Monday, December 10, 2012

Order your Christmas Cake Balls today!

The Holidays are fast approaching and in case you are still looking for something fabulous to give your loved ones, how about some yummy cake ball gift boxes?! Smiley

Monday, December 3, 2012

Failed Toffee Making = Toffee Cookies

Have you ever made homemade toffee? Well I recently attempted to make homemade toffee and it was semi unsuccessful the first round with my toffee separating from the butter creating an extra greasy layer around my toffee. However, the toffee itself was very good. So I managed to clean up most of the excess butter and chopped the toffee to be used in my favorite chocolate chip recipe, and so we have toffee chip cookies!

Toffee Chip Cookies, adapted from America's Test Kitchen

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup toffee
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
Sea salt for garnish

(1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

(2)Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the melted butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.

(3) Beat in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla until combined.

(4) Slowly add the dry mixture just until combined. Fold in the toffee and chips until incorporated.

(5) Scoop your dough onto a prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt, as desired. Bake cookies approximately 12-15 minutes, depending on size, mine were about 1.5 tbsp of dough.

Great way to re-purpose a boo boo batch of homemade toffee or when you just have a craving for some  buttery chocolatety toffee!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Homemade Toffee - Live and Learn

This is for you Kym!

Recently, a coworker of mine asked if I had a tried and true homemade toffee recipe. I hated to tell her that I have never made toffee before... And of course, with me all you have to do is plant a baking seed in my brain and sure enough it will blossom.

This is a fairly long blog post with very few pictures, sorry about that but the toffee making process happens so quick that I just didn't have time to capture individual steps. I set out my toffee making adventure with this recipe from The Coterie Blog. All toffee recipes start out with butter and sugar but then there are several various, some with corn syrup, some without, some with almonds and some with pecans. The possibilities really are endless. Heather's recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of butter. Since this was for experimental purposes only, I cut the recipe in thirds and only used 1/2 cup butter.  All was going well as the kitchen began to smell like delicious browned butter and sugar! But then it came to the "remove from heat and add vanilla" *dun dun*

Before I knew it, the toffee had separated and there was a gross nasty butter layer just floating on top of the beautiful golden toffee at the bottom of the saucepan. Not knowing what else to do, I poured the mixture onto my prepared Silpat and hoped for the best.

Four hours passed and my poor toffee pan was looking pretty nasty with the layer of butter surrounding what would have been my beautiful toffee. I did some research as to the causes of separation during candy making and I found my answers in this article. The sentence that caught my eye was "One of the most common triggers is when the candy has undergone an abrupt temperature shift..." I immediately thought of the vanilla and how the mixture separated right as the vanilla hit the toffee.

But I couldn't help but wonder why I had read several different recipes that included this exact same step, including a great looking one from Pioneer Woman. Whatever floats your boat, for some reason some things may work for others that just do not work for you. I am not even positive that I can blame the vanilla but my second time around when I omitted the vanilla, no separation occurred and I had a buttery golden delicious toffee! If you are set on adding the vanilla flavor then I would opt to either add the extract in the very beginning or using vanilla bean seeds. However, I opted to leave it out completed and I think it was super tasty!

I am really wishing that I had captured the gooey buttery mess that was my first try at toffee, but I was so ashamed that I cleaned up the gross mess before anybody could see, what can I say, nobody likes failure. However, I did chop up my first batch of toffee and made some yummy toffee cookies! So not a total failure. And now time for the recipe that worked for me!!

Homemade Toffee, adapted from Taste of Home, can easily be multiplied for large batches

1/2 cup butter, sliced in half inch or 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. water
Pinch of salt, generous pinch
1/4 cup toasted nuts of your choice (i.e., almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, etc.)
2/3 cup good quality chocolate, chopped fine
Sea salt for garnish

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Ladybug Birthday

UPDATE: Added more pictures of the cake!Smiley

A lot of my orders lately seem to revolve around babies and toddlers. Cute little rascals. This particular order was for precious little Isabella's 1st birthday party :) An old friend and colleague of mine called me a few weeks into my new job and was asking how things were going and if I was enjoying the work.  Asking about the move and how me and the ole boyfriend were doing. It did not take long before he admitted that he called with ulterior motives....

His baby girl's birthday was coming up and they wanted to place an order, but the catch was he needed me to deliver the cake to Houston and let me remind you that I just moved to Austin.  I sighed and asked what the date of the party was, and I guess it was his lucky day! I already had plans to go back to Houston that exact weekend for a friend's engagement party. Of course I teased him about this being his last order but that I would be happy to help.

