All the Harry Potter themed baking!

Yesterday, I went to a work party, so of course, I had to bake a little something. By a little something, I mean pudding pie and cookies. And because we had decided that our party was Harry Potter themed (we’re librarians, we do nerdy things like this), I decided to make butterbeer pie and butterbeer cookies.

butterbeer-pudding-cookies2-900x1350

The cookies I had made before, and I used this recipe. I had made these before, and they turned out great like always. They have pudding mix in them, which always makes for really soft, chewy cookies. But overall, they might just be the best cookies ever. Everyone I’ve made them for has loved them. I like that this recipe also has tips at the end of the post to alter the recipe. One of these is a tip for not chilling the dough before baking, which is something I always do (because who has the time to chill dough?).

gallery-1479423529-delish-butterbeer-pie-pinterest-002

The second thing I made was butterbeer pie, using this recipe. This was something I had never made before, but I was pretty pleased with how it came out. It’s essentially pudding pie with whipped cream mixed in, so the filling is really light and fluffy. When I was mixing it, I was worried that it wouldn’t hold it’s shape, since it was so light. But I chilled it for probably a bit longer than it says to in the recipe, and it worked better than I expected. It was still a little hard to cut, but it at least didn’t melt all over the place the way I expected.

I should also note that I decided to use graham cracker crust instead of regular pie crust, because I like pudding pie with graham cracker crust better. Since the pie really ends up being just a mound of filling and crust on your plate, graham cracker crust mixes in a little bit better, in my opinion.

One last thing I’ll mention is that I wasn’t blown away by the whipped cream. The recipe includes instructions for making marshmallow whipped cream to top the pie with. It’s essentially just whipped cream with marshmallow fluff mixed in. But I had trouble getting the fluff to mix into the cream. The way it says to do it is to whip the cream first, and then fold the marshmallow fluff in, but marshmallow fluff is kind of hard to mix into something that’s cold. And I didn’t want to over mix, and take all the air out of the whipped cream, but it seemed like it was more chunks of fluff in the whipped cream, rather than a smooth marshmallow whipped cream. Not that it wasn’t still tasty, but I don’t know how marshmallowy is was.

If you try these recipes, I’d love to know how they turned out. Or if you know of any other good Harry Potter themed recipes.

Happy baking!

Alyss

(photos courtesy of recipe links)

All the baking!

I’m visiting family for the New Year, so of course, we’re having a lot of different family gatherings. And because I’m one of the designated bakers in the family, I’ve been baking a lot. I made the gingerbread cookies that I’ve posted about a couple weeks ago (here’s a link to that post), and then gave my grandma the recipe because they were so well received. I also made two different kind of cupcakes, although those were from box mixes, so there’s really nothing much to say about those.

Today, I made sour cream pound cake, because we’re having another gathering which includes dinner out and dessert at home afterward. This pound cake recipe is from a book I bought awhile ago, called All Cakes Considered.

6729269

(photo courtesy of Goodreads)

It’s seriously one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever used, because the recipes are very detailed and helpful if you’re a new baker, or are just hoping to improve your baking technique. It’s also mostly cake recipes, so there’s a lot of variety for everyone’s particular tastes.

This pound cake recipe is especially good. It’s technically sour cream pound cake, but the flavor is so nice and citrus-y, because it has both lemon and orange extracts in it. And the texture is thick and dense, yet fluffy at the same time. If you know anything about good pound cake, you’ll know what I mean, and this one is the best I’ve ever had.

However, it’s definitely a lot of work, and I feel like people should go into baking aware of what they’re getting themselves into. There aren’t a ton of ingredients, but the batter requires a lot of mixing and adding each ingredient slowly in portions. I should also mention that this is the first recipe in the book, so it goes into a lot of detail about exactly how to make this cake right. So you’ll spend a lot of time mixing, especially if you don’t have a stand mixer. I have one at home, which makes things a bit easier (though you still can’t cut corners on mixing if you want the pound cake to come out right). But the problem this time is that my mother doesn’t have a stand mixer, so I had to use her hand-held mixer, which is really hard work for thick pound cake batter. And did I mention that it takes an hour and a half to bake? This cake is definitely an all afternoon endeavor, but it is so worth it, especially with some strawberries on top.

