Crazy Baking Day #3: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Making the cookie dough yesterday was a huge help to me today! It only took me about 3 hours to bake the cookies since all I had to do was scoop dough.

I did learn quite a few things though, even though I’ve baked these many times! Just not in this quantity.

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This big bucket of cookie dough made 199 chocolate chip cookies. Before baking, each ball of dough weighed about 30 grams.

My first two trays of cookies did NOT turn out right at all. Usually, I bake one tray at a time but that just was not an option today with baking so many. So my first four trays were spent trying to figure out timing and when the cookies were baked through. I was also using the convection setting on my oven for the second time so I was figuring that out as well. I thought about trying two trays on the normal bake setting, but anytime I have tried that with these cookies, they definitely do not turn out right! Who knew chocolate chip cookies could be so complicated? Or maybe I am just overly picky…

Finally, I hit upon the magic number and method. Convection bake at 335 degrees F for 5 minutes. Then, switch the cookie sheets on their racks and bake for another 5 minutes. So the cookie sheet on the lower rack went on the top rack for the last 5 minutes and vice versa. I don’t think you’re supposed to have to do that with a convection oven but I was desperate to get these cookies baked without much more messing around. The cookies browned a little more than they usually do on a normal bake but at least they weren’t uncooked in the middle, which was the problem with the first two trays.

My second issue with these cookies: The chocolate chips! They seemed overly large for the size cookies I was baking. I know it seems impossible but it was almost like the cookies had too much chocolate in them. Yes, I know what you are thinking. You must be crazy, Lynn. How can a chocolate chip cookie have too much chocolate? And I completely agree. I’m probably just being picky again.

Right at the end of the bake, I had one of those “British Bake-off” mess-ups, when a baker pulls a cookie sheet out of the oven and some of the baked goods slide off the parchment paper and onto the floor or into the oven. Yep, that happened to me. Four of my half-baked cookies went splat. It was very sad. And messy. It wasn’t an end-of-the-world sacrifice though. I had the 150 cookies I needed for the fellowship tonight.

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I was not happy with the cookies in the picture above. They were way too gooey in the middle. So I guess those are for us to eat. I don’t think any of my family will be complaining about this.

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I set up a cooling rack and packaging station on our dining room table. I ended up needing 3 of the disposable pans for 150 cookies.

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My scooping area was in the kitchen on a gateleg IKEA table that we use as a counter/storage space.

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Here are all the cookies baked. And yes, my house still smells like chocolate chip cookies! Yum!

This concludes this portion of Crazy Baking Days. Thanks so much for reading! And if I end up doing something crazy like this again, there will definitely be a Crazy Baking Day #4!

-Lynn

 

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Crazy Baking Day #2: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Crazy Baking Day #2 actually involved no baking at all! Today was basically prep for Crazy Baking Day #3, which happens tomorrow, when I get to bake 150 chocolate chip cookies.

Just as with my macarons, I have a favorite recipe that I can’t seem to stray away from. My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is from Not Without Salt.  This recipe uses chopped-up chocolate bars (which I really suggest you try sometime! They really send these cookies to over-the-top delicious.) but for this bake, I just went with a 48 ounce bag of Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips from Costco. When you bake these, don’t forget the salt sprinkle on top of the cookies. The salt also sends these cookies to over-the-top delicious. Here is a link:

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt from Not Without Salt

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I can guarantee that these chocolate chip cookies will still be awesome.

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My challenge: fill up this 6 quart bucket with chocolate chip cookie dough and somehow fit the bucket in my fridge until tomorrow.

 

My equipment: Two KitchenAid stand mixers. I am so glad my parents let me borrow their stand mixer for a few days.

If I had only had one stand mixer, well, this job would have taken me about 2 and a half hours instead of only 1 and a half hours.

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Bucket with one batch of cookie dough!

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I know you’re not supposed to eat raw cookie dough but this dough tastes as good as it looks… so I did eat the dough off the mixer whisks. My oldest son is smarter than I am. He didn’t eat any of it.

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Batch two is in. Is it just me or is it starting to look like I’m filling up an ice cream bucket? Cookie dough ice cream… now there is an idea. A very good idea.

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Batch three and four are in! And my job for the day is done.

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If I calculated everything correctly, I should end up with 192 chocolate chip cookies (about 30 g of dough each). I can’t wait to bake this up tomorrow! Just look at that yumminess in a bucket!

