When in Doubt…Leave it at 350

baking, cooking, and other adventures

Buche de Noel aka Yule Log December 31, 2008


After making the French Yule Log for the Daring Bakers’ December Challenge, I decided that I needed to make last Decembers Challenge too.  Which is the non frozen type of Yule Log.  I got all of my tools together and came up with a game plan.  I knew that this recipe was going to make a BIG log.  I decided to divide the log in half and ice one with Chocolate Buttercream and the other with the Coffee Buttercream that was recommended.  I filled both logs with a Chocolate Ganache that I lightened with Whipped Cream. (more…)


Tuesdays With Dorie: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake December 30, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Tuesdays With Dorie — pastrybrush @ 7:00 am
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tuesdayswithdorieThis weeks Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Anne of AnneStrawberry.  She chose Dorie’s Tall and Creamy Cheesecake which is located on pages 235-237 in Baking: From My Home to Yours. Right off the bat when I saw this recipe I knew that I was going to make a plan cheesecake with a raspberry sauce on top.  My plans changed when Maria, DrFaulken’s mom, presented me with a container of Guava Paste and told me that her brother use to make great guava cheesecake.

100_1836So began the research on how much guava paste to add.  I ended up searching all over the internet to find a recipe similar to Dorie’s so that the cheesecake would turn out okay.  I was a little skeptical since I have never had a guava or really know what it tastes like.  At first I was looking for a recipe that I could use all the paste in but then i realized that the container was 21 oz and that wasn’t going to happened. I finally found a recipe that was similar and decided to add approximately 12 oz of the paste to the cream cheese at the beginning of the recipe.  I also add the juice of half of a lime since most of the online recipes had either a little bit of lemon or lime juice in them.

100_1839The cheesecake turned out fantastic and the taste was awesome.  The only problem was cutting the damn thing.  The cheesecake was so creamy when you tried to pull your knife out the whole insides of the cheesecake would be stuck to the knife.  I also think my crust was a little thin so next time I am going to make a thicker crust for the cheesecake and actually freeze the cheesecake before I slice into it so that it makes pretty slices and not crazy deformed slices 🙂


The Daring Bakers’ Challenge: French Yule Log December 28, 2008


This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand (more…)


Cookie Exchange December 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — pastrybrush @ 7:00 am

100_1788After the 2nd Annual Jam and Jelly Exchange was successful, a fellow blogger suggested a cookie exchange for the holiday season.  Molly of Batter-Splattered again organized another exchange and this time it was for a dozen cookies and an ornament from the country/state/whatever you live in.  I mailed my cookies out a few weeks ago to Lauren of Sassy Molassy, and completely forgot to take pictures.  But thank godness she did and she posted them 🙂  I ended up sending Lauren an ornament and a few different types of cookies: Italian Fig Spirals, Butterballs, Oatmeal Raisin with Cinnamon Chips, and Andes Mint Chocolate chip cookies.  Cruise on over to her site to see how she liked everything 🙂

100_1789I got a great surpise when I got home from work on Saturday, my cookies were here.  I receive my cookies and fudge 🙂 from Jennifer of Cooking For Comfort.  I was so excited when I opened the box.  I had a container of homemade fudge and a Thumbprint cookie that I would discribe as a butter cookie rolled in coconut.  Some of the cookies were filled with Apricot Jam and other were filled with Raspberry (I think).  Everything was AWESOME.  The cookies were in a cute little tin and the fudge was in a decorative container too.  Jennifer sent me a card too and it is so pretty, and it looks homemade 🙂  I have to say just from what Jennifer sent me she must be a great cook and very crafty.  Thank you so much Jennifer.