The theme of the party was ladybugs! They requested one large cake for the party and then a simple elegant mini cake for the birthday girl to dive into. After all, it was her birthday and she is a princess so of course she deserve to have her own beautiful little mini cake to eat all by herself! :) Isabella really is a cutie! But we also had to make sure that the guests got to leave the party with their own goodie bag of delicious sugar cookies.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Taking a turn for Savory - Garlic Basil Wings

I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving and got to spend quality time with their loved ones, I know that I sure did!! SmileyI got back from Denver on Saturday after spending a whole 6 days with some awesome people who I am happy to call family! But since I was away for the holidays, and there were tons of us trying to cook in my cousins kitchen, I unfortunately do not have any fun Thanksgiving recipes to share with you. Although there is no turkey today, I have another great poultry recipe perfect for Game Day.

I may refer to football a lot on here, but really that is just because I live with a football fanatic and I am just along for the ride and honestly, don't know what the heck is going on half the time, so I play on my iPad make dinner or bake while the game is on. This is a glamed up chicken wing dish for those football days, yes I said days with an "S". Apparently football comes on more than just Sunday and Monday... he watches football all day Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Thursday. He is an addict.

But back to the wings. After we moved into the new house, we bought ourselves a little basil plant and have been nurturing it to life over the past few weeks. I wanted to make some sort of basil chicken wings because it just sounds awesome. After some internet searches, I came across this simple one from the Rookie Cookie. I did however add some jarred HOT jalapenos with the marinade cause wings aren't wings without having some spice!

Baked Garlic Basil Chicken Wings, adapted from Rookie Cookie

2.5 lbs chicken wings
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup of jarred HOT jalapenos (with the spicy juices!)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. chile powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

Final Tossing Sauce:
3 tbsp. olive oil
15 fresh basil leaves, minced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More Pancakes - Strawberry!

The boyfriend is so spoiled. After our successful Sunday breakfast last weekend, we were grocery shopping on Friday evening and he said so what are we gonna make for brunch this weekend...

He proceeded to ask how we could spruce up the pancakes this week, and he said strawberries. And he got strawberries, spoiled.

Strawberry Pancakes, adapted from Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup Strawberry Compote (recipe below), cooled to room temperature

Strawberry Compote:
1 lb. fresh strawberries, diced
1/4 cup sugar

The first thing I did for this recipe was to make the strawberry compote because I mixed the compote directly into the pancake batter. You can opt to make regular pancakes and then use the compote as your syrup. But we don't like soggy pancakes around here so we rarely poor sweet goodness over our pancakes, I just bake the sweetness into the pancakes. This also makes for great use of leftover pancakes because I can grab a handful of pancakes and eat them on the way to work Monday morning Smiley

(1) Strawberry Compote: Combine the diced strawberries and sugar into a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes until the mixture has combined and strawberries have softened.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Welcome Home - Pumpkin Pancakes

Let's start our November blog catch-up with a some simple pumpkin pancakes. The bf and I are making progress with our unpacking and this weekend, we broke in our new kitchen and made a nice Sunday breakfast followed by a long day at Ikea and back home for steaks and Sunday Night Football. We were discussing what to make for breakfast and I said I would make pancakes and the bf asked if we could spruce em up and what better for the month of November than PUMPKIN!

Because of our chaotic unpacking and running errands weekend, we forgot to buy syrup for our pancakes. Which is fine by me because I personally only use a tiny bit for just a touch of sweetness. Therefore, since we didn't have any maple goodness to put on the pancakes, I upped the amount of sugar that I would normally put. If you will be using syrup, reduce the amount of sugar to 3-4 tbsp of sugar.

Pumpkin Pancakes, adapted from America's Test Kitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 large egg
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 generous cup pumpkin puree

Friday, November 9, 2012

Falling Behind

Looking at my blog lately, I realized that I am majorly falling behind on my posts. A little over a year ago I updated my blog design and was really trying to kick-start my baking presence. However, for the year 2012 I have barely maintained 1 post per month compared to my 19 posts for 2011. I honestly have no excuse for the lack of posting except that I have been busy completing orders and then loose motivation to post about them because I am so tired. But it is time to really bring it home before 2012 ends. In order to make up for my neglect, I am going to try and post one entry every week during the month of November, eek. And, if I'm feeling really ambitious, I may even try to continue this goal through December.