-Lynn

Note: If you do try this recipe and bake the 48 yield (30 g or smaller cookies) rather than the 24 yield (60 g or cookies as in the recipe), the cookies should not bake in the oven as long as the 12 minutes in the recipe. You really don’t want these to be overbaked. You want them to still be slightly gooey in the middle… but not too much! I think I usually started the timer at 6 minutes and then would look in on them from there until they were the right color and looked almost baked through.

Crazy Baking Day #1: 160 Vanilla Latte Macarons

I think it’s been about two months since I’ve posted anything on the blog, but I think I’m back now that it’s after the holidays. November and December have always been crazy for me, since I love to bake and basically, Thanksgiving and Christmas are excuses to bake a lot and bake big!

So what’s been going on with me since my last post? Quite a bit has changed since then!

I am definitely a novice cake baker and decorator, but last month, I made 3 four-layer cakes for a Christmas party. They weren’t very pretty to look at, but they actually tasted decent. I wasn’t too happy with the appearance of them, but this bake did give me hope that maybe I can learn how to bake a good cake. I am hoping to take a cake decorating class sometime this year.

Josh made the mistake of buying me a Nordicware Bundt cake pan for Christmas. I am now addicted to them and want to collect all of them. I will try to post soon about my Bundt cakes… which are so much easier for me to make than a traditional layer cake.

I am slowly practicing as many new (and sometimes unusual) bakes as I can and trying to perfect them. I would eventually like to apply for a cottage food permit here in California and actually sell my baked goods. Where and how I would do this is still up in the air, but I would like to prepare for the possibility!

Last month, I was asked if I could make desserts for a fellowship at my church. I’ve been wanting to make macarons for an event like this for a while, so crazy me planned to make 80 macarons and 150 chocolate chip cookies for the fellowship.

Today was my planned day to bake and fill 80 coffee-flavored macarons with vanilla buttercream frosting. My wonderful MIL, who wasn’t feeling well, watched my kids for most of the day so that I could concentrate on baking the macarons. I wouldn’t have been able to do this bake without her help.

One mistake: For some reason, I thought my usual macaron recipe only made 24 macarons, but it actually makes closer to 40. Yesterday I had prepped my egg whites for 4 batches of the recipe. 40 times 4 equals yes 160 macarons. So I had been planning to make around 96 macarons (in case some of them weren’t pretty enough to go to the fellowship) but ended up making around 160 macarons instead because I couldn’t let those egg whites go to waste! Ok, in reality, I knew Josh would be ecstatic that there would be so many “extra” macarons.

Since I used an entire 18 count carton of extra-large eggs for this bake, I now have 18 egg yolks in the fridge. Lemon curd anyone?

In my previous macaron posts, I’ve mentioned trying to get the total prep, bake, and fill time to under 3 hours. And I’ve never been able to do it. Today was no exception! In fact, I started the bake at 9 AM this morning and didn’t finish until 5 PM. Admittedly, that whole time was not spent actually working on the macarons. I had to let the piped macarons crust for about an hour instead of only 30 minutes because it was raining outside and rain means humidity. Piped macarons don’t like humidity! I also had to stop around 1:30 PM so that I could go pick up my kids and did not get back until about 3 PM. I think that my second batch of macarons did need all that time though to develop their crust.

When I try a recipe and love it, I tend to use only that recipe and won’t usualy want to try another. This is the case with macarons. I love Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for macarons and can almost follow it from memory now!

Dorie Greenspan’s Parisian Macarons

I did discover on this bake that this recipe can be successfully doubled. You will probably wish you had more baking sheets like I did though!

The batter probably needed a few more stirs with the spatula though before piping. All the macarons kept their little “hats” through the bake in the oven.

I also found out that the macarons on the insulated baking sheet needed more than 12 minutes in the oven. A few of them ended up being soft instead of crispy after 12 minutes in the oven. That was okay though since I still had 120 others to choose from.

And another oddity, the macarons in the small cookie sheet had more of a macaron shape than the others. I wonder if the walls of the cookie sheet contributed to that.

For the coffee flavor in the shells, I used 4 teaspoons of coffee extract (homemade by Josh) in the heated sugar syrup then half a packet of Starbucks instant coffee in the almond/powdered sugar mixture.

For the filling, I made a simple vanilla butter cream frosting.

150 g of butter

450 g of powdered sugar

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1-3 Tbsp of milk

First, I beat the butter until creamy in my stand mixer. Then, I added the vanilla extract. The powdered sugar goes in next a little bit at a time. Lastly, drizzle in the milk until the frosting is the consistency you are looking for. Even a little bit at a time, my mixer still ended up looking this

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after I was finished making two batches of frosting. It seems that it is just inevitable that when you work with powdered sugar, you will make a mess.

