Broken Skulls & Ghostly Shards

I had it in my head that I was going to make a few halloween treats to bring to work and give to friends this week. I never make classic decorated cut-out cookies, so I picked up some adorable ghost and skull cookie cutters and set out to make the cookies. There are three primary cookies that are used for cut-out cookies: gingerbread, sugar cookies and butter cookies. I decided to start with a recipe for classic butter cookies.

The cookie making went off without a hitch. These were going to be so cute! The cookies were cooled and stored in a plastic container for decorating the next day. I decided on a standard royal icing made with egg whites and powdered sugar, and was going to stick with white and black for decorating.

I started to gather my equipment, and went to grab the container of cookies… and it slipped right out of my hand onto the ground. Thankfully the container stayed shut so they were saved from the unknown spoils of the kitchen floor. But every single cookie shattered.

The good news is that they’re delicious so Larry and I are enjoying our sweet ghostly shards this week.

  • Classic Butter Cookies (Fine Cooking #12)

Maple Walnut Sadness

I really haven’t had any problems with the vegan baked goods I’ve produced. I find the recipes from the authors of Vegan with a Vengeance are very reliable, well-written and generally pretty good. I’m not sure what happened here. Maple walnut cookies sound great, right? These turned out like delicate sheets of parchment paper, and fell apart immediately when trying to remove them from the cooling rack. Not only that, they tasted weird. It seems like I forgot to add the flour. Or maybe not enough? Or missed out on the leavening? At any rate… these ended up in the trash.

Gingerbread Volcano

I’m not taking the blame for this one. But it was still pretty spectacular – gingerbread bubbling all over the pan and inside the oven. The pan size called for in the recipe is either too small, or the amount of baking soda is too high (2 tsp seems high)! Luckily my pizza stone, which sits in the oven at all times, took the brunt of the gingerbread lava, so cleanup wasn’t too awful… although I haven’t tackled the pan yet.

Notice how there’s no overflow on the handles of the pan. That’s because Larry and I ate it. Crusty, delicious gingerbread.

Buttercrotch Pudding Tarts

So far most everything from Baked has been delicious. Not always simple to make or without some sort of near disaster happening, but at least everything has tasted good. Until now.

My friend and co-worker Laura was in town for a day, so I decided that I’d make up these tarts. We both have a caramel obsession, and in my book butterscotch falls under the caramel umbrella.

The crust for these is rustic and oat-y. A good start. I made up the butterscotch pudding, adding a bit of scotch and butter at the end (because it’s a real butterscotch) and poured the pudding into the tart shells. I had a little taste. Hmm. Not great a little off. But I figured I’d still bring one in for Laura to try the next morning, maybe she could help me figure out what was wrong.

We found a moment during the flurry of the workday to pull out the two treats I had brought, a divine pear caramel ice cream, and the tarts. Which no longer tasted like slightly off butterscotch. They tasted much, much worse. Which is how they came to be known as Buttercrotch Pudding Tarts.

Avalanche of Ganache

This cake ended up delicious and even looked decent once I did quite a bit of structural intervention. My first problem was with the caramel. I normally make caramel based on how it looks – I don’t use a thermometer. But I have a habit of following a recipe exactly the first time, especially when baking, so I stuck my thermometer in and waited… too long. Caramel will burn very quickly and I took about 15 seconds too long to remove it from the heat. First batch burned.
Second problem came with the layers of cake. They were very delicate. I wonder if I could have cooked them slightly longer, but they kind of stuck to the cooling rack, and I could tell I was going to have difficulty getting the layers stacked up.
I started building the layers: cake, whipped caramel ganache, fleur de sel. I got all three layers stacked up, covered them with a crumb coat, and carried it to the refrigerator to firm up. Except as I moved it to the refrigerator the layers began to slide around on the caramel, and two of them cracked and the entire thing began to disintegrate. I did the best I could to shore it up and continued on to finish frosting it.
There was more ganache than I needed so I stored the rest in the refrigerator just in case. Good thing. When I took the cake out after dinner, part of the ganache on top had slid off the top of the cake. The whole cake had shifted and stuck to the side of the dome top of my cake plate, so it tore off a bunch of ganache when I removed it.
I made do with what I had and cut pieces off of the sections that weren’t ripped or melting. Later, I used the leftover ganache to do a patch job, and it ended up working out pretty well. And the cake, well, it’s really fabulous.

Chocolate Crumble Cake

I’m a huge fan of David Leibovitz. His Perfect Scoop cookbook is fantastic, and I made ice cream out of it all summer. So I thought, I’ll pick up another one of his cookbooks from the library and make something of his besides ice cream.
I don’t know if it was the recipe, or if my oven is really off, but this cake was way overdone even though I set the timer for ten minutes before it was supposed to be done. It was so overdone, it literally crumbled as soon as I cut into it.

HazelNOTS

I don’t particularly like hazelnuts, so I’ve never used them at home. I’ve started to use them sparingly, because I’ve decided they’re okay in small doses. I had a recipe that called for roasting hazelnuts. First the nuts are roasted in the oven, then you rub them in a clean kitchen towel and the skins come right off. I went to the store, bought the nuts, and roasted them. Took them out of the oven… hey, why aren’t the skins coming off?

Turns out the hazelnuts need to be shelled before roasting. Duh.

Charred Tomatoes

I roasted a couple of trays of tomatoes, fresh from our garden today. We have a bumper crop of sauce tomatoes, and I didn’t feel like making a bunch of sauce. This is a great way to use them up. I like the roasted tomatoes just eaten plain as a snack, or on a good grilled cheese sandwich. Or on bruschetta. Don’t ask me why I took these smaller tomatoes and set the oven and timer for the same amount of time as what I use for larger tomatoes. Basic bone-headedness – nothing in the recipe calls for slow-roasting until almost ashy.

  • Slow-Roasted Summer Tomatoes (Fine Cooking #66, September 2004, p. 60)

Chocolate Stout Break

This is the second time I’ve made this cake, and it’s really not easy to work with. It fell in the middle and when I cut it in two, it wasn’t thick enough in the middle so I ended up with the top in pieces. And a gigantic hole on top. Luckily ganache covers all and it ended up looking and tasting okay in the end… but I’m not sure I’m going to try making this cake again.

Anti-Artisan Bread

I suspected this was a bad idea to start but decided to give it a try anyway. I had a batch of bread dough that had been in the refrigerator a bit too long, and from experience knew the dough would be a little loose and sloppy. I used plenty of flour and a banneton that Amy gave me. After about 45 minutes, I went to turn out the dough. See the horrific results below. What a mess to clean up, too.

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