Tuesdays with Dorie: Real Butterscotch Pudding December 23, 2008

Filed under: Tuesdays With Dorie — pastrybrush @ 7:00 am

tuesdayswithdorieThis weeks Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Donna of Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases.  She chose Dorie’s Real Butterscotch Pudding, which is located on page 386 in Baking: From My Home to Yours. I was very intrigued when I saw that we were going to make this recipe.  All I could think was what is REAL butterscotch pudding.  I guess since the only thing that I am used to is the store bought boxes of jello pudding which I LOVE.  I guess you could say I love anything butterscotch 🙂



Holiday Cookies Part 1 December 22, 2008

100_1765OH Holiday Cookies how you took up a week of my life


Oh how I have been putting off writing two entries on my cookies 🙂

I guess I got exhausted from making all the holiday cookies and then making dessert for Dancer’s Avon Party.  Lately I haven’t been making much of anything because for the past few days I have had a problem moving my neck.  It just started randomly one morning.  I was unable to really look down or touch my left ear to my left shoulder.  I have no idea what happened, but I am slowly gaining movement back.


Anise Cookies

For the Vegan Bloggers out there a few of these would be very easy to VEGANIZE.  Especially the Butterballs 🙂

For this holiday season I actually didn’t make as many varieties of cookies as I usually do.  A few of the cookies that I made are actually “Secret” family recipes so I won’t be sharing the recipes for them: Anise Cookies, Anise Walnut Biscotti, and Hazelnut-Chocolate Chip Biscotti.  The Hazelnut Biscotti actually are a variation of the Anise Walnut Biscotti.  I usually make the base for the anise biscotti and then add whatever flavors I like.  I have been known to make Cinnamon Chip Biscotti, Cherry-Almond Biscotti, Cranberry-Walnut, Chocolate Chip-Walnut, etc.  If you have your own Biscotti base recipe you can just experiment with flavors like I do and you can usually never go wrong 🙂

There are a few cookies that I made this holiday season that I have already posted about.  The first cookie is Anise Pizzelles.  I have been eating anise pizzelles since before I can remember.  My Grandma’s next door neighbor use to make them and bring them over all the time when I was a kid.  I thought about using my Stovetop Pizzelle Iron to make these, but once I started making all the other cookies the last thing I wanted to do was mess with that.  I ended up getting out my electric iron and that worked out perfect.  Especially since this time I decided to put the dough in the fridge overnight.  Since the dough was chilled I was able to roll it into balls and it made the time pass a lot quicker.  It only took about 25 minutes to make all of them instead of the usual hour and the clean up was so much easier.

The other cookie is actually a biscotti.  I ended up making the Cherry- Almond Lenox Biscotti from Tuesdays With Dorie.  This time around I only made a half batch and they didn’t turn out as pretty so the ugly ones have taken up residence in my stomach 🙂  They are so tasty.  For the recipe just cruise on over to the presenter for that week and search their site.  It should be there.  Or just buy Dorie’s book already, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

One of my favorite cookies that my mom would make when I was growing up is what she called Butterballs (recipe at the bottom of the post).  The rest of the world refers to these as Mexican or Italian Wedding Cookies.  I have seen a bunch of different recipes out there for these cookies and they all are the same basic recipe except using a different nut and they have a different name.  For the version that I make I use finely ground walnuts, and do a double coating of powdered sugar (once when they come out of the oven and after they have cooled).  It makes them look prettier and you can catch if someone has been sneaking in to eat your cookies because they will be covered in powdered sugar 🙂

100_1731A couple of years ago around Christmas time I was at the grocery store and found Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips, and made cookies out of them.  From that moment on I was on the look out for the Andes Baking Chips.  In recent years they have been hard to find so anytime I would see them I would buy 5 bags.  So this year I had a backstock and ended up making 3 batches of Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I have found if I use my small cookie scoop to scoop them out that they make a perfect cookie shape.  I have only made one modification to the recipe.  I use unsalted butter plus 1/2 tsp salt instead of salted butter.

