Friday, October 26, 2012

Caramel Swirl Cheesecake and Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Fall is here. Glorious fall. With cooler temps, all things pumpkin, and endless excuses to make homey, spicy baked goods. Also, caramel.

First up: cheesecake. This one was ridiculously easy. Ridiculously. Easy. I used this recipe (except I used the graham cracker crust from this recipe) and loved the method. A friend who is famous for her cheesecakes told me years ago that I should never use a mixer for cheesecakes, they should only be mixed by hand. All that beating air into the mixture takes away the density that a cheesecake should have. I tried that method exactly 1/2 of a time. Too much hard work. Vanilla sugar recommends putting all the ingredients through a food processor. Perfect. It doesn't whip too much air into the mixture, so you still get the dense texture you want, but with none of the work! Everything mixed together smoothly and beautifully. Then I blobbed some of this caramel (which, incidentally works exactly as it says on the blog, pure magic--it's a very milky caramel, more like a dulce de leche, and DElicious) around on top of the cheesecake (saved some to heat up and drizzle over when serving), sprinkled a sprinkling of sea salt here and there,

and swirled it all together with a chopstick. Look how pretty!

And when it baked, it didn't sink and blend in, it stayed right in the top layer of the cheesecake.

I got nervous about it's doneness, so I cooked it a little longer than the recipe suggests. I shouldn't have. The 10" size could have done with just 50 minutes plus an hour or so sitting in the oven after turning it off. Not that it wasn't still delicious, it certainly was--creamy, dense, tangy, sweet, caramely. I just could tell I cooked it a teensy bit too long.

Next up: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. Also ridiculously easy. I know you don't believe me when I say that about cinnamon rolls. They SEEM labor intensive, they ARE NOT. There are several steps and some waiting involved, so when you first attempt them, use the rise-then-hang-out-in-the-fridge-overnight method. It will save you starving children and a lot of grief in the morning.

I used smitten kitchen's alterations of the BAKED boys recipe from their new book. Having not tried the original, I guess I can't say which is better, but these were delicious and came together really easily. I forgot that once you've (or I've) had Cinnabon frosting there's really no going back, and I should have just made that frosting for them. The frosting in the recipe is delicious, it's just...not Cinnabon frosting.

One other alteration I would make (will make, probably for Thanksgiving morning) is replacing some of the cinnamon in the filling with pumpkin pie spice. The pumpkin itself wasn't very strong tasting, and I want to taste it! I think pumpkin pie spice will punch up that flavor. And, another thing, I might add some toasted and chopped pecans to the filling. I always forget how much I like to have nuts in my cinnamon rolls. Remind me!

TGIP Rating--Caramel Swirl Cheesecake--KEEPER. Mind the baking time.
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls--KEEPER. A couple of alterations and they'll be perfect.

Next up: Harvest Pie. My friend Mike Bottoms (who is about to be a famous published author) sent me this recipe ages ago and I lost track of it. Found it again and now is the perfect time. It's like pumpkin pie except with butternut squash. And a sort of pecan streusel on top. *drool*

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cake Pops (or balls) (or blobs)

Yes, sure. These were tasty (I used chocolate cake and frosting). Not really homemade in the least (except in the Sandra Lee way). And they were KINDOF easy. But not completely. The cake/frosting balls were kind of sticky and weird to work with. Dipping them in white chocolate turned out to be disastrous and I ended up going to the store for orange-colored Candy Melts. I don't even know what's in that stuff, I chose NOT to read the ingredients. But it sure worked better for coverage. Although there was still clearly a temperature problem, as I ended up with swirly whitish orange cake blobs. But the "homemade" and the "tasty" weren't really the point of this project. They were just supposed to be cute. So, FAIL. They were supposed to look like little pumpkins with brown stems and twirly brown vines. FAIL (that one above is the most pumpkin-looking one of them all). I even made little indentations around them so they'd have the ridged appearance of pumpkins, like these. OMG such a FAIL. I never claimed to be a candy maker. I hereby vow to stick to baking that tastes good, not baking that looks good.

TGIP Rating--Cake Pops (or balls...or blobs, as the case may be)--NEVER AGAIN. They taste fine, people enjoy them, they're easy enough. The lady who invented them and has published a couple of books with ideas is unbelievably clever with the things she comes up with. So, YOU make them. I'll be in my kitchen making something that is so delicious people don't care what it looks like.

Next up: Prima turns 13 today. Ushering in Facebook, make-up, and slumber parties. Yipes. She also wants cheesecake. A caramel cheesecake, to be precise. So I'm going to try this recipe, except with a graham cracker crust and some of this swirled in. Unless you have a better idea/recipe. BRING IT ON. She also wants Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls for the post-slumber breakfast. I'm going to try smitten kitchen's alterations of the BAKED recipe. Wish me luck (but mostly with the 13 thing, not so much with the baking).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Momofuku's Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies

I think this might surprise you: I didn't like these. I wouldn't consider them a fail, just a flavor that turned out to be not as delicious as I'd hoped. Yes, they flattened out. Yes, I made altitude adjustments and did all the things I was supposed to (including chilling the dough before baking). And still they flattened out. And I think part of the problem is that MARSHMALLOWS MELT. Yes, I know, some news. The parts of the cookie where the marshmallow just melted a little bit (the white parts in the picture) were gooey and sweet and delicious. But the rest seemed kind of greasy? And too salty? (overuse of ?'s due to utterly not understanding WHAT I didn't like about these cookies) So, IF I were going to try these again these are the things I would change:
  • Decrease the amount of salt in the recipe overall, either by eliminating the salt from the Cornflake Crunch or by using unsalted butter in that piece of the recipe and then eliminating the salt from the main recipe.
  • Arrange the marshmallows in groupings of 3 or 4 pressed into the top of each mound of dough before chilling, rather than stirring them in. 
  • Obvs, put less cookies on each pan.
So, maybe now that I've typed those things it would be worth a second try. How about this, YOU try it with those changes and let me know how it goes!

TGIP Rating--Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies--MEH. I could really take them or leave them. Undecided as to whether it's worth a second try with more alterations.

Next up: I'm going to try these Cake Pops (except I'm making mine without sticks, so...cake...balls...sorry) that are all the rage nowadays. I'm making them the old-fashioned way (and by "old-fashioned", I mean the completely easy way, the way they were originally conceived, with boxed cake mix and canned frosting). Yes, I am. But, I think, in this one instance, the point isn't that they are the most amazing things you've ever eaten, but that they're cute. That's what I'm going for. Cute baby pumpkins.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chocolate Adventure Contest time!

Look! It's THIS time of year again! Sandwich cookies this year!


I've already got my thinking cap on. Christmas is the perfect time of year to do cookie experimentation. So exciting!