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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Megan’s Chocolate Craving Cookies



Megan’s Chocolate Craving Cookies:
On a cool July afternoon, (high of 70) I was hit by a monstrous chocolate craving. I tried waiting it out. I talked on the phone with my best friend for an hour and a half. When we got off the phone, surprise! I still wanted chocolate.  I knew I had milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips in the pantry, but I also knew a handful of chips wouldn’t cut it. I decided this unseasonably cool weather was a great excuse to experiment with a cookie recipe. I started my favorite chocolate chip recipe and added two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder along with the flour.  Then I folded in a heaping cup of milk chocolate chips and heaping cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I grabbed my trusty medium scoop (from earlier blog posts, you know scoops are a great tool for even cookie sizes) and went to get out my cookie sheet. I could not find my favorite cookie sheet anywhere! Expletives were flying out of my mouth. I wanted a cookie so bad.  My stoneware cookie sheets were already in the preheated oven (*I'll explain that later). I was so desperate for a cookie; I grabbed my brownie pan and scooped out six cookies to pop in the oven while I continued the hunt.  Ten LONG minutes later, with a cool breeze coming from the window, I was pulling these heavenly cookies out of the oven. They were so chocolaty; I had to line the rest of the cookie sheets with parchment paper.
I can proudly say, these babies really hit the spot! AND, they got rave reviews from everyone who tried them. My step-dad doesn’t even like chocolate chip cookies and he went back for seconds.


The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe:
1 cup softened butter                      1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar                          2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract                        3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda                          2 tsp. hot water
½ tsp. salt                                      2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
(To make Megan’s Chocolate Craving cookies; be sure to make the changes listed above. These cookies are pretty bad ass on their own)
1     Preheat oven to 350°.
2     Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
3     Beat in eggs, on at a time.
--   4.  Stir in the vanilla extract.
5    Dissolve baking soda in 2 tsp. hot water
6   Add the baking soda mix to the batter, along with the salt.
7   Stir in flour (and cocoa, if you’re feeling the chocolate craving)
8   Stir in the chocolate chips.
9   Drop by the spoonful (or scoopful, they really are handy dandy kitchen tools) on to ungreased cookie sheets. I used parchment to line the cookie sheets for my chocolate craving cookies.
10.Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
This recipe makes about 4 dozen freaking awesome cookies. They freeze well, if you want to set aside a dozen for a rainy day.

  Happy Baking! Remember to subscribe to our blog for delicious recipes and excuses to bake. Let us know if you have any questions or you'd like us to try out any recipes for you.



*Stoneware can be stored in the oven and actually helps maintain even temperatures. The stoneware actually reduces the amount of energy it takes to keep the oven hot.  I have a gas oven, so this is especially important. They only time this backfires is if you don’t know that you need to use one until it is already 350°.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Caramel-Ginger Cookie-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

It's quite a mouthful...to say and eat...and you won't regret trying this recipe!


With any ice-cream maker, ice cream is super easy to make!  It takes some waiting time for the ingredients to cool, etc., but there is hardly any actual work involved, just patience.

I usually allot 2 days for ice cream-making.  My Kitchen Aid bowl has to be frozen for long enough, and my cooked custard needs to chill in the fridge.

Yummy ice creams happen for those who wait!

To read more on ice cream-making and explore another recipe, check out a previous blog post: 
 and pardon the wonky camera filter :)

In this post, I'll walk you through the steps of making a caramel ice cream, and also reiterate some general ice cream-tips.

Then you can make and eat this:


I think this is the last recipe I'll try from: 
This book as served me well, and it's time to end on a high note.  

Caramel-Ginger Cookie-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream:
time-consuming, but easy

Needed ingredients: 
2 cups heavy cream*
1 cup whole milk*
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 soft-molasses cookies**
1/2 cup ganache(half of recipe) : 10 oz bitterseet chocolate and 1 cup plus 2 TBSP heavy cream***

* Feel free to play around with substitutions here.  I use some half and half, etc.  It changes the richness of your ice cream a little, but not much, and is worth a calorie exchange if you're really watching.  I don't recommend using skim milk--too watery.  

