isn’t the kind of cake I typically make. I’m not a cake person anyway, and when I do have cake I like a bit of glaze. But Dorie Greenspan says it’s a great cake to have with tea and it’s definitely been tea weather the past few days, so I gave it a try. It didn’t hurt that I had shredded coconut in my freezer and coconut milk in my pantry.

The coconut flavor is very subtle and while the cake is sweet, it’s also nice and light. The outside has a bit of crunch to it but the cake itself is soft and smooth. The sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar was my own added touch.

blue cheese and walnut fougasse

Fougasse is a Provençal bread, made from a pain ordinaire dough.

According to Wikipedia:
In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the hearth (focus in Latin). This became a diverse range of breads that include “focaccia” in Italian cuisine, “fugassa” in the Ligurian language, “pogača” in the Balkans, “fougasse” in Provence and “fouaisse” or “foisse” in Burgundy. The French versions are more likely to have additions in the form of olives, cheese, anchovies etc, which may be regarded as a primitive form of pizza without the tomato.

Given that fougasse is a relative of Italian focaccia, I would have thought my dough would have been more wet and sticky. The recipe I had used both unbleached all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour so maybe that had something to do with the consistency of the dough. I was warned that mixing in the blue cheese and walnuts would be a messy endeavor, but I found it to be pretty straightforward.

another apple pie

The problem with becoming increasingly adept at making pie crust is there is never a good reason not to make pie. This is another “The Best Apple Pie” from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. We ate more than half the first night (it was still warm), and that was only by exercising superhuman self-restraint.

This one was made with all Cortland apples. I think next time I will go back to a mixture. The Cortlands broke down a lot in the cooking process and I like a little chunkiness in my apple pie.

cheese bread

Another recipe from King Arthur’s Baker’s Companion.

First of all, I have to point out that without my mixer, I would never be able to muster the energy or motivation to bake multiple breads in a week. It’s been a godsend, particularly since I might have overdone it with the lifting yesterday while working on cookie dough for our church’s Holiday Fair.

I made this cheese bread for 3 reasons — 1) I am trying to methodically go through every recipe in the Baker’s Companion, 2) I wanted something suitable to go with the chili leftovers from last night, and 3) I had all the ingredients (including leftover tomato paste from the chili recipe). The dough mixed up great, but I had a little issue with the first rise. Namely, it didn’t. The culprit was my kitchen — too cold. Later I noticed the thermostat read a perfectly respectable 70 degrees — toasty warm for October, downright chilly for rising bread. After shaping the dough, I moved it into my relatively sauna-like bedroom (great afternoon sun in there) for the 2nd rise and it did a bit better, although it didn’t rise to the extent that I had hoped.

No matter… I put it in the oven after about an hour (15 minutes longer than the recipe indicated) and it did fine. It probably wasn’t as “high-rising” as King Arthur had intended, but given my many recent unintentionally flat loaves, I was happy with the results. The house smells great — rather like cheddar Pepperidge Farm goldfish!

herbed monkey bread

This is made using the same dough at the white bread in my last post. After the first rise, you divide the dough into little balls, toss them in a bundt pan and brush them with some herb-infused olive oil. It smells glorious. I made this to serve with Slow-Cooker Ground Beef Chili tonight.

Update: The monkey bread was indeed yummy (L. devoured it), although next time I think I will tweak the recipe a bit by mixing the herbs and garlic directly into the dough and simply brushing the dough nuggets with straight olive oil. As made, the herbs tended to clump and wound up everywhere but in your mouth — on the plate, the table, your hands, the sink drain…

white bread 101

This recipe is from King Arthur’s Baker’s Companion. OK, I realize this may be one of the sadder looking loaves of bread I’ve ever baked. It looked beautifully risen when I put it in the oven and then while it was in the oven, it just SANK. According to King Arthur’s website, I probably let it rise too much before baking it. I did let it rise beyond what the recipe indicated, but the recipe also said to “let the bread rise until the outer edge has risen about 1 inch over the rim of the pan” which it hadn’t when the prescribed time was up. I figured my kitchen was a little cool and to give it a little time until it did. This was the result.

Oh well… add it to the list of not so great results (i.e. “learning experiences”) with the ciabattas and the no-knead breads. I hope it’s tasty anyway.