Next cookie, ITALIAN FIG SPIRALS (recipe at the bottom of the post).  I found these cookies while looking through Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies. If you do not own this book you should go out and buy it right now.    These cookies are probably one of the most popular that I make.  If you like Fig Newtons these are BETTER.  I have made these with dried Mission Figs which give you the dark purple color and then recently I started making them with a dried White Fig and they have an orange color and still taste fantastic 🙂

I have already mentioned in a previous entry that I tried my hand at Venetians (aka Rainbow Layer) this year.  They turned out fantastic even with the disaster that was the red layer.  I was so surprised.  If you don’t know what a Venetian (recipe at the bottom of the post) is it is a three layer almond cake with the layers being green, white and red to represent the Italian Flag.  In between each layer is a thin layer of Apricot Jam and then it is covered in chocolate.  The incident was the last layer to go one.  I was in a hurry and didn’t let the layer cool completely and when I went to put it on it completely fell apart all over the counter.  So I pretended it was a puzzle and put it back together and pushed it down. Actually what surprised me more was that I didn’t care or try to throw out the cake.  I was actually calm and tried to fix it.  Everyone that tried these “cookies” LOVED them.  The best compliment was when everyone at work said they tasted better then the ones we carried, included my boss and the pastry chef.  TAKE THAT!!!!  Too bad they won’t let me make them for the store :/


Source: My Mother

1 cup unsalted butter,  room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely ground walnuts

extra confectioners’ sugar for decorating

Preheat oven to 375°F

Cream the butter and sugar until combined.  Add a pinch of salt, vanilla, and the flour.  Mix until everything is combined.  Then add in the walnuts and mix until they are fully incorporated.  Scoop out 1 tbsp at a time and roll into a ball.  Place on a parchment line cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Place extra confectioners’ sugar in a paper bag or ziploc bag.  When cookies come out of the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  Then toss them in confectioners’ sugar until fully coated.  Let them cool to room temperature and toss them in confectioners’ sugar again.

100_1713Italian Fig Spirals

Source: Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies page 167

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 egg

3 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely snipped dried figs

1/3 cup orange marmalade

1/4 cup orange juice

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and baking powder.  Bea until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon.  Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Meanwhile, for filling, in a small saucepan combine figs, marmalade, and orange juice.  Cook and stir just until boiling; remove from heat.  Set aside to cool

Divide dough in half.  Roll half of the dough between pieces of waxed paper into a 10×8-inch rectangle.  Spread half of the filling over dough rectangle to within 1/2 inch of edges.  Beginning with the short side, carefully roll up the dough, using the waxed paper to lift and  guide the roll.  Moisten edges; pinch to seal.  Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper.  Repeat with remaining dough and filling.  Chill for 4 to 24 hours or until firm enough to slice

Preheat oven to 375°F

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Cut rolls into 1/4 inch slices.  Place the sliced 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

100_1758Venetians (Rainbow Layer Cookies)

Source: Italian Desserts by Maria Bruscino Sanchez

6 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp almond extract

12 oz almond paste

3 cups flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups apricot preserved

2 cups dark chocolate (I actually ended up using two bags of chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Grease and line three 15 x 10 inch cookie sheets, with sides, with parchment.  Grease parchment.  Set aside

In an electric mixer with a wire whisk, beat egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, and cream of tartar until stiff, 2 to 3 minutes.  Set aside

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and remaining 1 cup of sugar.  Add egg yolks and almond extract.  Break up almond paste into small pieces.  Add and mix until well blended and smooth.  Add flour and salt.  Mix until well blended.

With wire whisk attachment, fold in egg white mixture.

Divide the dough into three equal portions.  Add a few drops of red food coloring to one and a few drops of green coloring to another.  Leave one dough natural color

Evenly spread each dough into prepared pans.  each layer will be thin.

Bake each batter for 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Remove the pans from the oven.

Cool on wire cooling rack.  Remove and discard parchment.  Place the green layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Spread one cup of apricot preserved over the green layer.  Slide the white/yellow layer of cake on top of the preserves.  Spread remaining cup of preserved over the white/yellow layer.  Slide the red layer over the preserved.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Weigh down with a cutting board on top.  Refrigerate overnight.

Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Spread in a thin layer over the top of the red layer.  Let set until dry.  Flip the cake over onto parchment.  Melt the remaining chocolate and spread over the green layer.  Let set.  Using a serrated knife, trim the edges.  Cut into 1 inch squares

Makes approximately 80 cookies.