**If you want to go all out, you can find the recipe for these cookies here.  This makes the recipe take even longer, mind you, because you have to make the cookies first.  For this recipe, I spared no expense.  But more likely, next time, I'll just see what I can find at the ole' grocery store.  Please note the amount of cookies used will vary based on the size of the cookies you put in your ice cream.  It's your ice cream.  Use your own discretion as to how much cookie filling you want in it. :-)

***Use that same discretion on the amount of ganache you put into your ice cream.  I made the whole recipe, so I put the whole recipe into my ice cream.  I did not regret the extra chocolate!


So like I said before, ice cream takes time to make, but is really simple.  You heat some stuff, temper some stuff, stir some stuff, and eat.

Like so:

Stir together milk and cream (or half and half or whatever you're using) in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, stir together sugar and water in medium, stainless steal saucepan. (Like most of us have anyway.)  Cook over low to medium-low heat until the caramel is dark amber in color.  DO NOT STIR.

I was scared to make a caramel, so I thought you might be too.  Fear not.  Leave it alone, and the magic happens.  Here's what you can expect:
Not a whole lot of action, but it starts to bubble.  DO NOT STIR.

Oooh a little more bubbly.  Some more action in the pot.  Watch it, admire it, DO NOT STIR.

Now it's really going.  Guess what?  Still DO NO STIR.

Oh yes, now we're cooking.  Sugar's melting point is VERY HIGH so DO NOT TOUCH and DO NOT STIR. But watch it.  Once your caramel gets to this point, it can burn really quickly.  Keep an eye on it.

This is a light caramel color.  Yummy.  The directions said: "Dark Amber"

So here is where I said: DONE!

Now we're going to temper some stuff.

Tempering is slowing introducing cooking mixtures of different temperatures.  We do this in small amounts to slowly let the mixes marry and reach a common temperature.  If we were to be impatient and dump the caramel into the cream mixture, we might curdle something or separate something, and those are all bad somethings.

Remove your caramel from heat and CAREFULLY pour in about 1/4 c of the hot cream mix. The caramel will bubble fiercely (good work, recipe!) so do this SLOWLY.  



Gradually add in the rest of the cream mix in 1/4 cup increments, stirring until all is well combined.  The caramel should dissolve.  If it doesn't, heat the mix A LITTLE again while you stir.  

I am lucky enough to have a 1/4 cup measuring ladle (as pictured above).  Use whatever ladle you have.  The 1/4 cup measurement doesn't have to be exact, just slowly introduce the cream to the caramel and you should be fine.

You have the start of a caramel ice cream!



Next, whisk together the egg yolks and salt in a large bowl until smooth.

We're going to temper the eggs now and slowly heat them to the same temperature as your caramel mixture.  If we do this too fast we'd have scrambled eggs.  Eew.  So, again, take your time.



Drizzle the caramel cream in with the yolks slowly to temper them.  Whisk together.  Add a little more.  Whisk a little more.  You should be an expert at this by now.



Once the eggs are warmed up, pour everything back in the big saucepan and heat over low heat until the mixture is thick and coats the back of your spoon.  STIR CONSTANTLY.  
I run my finger down the middle to check.  You want to see the line distinctly.  



Strain your mix into a bowl and add the vanilla.  
This strain is to make sure any un-melted chunks of caramel, or scrambled egg (hey, we're only human) don't make it into your final ice cream.  Don't skip this step.

Cover the bowl and let it chill in your refrigerator for at least 6 hours, up to overnight.  See?  Takes time, but it's not hard. :-)  


The next day...


Break a part your cookies into chunks for your ice cream and make the ganache:

Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 20 second intervals.  Stir between each until smooth.  Set aside and let it cool.

I microwaved it 2 1/2 times:  20 sec, 20 sec, 10 sec and it was melted.



Get out your handy dandy ice cream maker.  I don't like to waste a lot of time, so assemble my bowl quickly and make sure the ice cream mix is ready to pour in.



Mix according to manufacturer's instructions.

