Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rosemary Biscotti - by Summer

 I purposely picked this recipe for this month because Saturday I hosted a baby shower for one of my close friends.  I thought that as some of the prizes for the games, I would bake this biscotti, and put them in mugs with some tea.  I was a little nervous, since I had never made biscotti before, but as it turns out, it's really quite easy. 

 The dough was pretty to pull together.  The recipe said that the dough would be sticky, but it was really sticky and super hard to use the whisk once I added the liquid.

Then you need to shape into 2 logs and bake.  Then you slice the logs into pieces - I didn't get quite 40 out of them, but that's ok.  Then you need to toast them on each side.  It's not really difficult, but a little time consuming towards the end.

I wasn't sure what to expect on the taste, but I really liked them.  They were sweeter than I expected and I really enjoyed the rosemary flavor.  Below is a picture of the gifts (I don't know how to flip the picture in Blogger).  Everyone thought they were great.  I am really looking forward to making the other biscotti recipe in this cookbook!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cookies-And-Cream Cheesecake Bars - by Lisa

Man, I am getting in a bad habit of baking and then taking days to post about it! I actually made this on Monday, but didn't get the chance to write about it until now. I can tell you that the advantage to doing so allowed me to figure out that this dessert seems to get even better after a day or two in the fridge! :)

This was my first time making a full cheesecake. Last year we made the cheesecake cupcakes, so I had something of an idea for what to expect. I was again pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make a cheesecake! I don't know why I have it in my head that it is a complicated affair. Because it's not! Anywho, thanks to Summer's notes, I was diligent about setting out the ingredients that needed to be at room temperature, so I didn't have to worry about that. The rest was real easy to pull together - Oreo cookie base, filling, more Oreos in the filling. Then cool, bake, chill and eat!

Oreo filling - yum!

Fresh out of the oven
At first I wasn't sure if I liked them that much, but then by day two, I was certain that this recipe was a winner! However, since it makes so much, I opted to send half the pan to Hubby's work where they were promptly devoured. Woo hoo! :) I look forward to making this again and maybe even experimenting with my own cheesecake flavors. :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cookies-and-Cream Cheesecake Bars - by Summer

My husband said to me before he took a bite of these bars "Before you started this baking thing, I didn't realize that Oreos were an ingredient."  I just had to laugh. Personally, I think it's a wonderful ingredient!  I was really excited to make these since Oreos has been one of my cravings during this pregnancy.  The catch is, this makes a lot.  Fortunately I timed it with my book club this month (again), so I will be bringing them to share tomorrow night.  Since it's a cheesecake base, I knew that it would have to be in the fridge for awhile, so I decided to make it a day ahead of time.  Plus, this gave me a chance to taste it first :-)

These bars are really easy to make.  I read through the recipe the day before, so I knew that the cream cheese, eggs and sour cream needed to be room temperature.  The crust is made with crushed up Oreos and then the base is cream cheese (and lots of it) and more Oreos.  It bakes, cools and then chills.  And then they are ready to eat!  Yum!  I thought they tasted great.  I can't wait to share with the gals at book club tomorrow night.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Salty-Sweet Caramel Nut Bars - by Summer

I am way behind in making February desserts.  I have three words for you Girl Scout Cookies!  It's a total weakness for both my husband and I and last week Monday he came home with 5 boxes!  Needless to say we didn't need any more sweet stuff in the house for a while!  But on Sunday I decided that I should finally get started on some baking - especially since Feb is a short month! 

I was excited to try these.  I planned to make them Sunday afternoon, but it ended up that I couldn't get to them until the evening.  After reading through the recipe when I was starting to make them, I realized that they would have to sit out for 2 hours and then chill for 2 more hours!  The chilling time mentioned at the top of the recipe was a little misleading (it says 2 hours for chilling time).  But I still decided to make them. 

I bought the same kind of nuts as Lisa, but mine had the regular amount of salt.  The dough for the crust was rather crumbly and dry, so I was a little worried that I didn't do something right, but it didn't seem to impact the end result.  I have never made caramel sauce with honey before, but it seemed to cook just fine. 

My husband was disappointed that we couldn't cut into them right after they came out of the oven.  I ended up letting them cool for about an hour and stuck them in the fridge for about 30 minutes, and then we cut into them.  They tasted pretty good.  I think I could actually taste the honey in the filling (I'm not a big honey fan).  I stuck the bars back in the fridge over night and then yesterday chopped them up and sent them to work with my husband (hey - we still have Girl Scout Cookies).  I would definitely try making this recipe again.  It's pretty easy, but I think I would try it with regular brown sugar, not the dark and maybe without the honey.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Banana Snack Cake - by Lisa

So I had every intention of making this cake later in the month, but then I noticed on grocery day that I had 4 bananas quickly approaching the perfect ripeness that this recipe calls for. So I decided that this would be the weekend to make it after all!
It's a good thing this was a pretty quick and easy recipe to put together because I had to kind of rush through it. I had some plans today and wanted to get the cake part done early. So I got it all mixed together, tossed it in the oven and asked Hubby to pull it out of the oven when it was ready. It was really similar to making regular banana bread with the exception of adding in some sour cream and using brown sugar. However, what makes this cake extra special is the addition of the caramel frosting.