Adventures In Wilton Cake Decorating Course 2 Classes 1-2 December 17, 2008

Filed under: Course 2,Wilton Cake Decorating — pastrybrush @ 7:00 am

I started the Wilton Cake Decorating Course 2 last week.  I am so thankful that we don’t have to make a cake every week like in Course 1.  That was CRAZY.  Just having a cake in my apartment every week is dangerous.  For Course 2 there is only the final cake that you have to make.  All of the classes concentrate on all of the flowers that you need to make to put on your cake.

For the first class we had to bring 1 recipe of buttercream icing in and we practice 2 new flowers (rose bud and mum), reviewed some of the boarders from Course 1, learned 1 new boarder (reverse shell), and how to make a rosette.  The rosebud was probably the hardest thing for me to get down that night because I was trying to get the perfect curl in the middle.  By the end of the class I had it down, but of course I haven’t practiced since then.  The mum was also very simple.  The new reverse shell boarder was really cool, but you have to constantly remind yourself to alternate positions while making the boarder.  The rosette actually came in handy this past weekend.  I ended up piping rosettes in stabilized whipped cream on top of my Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes and Mini Key Lime Pies.  They turned out perfect 🙂

For the second class, we had to learn to make two new icings: royal icing and color flow.  Both of these I have actually worked with before while decorating cookies, and when I made the swirl flowers for one of my cakes in Course 1.  I found it interesting that when making the royal icing the 100_1787wilton method essentially tells you to put everything in a bowl and mix it together for 7-10 minutes.  Any time that I have learned how to make royal icing, first you whip up the meringue powered with the water until stiff peaks form, then you add the sugar and whip it up until everything is combined.  I asked my instructor why Wilton did it this way and she didn’t have any idea.  Oh well.

For the second class we learned how to make apple blossoms, violets, violet leaves, and color flow birds.  The two flowers gave me the most trouble.  They weren’t hard it was just making sure that the tip of the bag was at the right angle so that I could get the flower right.  For the apple blossom I just need to work on making sure the last petal that I put on doesn’t stand up.  I actually had the violet and the violet leaves down by the end of class.  Of course we were suppose to make 5-10 flowers and leaves of each and have them for our final cake.  Well in class I made 1 apple blossom, 3 violets, and 5 violet leaves.  I wanted to make sure that I was happy with what I made and not just putting it on there for the hell of it.  The color flow birds were fun.  We only need to make two for the final cake but they tell you to make 4 just in case two of your birds come to an untimely end.  Which is wise.  I ended up only making 2 in class because I thought we were going to make the other two at home.  They turned out great.  I still need to color flow in their beaks and add an eye, but they look almost like the picture 🙂

100_1784Next class is going to be crazy because we are learning 4-5 more flowers, which are a little difficult.  Also if we have time our instructor is going to teach us how to pipe a basketweave, which I am really looking forward to 🙂


Tuesdays with Dorie: Buttery Jam Cookies December 16, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Cookies,Tuesdays With Dorie — pastrybrush @ 7:00 am
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tuesdayswithdorieThis weeks Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl she chose Dorie’s Buttery Jam Cookies located on page 80 of Baking: From My Home to Yours. As soon as I saw this recipe I knew which jam I had to use: MOLLY’S!!!. (more…)


Another Reason I haven’t posted about Cookies, Yet :) December 15, 2008

100_1769I know

I know

I know

I told you that I would be posting about all the cookies that I have baked for the holidays.  Well I guess I forgot to tell you that I was also making goodies for my friend, Crystal.  She recently got involved with Avon and decided to have an Avon Party.  She called and asked that if I could make desserts or whatever for the party


I knew right off the bat that there would be a cookie platter (Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies, Amaretti, Sugar Cookies w/orange zest, Linzer Sables, Italian Fig Spirals, Butterballs, and Oatmeal Raisin with Cinnamon Chips) because DAMN there was a lot of cookies.  I had recently found key limes at the grocery store and had everything to make Mini Key Lime Pies.  I also purchased extra cream cheese and could make Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes.  I wanted there to be a non dairy option since Crystal is lactose intolerant.   Her and her mom already have tasted some of the vegan cupcakes that I made and loved them.  It happened that I was thinking about making two types of vegan cupcakes and had the ingredients: Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting and Cookies ‘n’ Cream Cupcakes with Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting.