I stirred in the cookies and chocolate the last 10 or so minutes of stirring time, then pop everything in the freezer for at least an hour.

Like I said before, I went ahead and used all of the chocolate.  I stirred some in, so it got cold and broke into little pieces throughout the ice cream, and dropped some chunks in to find--like a prize!--while I ate my bowl of ice cream later.

I also used some soft cookies and some that were baked a little longer for crunch.  I liked the varying textures in my ice cream.


The caramel flavor is soo delicious and smooth.  The cookies add just a hint of ginger and spices for a savory element, and the chocolate balances everything out.  

My husband and I love this ice cream!


Caramel-Ginger Cookie-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream:
time-consuming, but easy

Needed ingredients: 
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 soft-molasses cookies
1/2 cup ganache(half of recipe) : 10 oz bitterseet chocolate and 1 cup plus 2 TBSP heavy cream

Stir together milk and cream (or half and half or whatever you're using) in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, stir together sugar and water in medium, stainless steal saucepan. (Like most of us have anyway.)  Cook over low to medium-low heat until the caramel is dark amber in color.  DO NOT STIR.

Remove your caramel from heat and CAREFULLY pour in about 1/4 c of the hot cream mix. The caramel will bubble fiercely (good work, recipe!) so do this SLOWLY.  Gradually add in the rest of the cream mix in 1/4 cup increments, stirring until all is well combined.  The caramel should dissolve.  If it doesn't, heat the mix A LITTLE again while you stir.  

Next, whisk together the egg yolks and salt in a large bowl until smooth.  Drizzle the caramel cream in with the yolks slowly to temper them.  Whisk together.  Add a little more.  Whisk a little more.  

Pour everything back in the big saucepan and heat over low heat until the mixture is thick and coats the back of your spoon.  STIR CONSTANTLY.  

Strain your mix into a bowl and add the vanilla.   Cover the bowl and let it chill in your refrigerator for at least 6 hours, up to overnight.

The next day, prepare the ganache and let sit at room temperature.  Mix your ice cream according to your manufacturer's instructions.  Don't forget your cookie and chocolate add-ins!

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Chewy Molasses Cookies


Oh they're good.  Any time of year--not just Christmas in July--good.



Just as the name suggests, they are chewy with a little bit of ginger spice.  Look at the sugar crystals on top.

Delicious.

Really want to turn them into a summer treat?  Use them in ice cream!  (A teaser for my next post!)

or just eat them plain!

But first you have to make them.  and I'll help you with that.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 60-90 minutes (dough chill time included)

Again, this yummy recipe was pulled from Erin's book:


This time, I followed the recipe exactly.  I'll share some of my baking tips as we go through this, however.

Recipe at the end of this post.

First, gather your ingredients: 
Flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves, veggie shortening, butter, light brown sugar, molasses, 1 egg, and white sugar for dipping


Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
*Baking tip*
Many bakers use too much flour because they take their measuring cups and scoop it into the flour container.  This packs the flour and can add more than you want/need.  I use a spoon to pour into my measuring cups, level it off, then add it to my mixing bowls.



Beat shortening and butter with paddle mixer on medium-high speed until smooth.  This picture is what I deem "smooth."



Add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Again, I consider this to fit those qualifications.
*Baking tip* 
Don't forget to use your spatula to occasionally scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl and make sure it all gets incorporated.  (See my spatula in the pic above?)

Pour in molasses and beat until smooth.  Mix in egg, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  (It's awfully nice of the recipe to remind you to scrape your bowl at this point.  This is in case you don't follow my baking tips and do it on your own anyway.)

Reduce mixing speed to low and gradually add flour mix just until dough comes together.  Scrape into medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 30 min-1 hour.

NOW preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
*Baking tip*
Have your oven preheated to the desired temperature for at least ten minutes before you actually start baking.  This insures that your oven is evenly heated.




  

Line baking sheets with parchment.  Shape dough into walnut-sized balls, dip into granulated sugar, and arrange on baking sheet 2 inches a part.

Upon the suggestion of fellow Gingerbuilder, Erin, I rolled the whole ball in the sugar rather than just "dipped".  MORE SUGAR!

