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‘Tis the Season… for BAKING!!!

Hello folks!

It’s the season again for me to bake my heart out and make deliciousness for all my friends and family for Christmas. I love doing this, and while it is A LOT of work, it’s truly rewarding to see people enjoying a handmade, from the heart gift. Plus, I am “legitimately” a pastry chef, so I gotta produce deliciousness.

So, every year, I make Cruschikis. I remember, as a kid, making them every so often with my mom, and vaguely remember her mom making them. Being just a little Polish, I feel I need to make these every year to reconnect with those memories and honor my grandmother (hopefully she sees how I’m doing and is pleased). They are delicious crunchy fried bites of dough made up of egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, sour cream, booze (I use Souther Comfort) and flour. Mix it all up, roll it out, flip it through and fry in crisco. Yes, crisco. I hate using it, but get the best results from it. Dust with powdered sugar and yum! You can always tell when someone eats one of these… they’ve got the badge of honor on their shirt as a light dusting that’s attempted to be brushed off. Wear it proud!

I also like to make these brownies… I call them evil brownies because they really are. You can’t stop at just one, but in all honesty, my husband and I have the delight of eating the edges. They get cut into 2 inch pieces with much effort. There’s a lot of deliciousness happening on top. This is one of the few things I still use a mix for. I haven’t ever been disappointed with the brownie mix I use for these. Yes, I am capable of using a recipe for this, but as you will see after this little tidbit, I baked a lot and had to cut one little corner. I use the Hershey brownie mix you can get in Sam’s Club. They have 4 pouches in each box. I use 3 per sheet pan. Mix according to directions, spread in pan (prepared with butter and parchment paper)… then the fun or “magic” happens. Sprinkle the spread out batter with chocolate chips, then pecans, then shredded coconut, then drizzle that with sweetened condensed milk. Bake and enjoy the aroma of this awesome treat. It’s so good! The edges are the best part, as I mentioned a few lines up so be prepared to bag up those goodies and store them in a ziploc baggie in the back of your freezer for later consumption… if they make it that far.

Next up… a new recipe. I had been making the same things year after year, and aside from my first two goodies, I needed a change. So, with all the whites l had left over from Cruschiki making I made Peppermint Meringue “kisses”. They aren’t as hard as anyone would expect. Before going to culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education a few years back, I figured it would be difficult to make the really seemingly difficult pastries and desserts… not so. Everything is methodical. With patience and understanding of  your ingredients and the concept of mise en place. It’s not that difficult to produce beautiful desserts. So without further adieu… here they are!

Next new recipe tried is “thin mints“. They were awesome and so easy to make. I love slice and bake cookies. You make the dough when you have time, let it chill for one hour to overnight, slice and bake. Easy peasy! I have a ruler just for baking so it’s got little gouges in it at various increments. It works out well. I like to keep things like that separate. No need to use a ruler for measuring paper and get cookie dough on it right? Right! These little gems were drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with either pink/red sprinkles or green sprinkles. Didn’t want to go overboard, less is more!

The next two cookie treats I make were from the Momofuku Milk Bar. I honestly don’t know why I’ve yet to visit this awesome place. I would very much like to stop in some time. I made Cinnamon-Sugar Squares, which if anyone that knows me really well knows, I LOVE LOVE LOVE cinnamon! I love the smell, I love adding it appropriately to baked goods, it’s my favorite… clearly. Of all the spices in my kitchen, it’s my favorite… but don’t tell cardamom, I hear they get jealous. My husband tried these little heavenly morsels of cinnamony goodness and his words were, “they taste like a healthier churro”. They’re fantastic! Highly recommend these. They came out a little spongy, with a lightly crunchy top.

The other recipe I tried from Momofuku are their Snappy Ginger Snaps. Another slice and bake recipe. Win-win for me. I finished making the thin mint recipe and while that was chilling I made the ginger snap recipe. YUM! I love ginger snaps. Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved them. My father’s father had this great cookie jar (which I have now) and he’d have ginger snaps every time we were visiting. I remember the sound the lid make when you took it off and the rustling of the cookies when reaching in to grab that spicy snack. This particular recipe, however, was amped up a bit. I felt a kick in my mouth a few times after eating one. Yum! Not super snappy, I liked them softer this time around. With the little bit of sugar on top before baking, they came out with a little bit of a crackle. Perfect for the ginger zing you get.

Finally, I made Neapolitan Cookies. I love the colors of neapolitan ice cream. Ever since my daughter was born I’ve grown to like and truly love pink. I don’t run around in pink track suits, but I’ve been known to wear pink now and then. Instead of jumping in to using the dough in a speckled look, I rolled out sheets like sugar cookies and layered them to chill stacked on top of each other. When they were firm enough I sliced off the jagged edges and swirled those together just enough to make a log for slicing later. The nice straight edged shape was then cut in to two inch wide strips, which were then cut in to 1/4″ pieces and baked. Once cooled, they were tasted, quality control never hurt anyone right? It tasted like the ice cream, minus brain freeze.

In case you are wondering, I have a 6 quart Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I’ve yet to name her, but she is reliable as all get out. For most of these recipes, all but the meringues actually, I used the Beater Blade. I’m not getting paid or free stuff from them, but I feel it’s necessary to praise this product. It is phenominal. If you don’t know what it is, check it out, but I will also explain it here. It is a great paddle attachment with what feels like your standard rubber spatula running along it’s length that scrapes the bowl as it mixes  your dough or whatever you’re mixing. I am in love with how thoroughly it gets all your ingredients incorporated without lumps or random dry or wet spots in the dough or batter. No wasted product is always good. Nothing is stuck to the bottom of the bowl. Truly great product.

Hope you enjoyed this installment of my crafty life. I’m working on a crochet project I hope to write about in the next week or so. Change things up a bit.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays, Happy, healthy and save New Years (if I don’t write before then of course)!

Big hugs to you all.

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About chitterchattercrafter

I'm a mommy, a baker, a cake decorator. Visit my cake-folio site at www.jennifercastro.com. I like to unwind by either crocheting or reading. I have two awesome kids and a wonderful husband. My current job has me being a graphic designer and photographer for a beauty catalog. Life is a journey, so I don't know where I see myself in 5 years.

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