I had no intention of making Crystal pay for any of these items since I was planning on making them and had everything on hand.  Also, since this was her first Avon Party she needed to make some of her money back 🙂

I made everything and it turned out FANTASTIC.  I saved myself one of each cupcake so that I could try them, and I don’t care what anyone says they were great.  I made name cards for everything and decided not to write “VEGAN” on it because some omnis get scared by that word.  I ended up writing at the bottom in small letters “Non Dairy” 🙂


100_1772For the recipes, I just used my Key Lime Pie recipe from a previous post and used a mini cheesecake pan 🙂  For the Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes I used the recipe on the back of the Williams Sonoma box and added 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste.  The recipe is below.  Now the recipes for the vegan cupcakes come from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  I have posted too many recipes from those lovely ladies and would just like to tell you that if you haven’t bought the book already.  YOU REALLY NEED TO.  You won’t regret it.

OH, I forgot to mention.  I tried my hands at making Venetians aka Rainbow Layer Cookies and HOLY CRAP!!!  They turned out great.  Funny thing is at work everyone was saying that they taste better than the ones we carry, even the owners 🙂  I wish I could have stayed and enjoyed the party, but I had to leave right after I set all the food up to go into work.  That is what I get for being in the service industry.

Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes

Source: Williams Sonoma the back of the box that my mini pan came in

For the Crusts:
1 cup (114g) chocolate cookie or


vanilla wafer crumbs
2 Tbs. sugar
Pinch of salt
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling
16 oz. (500g) cream cheese
2 eggs
¼ cup (60ml) heavy cream
½ cup (125g) sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste or Vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat an over to 350°F (180°C). Lightly coat the cups of the 12-cup mini cheesecake pan with nonstick cooking spray.

To make the crusts, in a small bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter and stir until combined. Divide the mixture among the cups, and using your fingertip, press it evenly into the bottom (I 100_1782find that a coffee tapper works a lot better for this). Bake until the crusts are set, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Reduce the head to 300°F ( 150°C).

To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cream and vanilla paste and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and salt and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the crusts, dividing it evenly among the cups (I find that if you fill it to about 1/8-1/4 of an inch from the top it won’t deflate too much once out of the oven. This will leave you with about ½ cup of filling left over; just bake in a small ramekin). Bake until the cheesecakes are set, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before unmolding.

To unmold, insert the dowel into the hole in the bottom of each cup. Gently push up to remove the cheesecake from the cup. Use a small spatula or butter knife to remove the cake from the metal bottom. If the cheesecakes are sticking to the pan, gently run a toothpick around each cheesecake to loosen it before pushing it out of the cup. Makes 12 mini cheesecakes.


$36 in shipping and 26 pounds of cookies later December 11, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Cookies — pastrybrush @ 1:55 am

Cookies for a Friend 🙂

I can see my kitchen table 🙂

I  actually made more than 26 pounds of cookies.  I only happened to be mailing out 26 pounds and not the other 10 pounds or more.  The other cookies were for local friends and family 🙂  Funny thing is that I didn’t make as many cookies as I usually do.  I think I got a little stressed in the middle of baking and took a few off of the list.

If you are wondering why I haven’t been posting lately, that would be the reason.  I have been so busy making cookies that I really haven’t had a second to sit down and breath.  I barely posted my Tuesdays with Dorie entries on time.  If I talked about every single cookie that I made the past week this post would be LONG.

The following is a list of the cookies that I made for my annual Holiday Cookie Baking.  Look for these cookies to be posted about in the coming week:

Butterballs aka Mexican/Italian Wedding Cookies (2 batches), Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies (3 batches), Italian Fig Spirals (3 batches), Venetians (Rainbow Layer Cookies), Anise Pizzelles, Anise Cookies (1/2 batch), Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip Biscotti, Anise Walnut Biscotti, Cherry- Almond Lenox Biscotti (TWD), Peppermint Bark, Sesame Cookies, Amaretti, Linzer Sables (TWD), Grandma’s All Occasion Sugar Cookies (TWD), Buttery Jam Cookies (TWD), and Regular Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, and Oatmeal Raisin with Cinnamon Chips