Two batches of frosting was enough to fill the 160 macarons and some leftover to eat out of the bowl.

This is an interesting pic and video of the heated sugar syrup portion of the recipe. It is so funny how the temperature of the sugar syrup just shoots up to about 210 degrees F and then creeps up to that 235 degrees to 245 degrees F so slowly! In the video, you can see the steam from the boiling sugar syrup. So so glad for a stand mixer! During this part, I stay away from it for about 10 minutes and let the mixer do its job. Side note: coffee-flavored Italian meringue is yummy!

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Also, Josh bought me a new oven for Christmas! I love it so much.

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Tomorrow is Crazy Baking Day #2, where I try to fill a 6 quart bucket full of chocolate chip cookie dough. Come back soon and thank you for reading!

-Lynn

Spelt and Cornmeal Biscuits

The Internet is great for finding recipes, but sometimes, there is nothing like getting a cooking magazine in the mail. I don’t remember how, but I ordered a subscription to Cooking Light magazine, and a few days ago, we got the latest issue. I decided to make use of it and look through it for dinner ideas. I came across the toasted quinoa soup that I mentioned in my quiche post and also came across two recipes that I decided to try together: whole-grain spelt and cornmeal biscuits and beef and barley stew. The beef and barley stew was amazing; I think this was mostly due to Josh’s fresh veggies from the garden and my dad’s grilled tri-tip that I used. The spelt and cornmeal biscuits were a big hit with my whole family… except for me!

Josh and I love cooking and baking with alternative flours. We think it’s fun, even when the results aren’t to our liking. So when I happened across spelt flour, I had to get it, even if it did sit in our cabinet for a while before I found a way to use it!

The biscuits were very, very crumbly! In fact, my daughter enjoyed smashing her biscuit into crumbs and eating the crumbs. Silly girl!

I don’t think this was the fault of the recipe though. At some point in the past, I ordered cornmeal through Amazon Pantry. The problem is, somehow I ordered MEDIUM grain cornmeal, four 12 ounce bags of them. At first, when I saw the bags, I thought that it was great I would have cornmeal to last me awhile. Then, I tried baking with the cornmeal, and the cornmeal was so coarse that I was gritting my teeth on it! I use the cornmeal now just because I need to, but I certainly don’t like baking with it very much.

I’ve tried “chopping” it to a finer grain using a food chopper, but it didn’t help.

Anyway, that cornmeal is what I used in these biscuits. And that is most likely why I didn’t like them. And probably also why they were so crumbly. So these biscuits would turn out great with a different cornmeal. Then again, my family loved these. My oldest even said he liked these better than the plain drop biscuits I had made two days ago!  So as Josh told me, maybe I’m just weird!

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Spelt and cornmeal biscuit with butter smeared on top

-Lynn

Back to the Drawing Board: Pumpkin Scones

I mentioned in a post last week that I was going to experiment with pumpkin scones again this week. I did actually get to it this time! Unfortunately, I was not happy with how these turned out.

I made two changes to the previous recipe. I reduced the pumpkin puree from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, and then I increased the heavy cream from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup. I guess this wasn’t the right way to go! The scones were a little bit dry, and they didn’t taste pumpkin-y enough!

This didn’t seem to matter to my kids. They ate them all up at breakfast the day after I made them.

But, they aren’t good enough to sell, so I’m going to go back to the 3/4 cup pumpkin puree and the 1/4 cup heavy cream and work from there. With my next batch, I will keep the 3/4 cup pumpkin and increase the heavy cream, since it seems like the dough is too dry.

I know that there are great recipes out on the Internet for pumpkin scones (I keep seeing the copycat pumpkin scone recipe for Starbucks!), but it seems like most scone recipes use eggs! I don’t want to use eggs, just because I love the original recipe so much that I want to keep that texture.

I did drizzle some maple icing on the scones, but even that was too sweet. I think I might need to temper it with some butter.

I also cut these scones the wrong way. Oops! I should have used the rectangle method instead of the circle method. These scones definitely need to be bigger and fatter!

So basically, I liked my first attempt better than my second attempt. But that is why this section of the blog is called Kitchen Experiments. I get to make mistakes and try to correct them! Thanks for reading!

-Lynn

 

 

Sausage and Veggie Crustless Quiche

I’m trying to be better about blogging regularly, and I think I’ve finally found the right time to write blog posts. At night, after everyone else has gone to bed! Before my macaron post last week, it had been about two weeks since I had written a post. That doesn’t mean I didn’t bake or cook anything interesting. I just didn’t have time  or didn’t feel it was worth documenting. The past week has been just crazy with dentist appointments for all the kids one day and annual physicals for all my kids which took about 3 days total. So I haven’t been cooking all that much really. We just finished with the physicals today. Phew!

