Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Soft Molasses Cookies

I recently read a blog where the author stated they had to think twice about buying yet another cookbook, when they realized they hadn’t used many of their existing cookbooks (or something to that effect. (and I'm sorry, but I can't recall who's blog that was)). Hellooo! That fits me to a “T”. I have many baking books I have NEVER used. I’ve pored through them and drooled over the delectable delights inside. But have I baked anything from them? No. I just go buy more cookbooks. Sheesh! Talk about greedy!

So, my new thing is, actually USING the cookbooks I already have.

Sooooo, today’s entry, “Soft Molasses Cookies” comes from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

I tied this in with my following of a local soldier captured in Iraq four years ago. Until earlier this month, his whereabouts and status were unknown. Sadly (SO sadly) his body was found in early April. This tears me up and I feel so deeply for his family. I remember a night at Meijer four years ago when I stood and read the comments on a message board newly-erected in his honor. I bawled in the parking lot and all the way home. I know I was not a safe driver that night. His body was brought home this weekend and there was a procession through town as well as memorial services and funeral. My thoughts and prayers go out to his parents and family.

My sons’ school pulled together a lunch for family and soldiers as part of the weekend’s events. I baked these cookies as my tiny little contribution.

So, here they are. They are delicious and remind me of gingerbread. They were slightly crunchy outside and soft on the inside. One note: I don’t suggest chilling the formed cookie balls before baking. The one batch I chilled beforehand didn’t set properly inside.

I found the recipe on another blogger’s site, so I’ll direct you there. If I can avoid typing up a recipe, I will (I’m too lazy!). Find the recipe here on “Cooking in Kansas City”.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers: Cheesecake Pops

Yeah! It's Daring Bakers time again! I was glad to see that this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge was from the cookbook “Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey” by Jill O'Connor. I have been eyeing that book and decided this was a good excuse to finally buy it. (Like I need an excuse, lol) There are SO many wonderful-looking recipes; I want to make them all!

The challenge was Cheesecake Pops, chosen by Elle at Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah at Taste and Tell. You'll find the recipe on Deborah's site. Thanks so much for hosting this month, girls.

Quite a few Daring Bakers had problems with the cheesecake being undercooked at the recommended 35 to 45 minutes baking time. I baked mine for an hour and 15 minutes. It was done just fine and in fact, I might try shaving 5 minutes off the time if I bake it again.

I didn’t get any cracking on top. See how nice it turned out…

After the cheesecake was cooled overnight we were to scoop out balls then place the sticks in them and freeze, then dip in chocolate. I thought the scooping would be just that, scooping it out and plopping it on the wax paper. But no, they didn’t scoop nicely so I had to roll each one by hand. I can’t say that I enjoyed that part. Cheesecake tends to get sticky real quick, so I had to wash my hands after every 4 pops or so.

The chocolate dipping went well, nothing eventful to report there. I only got 5 to 6 pops out of the freezer at a time so they stayed firm while dipping.

The verdict: I give the cheesecake an “A”. It was very tasty, very creamy and light. I might just have a new favorite. (My old standby is by Alton Brown. You can find the recipe on the Food TV website -> here. )

The pops, I give a “B+“. I thought they were adorable and there are so many options for decorating. But, they were a little difficult to eat. The cheesecake got soft around where the sticks were inserted and tended to fall off the sticks. That left me eating them with my fingers, which was messy. However, eating cheesecake is never a bad thing, even if it’s a little messy, lol. If I make them again, I think I'll make them smaller... you know, bite-size, so you can eat them in one shot. I'm guessing that would upgrade them to an "A".

I’m glad I tried them. Cheesecake pops are something different and unexpected and this was a fun challenge.

I'll end with my favorite shot, I call it "Cheesecake Pops at the Disco".


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No Cookie Cutter? No problem.

Let’s say you want to make some decorated cookies but you don’t have the right cutter. No problem! All you have to do is make a template of your cutter shape, lay it on the rolled out cookie dough, and cut around it with a knife. Would you want to do this for 100 cookies? Probably not, it can be tedious. But if you only need a small number of cookies, it works just fine.

For my example, I found the shape I needed on the internet (a foam finger shape). I printed it out to exactly the size I wanted. Then I took a piece of freezer paper and placed the non-shiny side to the back of the print out. I then cut the shape out of both pieces and voila! Template is done. (printout is left, freezer paper template is right)

Now, if you want a custom cutter and you aren’t crazy about paying $10 for it (and you have a tiny bit of mechanical aptitude) you might try making your own cookie cutters. Foose cutters carries a cookie cutter making kit. One tip: when you run out of the copper banding, go down to your local craft store and buy the biggest tin circle cookie cutter you can find. Cut it open and use that for your new cutter. Measure around your desired shape first to make sure the circle is big enough. BTW, you can find a great tutorial on making cookie cutters --- here. Thanks Peg!

(If you don’t mind laying out some cash, I like http://www.kitchengifts.com/ and http://www.coppergifts.com/. Both of them make a huge variety of cutters. If you’ve won the lottery, by chance, you might want to drop by http://simonscookiecutters.com/ . Yes, I'm being snarky, lol.)

Next tip, rolling the cookies to an even, consistent thickness. The secret? Wooden dowels from the hardware store. Get yourself some wooden dowels of the desired thickness (I like 5/16”) and cut in half. When it’s time to roll out the cookies, place one half on either side of your dough and roll out, with your rolling pin resting on the dowels. Easy peasy!

I know there are plenty of gadgets out there that serve the same purpose, but this one only costs about a buck.

OK, that’s all for now. Happy Baking!