The pressure begins.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Barely made it - Happy Halloween

The trick-or-treaters have come and gone. We just moved into our new place and are still living out of boxes, but that does not stop the ghosts and goblins from coming to our door screaming "Trick-or-Treat!" There were more kids than we expected, even with 7 large bags of candy and $50 dollars worth of sugar, we ran out of candy just after 8PM. The porch lights have been turned off and now I am sitting here trying to get my Halloween blog post in before the holiday comes and goes.

We had a Halloween potluck contest at work and of course, I entered the dessert category. When in doubt about what to bake, I tend to lean toward my good ole Tiramisu. This contest was no exception. But this time, I put a spooky twist on things and made my favorite dessert more Halloween-ie :)

I made individual servings of tiramisu topped with a dark chocolate Oreo-style cookie. The theme for my dessert was the song "Monster Mash."

♫ It was a graveyard smash, ♫ they did the mash, the monster mash! ♫

I don't even want to admit how much time I spent preparing all of the 30+ individual servings that I made. I was really hoping that all my work would win me first place in the dessert category... but unfortunately my graveyard smash only got me second place. The sad part of it all was that I never even got to try the cake that beat me, but I did get a picture of it because it was placed right behind my dish. See that big purple monster cake behind my graveyard? Yup, that was the dish that beat mine, just a classic white cake with buttercream frosting. I was told that the judges went back and forth between the tiramisu and the white cake but for some undisclosed reason the classic white cake beat my tiramisu by a hair. Oh well, can't win 'em all...

Happy Halloween!!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Yellow and Gray Baby Shower

One of the last orders that I took before moving to Austin was a lovely yellow and gray themed baby shower.  A friend of mine was throwing a baby shower for her sister who, bless her heart, has been on bed rest since about month 5 of her pregnancy.  The least we could do was throw her an awesome baby shower!! :) The theme was cute elephants and color scheme of yellow and gray.

This was the first time that I experienced the dreaded color bleeding between dark and light colors. It may be hard for you to tell, but as the creator I can tell you that the gray bleeding into the white stands out like an elephant in the room, hehe, at least to me. Given that I made these cookies in the thick of Houston summer heat, I will choke it up to the humidity in the air, but honestly I have no idea what the cause is. I will have to investigate the color bleeding situation further, and I'll report back.

Welcome Baby Ethan!!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Classic Yellow Cake

When it comes to celebrating a kids birthday sometimes it just calls for a good ole fashion yellow cake with chocolate frosting! That is exactly what my coworker requested for his nephew's birthday along with some yummy sugar cookie truffles :)

Nothing super fancy but a darn delicious and good looking cake! I used a simple technique commonly referred to as the "petal effect."  You can find a great tutorial here by The Hungry Housewife on how to achieve this simple yet elegant decorating technique. This was my first time trying this technique and I will say that it absolutely will not be my last! :)  I also made some sugar cookie truffles (not to be mistaken for cake balls) dipped in milk chocolate, yum yum! Sugar cookie truffles are essentially like the all popular "oreo truffles" but I used my own homemade sugar cookies instead of the Oreos.


Friday, August 3, 2012

BIG News!!!

It is with very mixed emotions that I announce this week was my last week working in "The Big 4" and I am MOVING!  Unless you are familiar with the accounting world or know somebody who is, "Big 4" really doesn't mean anything to you, but if you are knowledgeable of the accounting field, then you are well aware that Big 4 is a demanding, vigorous and rewarding place to work.  You endure stress, sweat, tears, and joy while struggling to also find your own work/life balance.

I started my career in Big 4 two years ago when I was fresh out of grad school. I came in with tons of ambition and really took the job on 110%. I have to admit that I have enjoyed the past two years thanks to my amazing co-workers even through all the headaches and stress, my co-workers made working in Big 4 that much better. I have truly enjoyed the company of my co-workers over the past two years, so much so that there were tears of sadness shed as I told my goodbyes... I truly have come to care for and admire all of my amazing co-workers, through all of the stress and long hours, my co-workers are the reason that I was able to make it through with my sanity intact. I wanted to make sure that with my departure, I was able to show my friends and co-workers just how much I appreciated them for being awesome! So I made them cake pops, LOTS of cake pops!! :) :)