*Baking tip*
Get ice cream scoops of all sizes and use them to evenly select your cookie dough amounts.  This makes your cookies more consistent in size for baking times and serving.  If you use a scoop that is smaller or larger than "walnut-size", in this case, be sure to watch your cooking times.




Bake for 10 minutes until light brown and puffed, and the cracks appear moist.


Store in an air tight container.

I always recommend tasting some when they're warm.  Quality control and all :-)



Soft Warm Molasses Cookies by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn   
Makes approx. 35 cookies

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
granulated sugar for dipping

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.

Beat shortening and butter with a paddle mixer on medium-high speed until smooth.  Add born sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Pour in molasses and beat until smooth.
Mix in the egg, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, just until the dough comes together.  

Scrape into a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill 30 min-1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Shape the dough into walnut-sized balls, dip in granulated sugar and arrange on baking sheet 2 inches a part.  Bake for 10 minutes until light brown, puffed, and cracks appear moist.  Store up in an airtight container.  




Sunday, May 18, 2014

How-to Use Raspberry Filling in a Cake (without it running everywhere)

I'll Give you a hint.  This:


 is a bad idea.


Look closely at the picture.  Too much filling, no border, no nothing.  Oops I forgot that.  Easily fixed:



Meh.  Sorta.

In the end, I had to take out some of that amazing filling.  (and add it to another part of the cake!)

Here's how you fill a cake:

  1. apply your crumb coat!  After you slice a cake in half, put a thin later of icing on the inside of the cake.  Then refrigerate the cake or let it sit so that the icing hardens a little.  This will keep your cake from absorbing all of that yummy filling.
  2. Pipe a THICK border of icing around the outside of your cake.  (see second photo above)  You really want it to go in about 1/4 inch-1 inch (depending on the size of the cake.)  You may even spread some icing on with a spatula.  Make it way more than the picture shows :-)
  3. Again, let this icing set up and crust a little.
  4. Spread your filling within the icing border.  You want to err on the side of thin.  Raspberry filling (specifically, but any liquid filling) has lots of flavor.  You don't want to overwhelm the cake with filling.  Also, you don't want it bust past your icing dam because you've put on too much.
  5. Now you should be good to go.  Slap (by which I mean GENTLY LAY) the other half of the cake on and begin your overall icing.  Again, remember the crumb coat, then the pretty icing layer on top of that.  
  6. DON'T PRESS DOWN TOO HARD.  Squishing a cake makes it not pretty and will make any filling ooze out the sides. 





Sunday, April 27, 2014

Breaking in a Kitchen

A move does a busy Gingerbuilder make!

This Gingerbuilder sold her house in December and closed and moved to a new (and beautiful!) home in February.  Think back to the many snowy, icy weekends from this hard Ohio winter.  Yep, that's when we moved.

and it sleeted.

but the other Gingerbuilders came and helped!  and we had wine.




Erin's caption: Who moves in an ICE STORM?!












So I hope they forgive me.


Anyway, needless to say, moving everything we owned takes some time to unpack and organize...(still not completely there...)

I'm sorry to say this took away from our gingerbread time.  Although we still found time to decorate an Easter House, so we are now back on track!


I did keep my baking tools in use by helping a friend decorate cupcakes for her daughter's birthday party.



I also broke in my oven making 2 cakes for friends.

Actually, I broke in my oven by baking brownies...I had to learn the hot spots after all!  My husband and I ate those.  (the sacrifices we make...)

THEN I made some cakes!

First, a Tommy Bahama Pina Colada Cake for a surprise birthday gift!


Then, a TARDIS cake for a birthday!!



I have a Nursing School graduation cake to make in May, as well as treats for a college graduation and bridal shower.  Be sure to stay tuned!

AND I have a gingerbread surprise in the works!  Planning! Planning!


Summer is just around the corner.  You can be sure that our kitchen will get lots of use!



and not just from me!  Gingerbuilder husbands too :-D


These pictures and more can be viewed on our Instagram account.  Follow Gingerbuilders!  

