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Sunday, June 28, 2009

SMS: Not So Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies (Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies)

This Sunday, Megan of My Baking Adventures chose our recipe for the Sweet Melissa Sundays baking group. Her choice was Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies.. ooooh. It sounded delicious to me, but I knew the BF wouldn't love the Cherry component, and I knew he probably would love them all that much anyway because he isn't so into the super chocolately stuff. So, I halved the recipe and omitted the Dried Cherries. To eliminate some of the Double-Chocolatiness, I used Peanut Butter Chips in place of half of the chocolate chips the recipe called for.

The dough came together very quickly and painlessly. I was a little scared about my chocolate substitution like many other SMS Bakers since I couldn't seem to find Dutch processed cocoa like the original recipe calls for, but my regular ol' cocoa did just fine.

Please excuse Dan's fingernails, he's very self-conscious about it. Right before this photograph was taken, he was repotting some plants out front, but I forced him to eat a cookie right away.

The final result? Amazing. I followed the SMS bakers' advice to watch the cookies carefully before the 15 minute mark the book suggests to avoid overbaking. I checked at 13 and they were just about done. The cookies are chocolately, but not too chocolatey. Since I avoided overbaking, they are moist and not too dense, very Brownie-like. And the Peanut Butter chips were an excellent addition.

Be sure to visit the SMS Blog roll to check out the other SMS Baker's Posts!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Caramel Cashew Bars

The lovely Pamela of Cookies with Boys chose this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe, Butterscotch Cashew Bars. It has a lovely buttery shortbready-ish crust which is smothered with gooey butterscotch, and topped with yummy cashews. Sounds like a winner to me!

Well... it all sounds great but the Butterscotch part. I've never been a big fan. So, besides quartering the recipe to make a smaller two-person-home sized portion, I changed the butterscotch part to caramel. And I used Sea Salted cashews. Mmm boy. The cookie-ish crust came together perfectly and easily, and baked up very nicely. For my gooey topping, I simply melted some caramel bits with a little smidge of water, and spread it on top of my baked and cooled crust. I sprinkled some Sea Salted Cashews on top, popped it back in the oven for a few minutes to melt it all together, and we were done. Very simple recipe, with delicious results. The crumbly buttery shortbread crust paired perfectly with the gooey caramel, and the sweetness from the caramel and crust was cut with the sea salt and crunch from the Cashews. This recipe was a serious winner in my book. Be sure to check out how the other SMS bakers did!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays #11: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I can never pass up an opportunity to make Chocolate Chip Cookies. Especially when life is at its most hectic, a fresh batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies just seems to do the trick to make everything right again.

So when the poll on the Sweet Melissa Sundays blog group decided we would make Melissa Murphy's recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies, my heart leaped. No 5 step recipe, no chilling overnight, no fussing with yeast. Just plain ol', heart-warmin', comfort food Chocolate Chip Cookies. Nice.

Everything went just right. I subbed in Dry Roasted Peanuts for the Toasted Almonds in the recipe (hey, it SAID in the book I could use any nuts I want! :), and used half semi-sweet, half milk chocolate Chips... and baked away. Then... when my oven beeped announcing its preheating was done... and my cookie lumps were sitting on their parchment lined sheets waiting to be baked... I spotted that egg sitting on the counter top. Hm, what's THAT doing there?

Oh, right. It's supposed to be in my cookies. SIGHHHHH.

I didn't know how they would come out, but I dumped my dough balls back into a bowl, cracked open that lonely, forgotten egg and mixed it together. I plopped out dough blobs onto my parchment and baked em up...

Much to my surprise... they came out PERFECT. Delicious! The dry roasted nuts gave off a subtle but distinct nutty flavor, the hint of milk chocolate gave it some added sweetness, and the TASTE of the cookie was terrific.. a slight caramelly-tone, brown-sugary yumness. Though we aren't big on nuts in our cookies, these were totally delicious.

Check out the other bloggers' version of Melissa's Cookies! And also check out the main page for the Sweet Melissa Sundays blog group -- Melissa HERSELF made an appearance! How cool is that?!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SMS Fail and the BEST Pound Cake Ever

It has been a busy, busy week. I've driven 147 miles (each way) for a one day training class for work, and I've had 3 special projects with the graduate classes I'm taking on top of the regularly assigned work. I saved my SMS baking for Sunday, and set out this morning to get the ingredients. My mind was on a million and one things: make sure you get everything you need, what else do we need at the house, oh WAIT did I submit that assignment online? By the time I got home, we were in the middle of a tremendous thunderstorm. I went online to make sure I submitted my assignment (yes, I had already done so by the way) and I unpacked my groceries... only to find... I forgot the peaches. ISN'T IS ALWAYS THAT WAY? You forget the MOST IMPORTANT PART?! So, my SMS friends, I am sorry to report another SMS Fail. It was so rainy and yucky, I decided to not venture back out in the rain. But I'll do better next time, I promise! I've only missed a few so far :(

But I DID get a chance to make this recipe in the middle of the week. I had lots of work, the weather has been terrible for a long time here in Florida, so when I saw this recipe for Classic Pound Cake, I knew I had to have a go at it.

I scaled it down as such:

Scott Peacock's Classic Pound Cake
3 eggs
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in ½-inch pieces
1/2 package (4-ounces) cold cream cheese, cut in 1-inch pieces
1.375 cups sugar (*this measurement is half of "2 & 3/4 C". It comes out to be 1 3/8 C... I'm so annoying)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

Grease a loaf pan with shortening and lightly dust with flour. Let eggs stand at room temperature about 30 minutes. Using the bowl of your stand mixer with paddle attachment in place, beat the cold butter about 2 minutes on low speed, occasionally raising to moderately high speed for 5 seconds to dislodge butter.

Add the cream cheese. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping to remove the cream cheese from the blade with a spatula when necessary. Beat butter and cream-cheese mixture until well-blended. Still mixing on low, add the sugar in a slow, continuous stream. (This should take 1 ½ to 2 minutes). Add salt. Continue creaming butter and cream-cheese mixture for 5 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl once halfway through. Increase speed to medium; continue mixing 2 minutes more, scraping once.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating 20 to 30 seconds after each addition or just until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next egg. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl after first three eggs. Beat in vanilla with the last egg.

Gradually add all but 1/4 C of the flour on low speed, mixing until just blended (This should take about 1 to 11/2 minutes). Turn off mixer. Fold in remaining flour by hand with a rubber spatula, just until combined.

Turn batter into prepared pan. Shake pan or pans gently to distribute batter. Drop filled pan or pans from a height of about 6 inches onto kitchen counter to dislodge any large air pockets.

Place on center rack of cold oven. Turn oven setting to 300 degrees. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours without opening oven door for the first 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Bake 1 hour 45 minutes for tube pan.) Test for doneness by carefully inserting a cake tester in center of cake — it is done when it comes out clean.

Transfer to cooling rack. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely before serving.

Now, I don't know what happened to the TOP of my loaf. No idea. It just cooled that way. Upon seeing this, I was very discouraged, but upon TASTING IT... I knew everything went right. This is definitely my new favorite pound cake (actually this is my FIRST time making pound cake :) It is especially delish when served with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. :) If you find you're having ONE OF THOSE WEEKS and you are in the need for old fashioned, delicious comfort food, this is a great option for dessert (or a snack... or breakfast.. or lunch, or between breakfast and lunch, or all of the above!

Be sure to check out the Sweet Melissa Sunday bakers - ya know, the ones that remembered to BUY PEACHES FOR THEIR PEACH COBBLER... sighh.


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