The reason for my departure is very individualized and personal and I hope that my friends left behind will remain friends and can survive the struggle without my presence.  The boyfriend and I have been long distance ever since graduation when he stayed in the capital city Austin, TX and I moved back to our hometown Houston.  Two years of long distance has really taught us more about each other and in many ways we are now stronger because of the distance.  However, two years of long distances is plenty for me.  Although I wanted to be back in Austin, I was not willing to leave my family and friends to move back unless I was able to land an awesome job. I recognize that working in the Big 4 has taught me so much and staying would only further increase my knowledge so I was not going to settle for just any ole accounting job.  Lucky for me, the stars aligned and I was able to land an amazing job opportunity at a large technology company in Austin working in their tax department.  And so here we are... just moved in with the boyfriend and starting my new and EXCITING job Monday! Great things are happening :)

And a new journey in life begins! Super pumped!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

First Wedding Order

Another first for The Cookie Counter, a wedding! My brother's best friend, aka my other big brother, asked me to make a cake ball cake for his wedding reception.  I was overwhelmed by him just asking! Thankfully, they were going to have an actual wedding cake as well, and the cake balls would just be an added touch.  They wanted a 200 cake ball display that looked like a cake, but they did not want it to actually be cake.

The weeks leading up to the wedding consisted of calculating out what size structure would fit 200 cake balls and then creating the structure.  We went with styrofoam since that would be easy to stab sticks into.  The day before and the morning of the wedding were pure chaos!! Thank goodness that I have the best boyfriend ever, and he put up with my madness and helped bring me back to earth when I started to get away from myself. The assembling of the cake balls was suppose to be easy, but of course, roadblocks!

I had spent hours planning out the dimensions and measuring out where the sticks were to go so that I could essentially just place all the cake balls on easily once we arrived at the reception hall.....and ROADBLOCK!  It turns out, when I measured the structure I was only accounting for the exact size of the cake balls, and I forgot to include some space in between the cake balls!  Of course since the balls are well duh round, they cannot fit precisely up next to each other because the roundness of the balls protrudes out and prevents the balls from laying right up next to each other. So basically, they were NOT fitting on the structure!!!! AHHH! I was in a panic and was not able to think clearly. We had to repunch all of the holes in the styrofoam to be more spaced out, which also meant that we would not be able to fit 200 cake balls on the structure and the spacing between cake balls was not exact since we had to improvise. And when I say "we" I really mean mostly my boyfriend.  I was really having a panic attack and just couldn't stand the thought of something else going wrong.  I had to take a moment and step out of the room to breath, and while I was gone my amazing bf had made significant progress in the final assembly. Isn't he wonderful?! <3 

My big roadblock definitely caused for a stressful order but given the situation, it was handled quite nicely and even though the final product was not perfect, it sure was beautiful to look at!  I was very happy with the result and all of its flaws.  Perfect is boring, right?  The flaws give it personality ;) If you look closely at the picture below, you will notice a very large gap in between cake balls on the bottom row, oops! The Menu consisted of Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry and Red Velvet. The bridal colors were pink and pastel green. Overall, this order was by far my most stressful, but also the most rewarding.  Seeing the final structure, flaws and all, complete was such a tremendous feeling and I was able to admire all the hard work before enjoying a beautiful wedding.  

I learned a lot from this order and I am so thankful I was able to be part of their special day! Best wishes to the bride and groom! <3

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Baby Shower Treats

Some of you may recall the holiday "dump" of pictures that I posted a couple months back where I was too busy to write a post but I shared some pictures of what I have been up to. Well it's time to rewind a little and talk about the adorable baby shower cake that I made. I was approached to make my friend's baby shower cake and my only direction was a color scheme.  She told me that she trusted me and the decorations were free range as long as I included baby blue, pastel green and deep brown.

For anybody who has been asked to make a custom design for somebody who doesn't know what they want, you guys know the feeling.  I was going crazy trying to research designs and ideas and I would go back to my friend and ask what ideas she liked and the only response I would get was, yea any of those would work or they all sound great.... really not helping here. After enough pestering I was able to get her to decide on baby blocks as a "theme."  She also proceeded to tell me that she wanted a two tiered cake, which I had never done! As much as I love baking, I did not realize how many scary "firsts" I would be having when I decided to start taking orders.

Along with the cake, I was also asked to make cookie favor bags for all the guests. For the cookies, I also did not receive much guidance aside from the colors so I stuck with traditional baby items, such as bottles and bibs.  I threw in a few sailboats since the baby's nursery was going to be decorated with a sailboat theme.  The shower itself was not sailboat themed but the mom-to-be approved the idea of sailboats for cookies. Below you will see the final set-up at the shower with the baby block cake and cookie favors!! I must say that my final product was way cuter than what I had imagined in my mind; nothing is more satisfying than exceeding the high expectations that I put upon myself :)

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