Please be sure to leave comments of encouragement or questions.  We are excited to talk to you!

and contact us for any dessert designs you desire!  (I love alliteration.)



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Easter Bunny's House



Gingerbread day! It’s basically a holiday that we celebrate multiple times a year.  A lot of planning and forethought goes into the day. Like any holiday, you make grocery lists, shop, make to-do lists, prepare and anticipate. And like other holidays, you do all this in the midst of other life events, work, social engagements, family obligations, etc.  As the day approaches, and the real work starts, you look forward to spending time with your family (my gingerbread family).  What is unique about our team, or family if you’d rather, is the assignment of roles.  With most holidays, as the years pass, certain people get assigned certain roles (the cranberry sauce, the green bean casserole, the pumpkin pie). That’s not really how we work. Sure, Stephanie stores the bulk of our supplies and tools (she has the most room).  But, we try to take turns designing and baking and hosting.  (I get out of hosting mostly because my apartment is small, unorganized and not child friendly).  This time, I suggested we do the Easter Bunny’s house as our spring house.  Erin offered to host and bake the house. She wanted to calculate the PPH (Price Per House). I had found these adorable Linzer cookie cutters,
so I offered to make little gingerbread decorations for the “yard.” Stephanie, who moved recently, was on snacks (probably the most important job).

Fast forward to the night before Gingerbread day (and the end of Family Conference week at work  for me): I’m exhausted from the work week and REALLY don’t want to make an entire batch of gingerbread dough. I don’t have any shortening and I’m way too lazy to go the store a whole 2 miles away. I start thinking of ways around it, even texting Erin to see if she’ll have some extra dough (Ha! actual dough, not money). I’m sitting on my loveseat, making my list for Gingerbread day when the idea hits me. What if I make actual Linzer cookies!? But I can make them with gingerbread spices instead of boring regular butter cookies (actually, the original is delicious, too).  Energized by this amazing idea, I get to work creating spicy Linzer cookie dough. I sub out some sugar for molasses to give it extra gingerbread flavor. I’m careful to record my actual measurements, instead of cooking with reckless abandon like I normally do. The result is mouthwatering and melts in your mouth good.  It also spurned an addition to my old saying. Necessity is the mother of invention, but laziness is its cousin.
  

Begin gingerbread day at Erin’s: she “effortlessly” assembles the house, minus the roof, before I even get there. Steph had class in the morning, so she joined us a little later (with cheeses!).  My morning got a slow start due the lovely Ohio springtime pollen count.  The cookies are quickly approved by Erin and our official taste testers, George and Victoria.  I fell in love with these pearls and sixlets,  and I knew we had to use them on the house. Erin  
applied the icing to the roof while I dotted it with the pearls. We stood back for a second to admire our brilliance (one of these days, I’ll get the hang of modesty). We mixed up some spring green icing and added grass to our landscape. Erin designed a lovely path across the lawn.
What about the wine? Isn’t here usually wine at these things? Not to worry. Let me take this opportunity to introduce you to the Gingerbread Boy: Take as much or as little coffee as you want, add a good amount of milk (or creamer) and add at least a shot of Gingerbread Kaluah. Serve hot or over ice. Yum! 


I put on some gloves to dye gum paste for the carrots. I figured the Easter Bunny had to have carrots. George asked why I was wearing gloves. When I explained that I had to wear the gloves to work with the food coloring, he decided to put on gloves himself so he could “touch things.” Stephanie arrived 
and we took a cheese and cookie break. Getting back to work, we created a mail box for the Easter bunny and started decorating the Easter egg shaped cookies. Funnily enough, we had no plan for the eggs. Sure, they were cute and delicious, and George got to help, but where are they going to go? Then I had another “Aha!”moment. What if Easter eggs are actually grown in a garden in the Easter Bunny’s back yard? Boom! We love it. We had a little problem with a melting egg (patience is a virtue), but I think it’s safe to say that the Easter egg garden is adorable.
I hope you agree! Remember to subscribe to our blog for more delicious tales and updates.

Much Love and Happy Easter! ~Megan