After the cake had some time to cool, I made the frosting and spread it on the cake. I've never made a frosting like that before and was intrigued by the texture. At first I was worried it might pull the top of the cake up, but despite it's thickness, it spread real nice and smooth.

And in honor of Valentine's Day, I pulled out my heart shaped mold and cut out a pretty piece. :)

I liked how moist and dense the cake turned out. The caramel frosting definitely elevated it to dessert status! It almost reminded me of a sweet cake I'd find in a bakery or coffee shop. I would certainly make this again, and next time maybe try just the dusting of powdered sugar over the top. Or maybe turn it into muffins. And I'd definitely like to experiment with trying the caramel frosting on other baked goodies!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Salty-Sweet Carmel Nut Bars - by Lisa

Man, I am just having a hard time baking this week. Fortunately my goof up in last week's recipe didn't do any noticeable harm. Sadly, I wasn't so lucky this time around. This recipe was one of my picks and I was really excited to try it out! I love caramel, and I LOVE salted caramel and I figured this one was a sure thing for my sweet tooth. Due to my own inattention to detail (which really is particularly unusual for me most of the time) and hustle through the grocery store, I picked up a can of LIGHTLY salted mixed nuts which also apparently contain "50% less peanuts." *sigh* To add insult to injury, I made a double batch as I am planning to take these to a Super Bowl party today. I didn't notice the labeling on the can until it was far too late. When I took my first bite of the finished product, I found the texture to be lovely, but the flavor was quite bland. :( But Hubby had the brilliant suggestion to dust some coarse sea salt over the top, and when I did that the flavor was noticeably improved! Hurray!

All right, kvetching aside, this recipe was super easy to make. I was nervous about the caramel part as I've never had good luck with making caramel, but that part was really easy. I also finally busted out my new digital kitchen scale and used that for measuring the flour. Fun!

As for the nuts, I wound up using my easy chopper but probably should have stuck with the recommendation of using a chef's knife. Some pieces got smaller than needed and others didn't chop up at all (I'm looking at you, Almonds.).

I also timed the whole process fairly well which meant I didn't run into any issues during the 4 hour cooling process. I definitely want to give this recipe another shot, and next time I will make sure I am using the right kind of salted mixed nuts!!!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mocha Cream Pie - by Lisa

So, uh, would you believe me if I told you that this entry is so late because I needed the whole week to fully taste test this pie? No? Ok, it's true, the pie only lasted in this house for about 3 or 4 days. I have no excuse for taking so long to get this entry written up. :)

So this pie really was easy to make, but I still accidentally screwed it up. More on that in a moment. The crust is an Oreo cookie crust, but I decided to use Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's instead. Normally they have a regular Oreo version, but my store was sold out. So I made do with the chocolate creme and chocolate cookie variety instead. Cuz really, can you have too much chocolate? I think not. :)

The Cookie Crust
The pudding came along pretty nicely. I got a little bit concerned when it got sort of lumpy after everything was put together, but it all seemed to turn out fine in the end. I also intentionally kept it as a chocolate cream pie buy omitting the espresso powder since I am not a coffee person.

Melting down the chocolate
You can see the lumpiness here
Now, I have made puddings plenty of times, and I am pretty darn familiar with adding the butter and vanilla flavoring at the very end. I was clearly distracted in the kitchen as I was trying to do too much at once - baby, dinner, dessert, etc., and somehow misread the recipe. I thought it said to add the butter and vanilla after it cooled. Why I thought this was correct is beyond me. Fast forward to a couple hours later, and I'm still distracted while pouring the cooled pudding into the pie shell. It wasn't until after I stuck the pie in the fridge that I noticed the butter and vanilla sitting on the counter patiently waiting for me to add them to the pudding. DOH! I half contemplated dumping the pudding back into the bowl, but decided that ultimately it wasn't worth it. I had a taste of the pudding and thought it tasted pretty good as it was.

I opted to let it set up overnight, and the next night I whipped up the cream, topped the pie and after another 30 minute chill, we dug in. Let me just tell you, this pie is seriously in my top 10 favorites from this cookbook so far. It is that good. Hubby and I each took our first bites and nearly swooned with chocolate induced happiness.YUM!!

Didn't have chocolate for shavings, so I put a Joe-Joe on top
The first slice

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mocha Cream Pie - by Summer

Lisa and I both saved this recipe for the last one this month.  I spoke with her last night and she hadn't tasted it, but I had!  I decided to leave out the espresso, so really this is just a chocolate cream pie.  There were a few steps, but it wasn't difficult, especially since we have made a few pudding recipes already.

The hardest part probably was to keep enough Oreos around for the crust!  I bought a package of Oreos a week ago and since you only need 1/3 of the package for this recipe, I proceeded to eat the rest of them over the course of the week!

The pudding was easy to make, although mine seemed very grainy, right up until it finally thickened.  I wondered if I didn't have the melted chocolate and cream mixture hot enough before I whisked it with the sugar, corn starch and egg yokes.  Fortunately after it thickened, it appeared smooth.

The final piece is the topping of whipping cream, which is super easy.  My husband and I both had a piece after dinner.  It was really rich, but very good.  I do think next time I will trying making it with the espresso powder to get the mocha flavor, but I was definitely pleased with the end result!