Today’s bake was Josh’s idea. He asked me if I could make a quiche using kale. I had not thought of anything for dinner yet (I am a horrible, horrible dinner planner), so of course, I jumped on board and said I could make that for dinner. I’m so glad we were planning on being out and about already, so I was able to pick up a few things to go in and with the quiche. Once I got home though, I realized that I probably wouldn’t have time to make pie crust, so I decided to go with a crustless quiche instead.

As a base recipe, I used Summer Garden Crustless Quiche from Allrecipes.com. We didn’t want it to be just veggies though because of picky eaters, so I added 4 links of crumbled, cooked Italian sausage to the veggie mixture. I also doubled most of the recipe since one quiche no longer feeds all of us. I have a feeling this is something I will be doing a lot: doubling recipes to feed all seven of us!

I also added about half of a red bell pepper and half of an Anaheim pepper diced into small pieces. These I cooked with the mixture after adding the kale. Once the veggie/sausage mixture was cooked, I spread it evenly into a pie plate and a 9″ round cake tin (I wanted one of the quiches to be a little larger than the other, since I was adding hot sauce to the smaller one for Josh and me).

Then, I whisked together 10 eggs and 1 and a half cups of milk. After adding in about 3 handfuls of cheddar cheese, I poured the egg mixture into the pie plate and cake tin and into the 350 degree oven they both went for about an hour.

The above pics are of the quiches before baking. The one on the right has Cholula drizzled over the top. Josh and I like spicy, but our kids do not.

Here are the quiches after baking. They might have been in the oven a little too long; I’m not too sure. The edges were browned a little bit too much. Looks like I might need to practice!

My kids didn’t ask for seconds, which didn’t surprise me, but they did finish their food without too much complaining. Josh and I did get seconds of our quiche though. Josh’s kale is fresh from the garden so it never tastes bitter and I hardly noticed it in the quiche.

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I did attempt a plating picture. I cooked some asparagus to go with the quiche (yes, more veggies!). Surprisingly, my youngest boy loved the asparagus and asked for more! I also had bought a loaf of french bread, and of course, all my other kids loved the bread.

I think I liked using a cake pan better than the pie plate, because I didn’t have to worry about overflow as much with the pan. I also would have liked the quiche to be a little higher, but that is probably due to the splitting of the mixture between two pans.

Tomorrow, I plan on making toasted quinoa soup. I’m sure that will go over really well with the kiddos!

-Lynn

 

Pumpkin Scones

At the end of August, I decided to bake pumpkin scones. Now, that probably isn’t the most appropriate time to do a fall bake, but we have a bunch of pumpkin puree in the freezer, and I wanted to start using some of it. Yes, we still have pumpkin puree in the freezer.

If you can make your own pumpkin puree, I’d highly recommend it. Yes, it makes a huge mess and takes all day (see the linked post: Pumpkins in July!), but canned pumpkin doesn’t quite match the color and taste of the homemade kind.

Once again, I fell back to my favorite scone recipe that uses heavy whipping cream as the liquid and just adjusted as needed for the flavor.

Pumpkin Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Sift together dry ingredients; flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, all spices. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat pieces with flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.

Mix together the heavy cream, vanilla, and the pumpkin puree in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the heavy cream and pumpkin puree mixture.  Fold everything together just to incorporate.

On a lightly floured surface, press dough out into a large circle. Cut the circle into 8 to 12 wedges and place each wedge on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush each wedge with heavy cream and sprinkle some coarse sugar on each wedge if desired.

Bake 15-20 minutes until brown.

These scones could have used some glaze, since scones always look prettier with glaze! But I think I had made a maple butter to go with these, so I didn’t make the glaze to go with them.

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The pumpkin scones before baking, brushed with heavy cream
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The pumpkin scones after baking

Since this bake was a while ago, I don’t quite remember if I was completely satisfied with how these turned out. I do know that whenever I make scones, whether or not I consider them a fail, they always disappear quickly. And these did.

I apologize in advance if you make these and they don’t turn out quite right. One thing that may not be correctly proportioned is the pumpkin puree and heavy cream. It seems like that should be 1/2 cup pumpkin and 1/2 cup cream, not 1/4 cup cream and 3/4 cup pumpkin. Since it is fall now, I will probably make these again very soon and change those proportions!

-Lynn