It all turned out good, and there was even enough batter left over to make a loaf to keep for ourselves. Which was a good thing, since it was completely devoured! Also, my grandma (who loves pound cake) asked for the recipe, so that’s always flattering.

This book is really worth the investment if you love baking. It includes great recipes, pictures, helpful instructions, and the funniest baking insights throughout.

Happy baking!

Alyss

Christmas baking, part two

soft-nutella-chocolate-chip-cookies-1406116665

For the second installment of my Christmas baking, I decided to make Nutella cookies, because who doesn’t have enough Nutella in their lives?

This is the recipe I used, courtesy of American Heritage Cooking. I found it on Pinterest, and decided to go with this one over a couple of other Nutella cookie variations.

This one was pretty easy, although this recipe does call for a few more ingredients than the shortbread from the first installment of my baking adventure. I did cut out the chocolate chips, because I’m not a fan of dark or semi-sweet chocolate, and I thought it would be a little much on top of the Nutella. But I’m sure they would be good either way, depending on your preferences.

The one thing I will say is that these cookies seem really easy to overcook. The writer of the post mentions to be careful of over-baking, so I was being careful to watch them, but I think I still managed to cook them just a little bit too long. They were still really good, but I prefer a softer cookie, so I will definitely be even more careful next time I make them.

But even if they were a little bit harder than I liked, they still tasted amazing, so I highly recommend them to anyone who’s a fan of Nutella. Which, let’s be honest, who isn’t a fan?

Happy baking!

Alyss

(photo courtesy of American Heritage Cooking)

Christmas baking, part one

exps635_that2453289c12_14_6bc_rms

Although you could probably consider gingerbread and gingerbread cookies to be Christmas baking, they weren’t for anything specifically Christmas-y. So I’m going to consider this to be my first Christmas baking, since I’m baking for a Christmas Eve Eve party. I decided to bake two different kinds of cookies to bring to the party, and started today with shortbread cookies.

This is the recipe I use, so you can check it out if you’re interested.

I’ve used this recipe before, and it’s really simple and easy to do. There are literally only three ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter. And you pretty much just mix them together, knead it a little bit, and then press the dough into a large cookie sheet and bake it. The cookies come out soft and crumbly and delicious every time.

While shortbread isn’t necessarily a traditional Christmas cookie (I’ve definitely made it other times of year), I’ve been making it at Christmas time for the past couple of years. So it’s become one of those cookies that I get a little bit excited for at this time of year.

So this was part one of my Christmas baking, and part two will come tomorrow when I bake another batch of cookies. I’m bringing a lot of cookies to this party.

Happy baking!

Alyss

(photo courtesy of Taste of Home)

Baking with box mixes

91398-gingerbread-baking-mix

When I was younger, box mixes were my introduction into baking, and really got me into baking as a hobby. Since then, I’ve gotten more adventurous and have graduated to baking things from scratch. I think finding Pinterest also helped with this hobby, since I could find a recipe for pretty much anything that I ever wanted to bake. And recipes on Pinterest are usually from blogs, where the bakers/writers talk about the recipes they’re sharing and give helpful tips and tricks. There are also always pictures, sometimes step by step throughout the recipe. As much as I love cookbooks, they aren’t always the most instructive or helpful, and sometimes they don’t have any pictures at all. So with Pinterest, not only am I able to experiment and bake a variety of things, but I get the most out of the experiences and help of other bakers/bloggers.

(As I’m writing this, I realize that my baking blog posts are never as nice as others that I’ve found on Pinterest. Particularly, I usually only every have one picture. I’ll have to work on this in the future….)

But with that interlude and history of my baking experience out of the way, I want to talk about using box mixes. Particularly, using box mixes even though you are more than able to bake something from scratch. I always feel a little bit weird about using a box mix now, like I haven’t really done the required amount of work, and I can’t really take the credit for baking. As if just because I can bake something from scratch, I should no longer be able to use a box mix.

This begs the question of what the purpose of a box mix is. Is it an easy way for people to bake who haven’t baked before or aren’t skilled bakers? Or is it a quick and easy way to make something tasty for when you don’t have time to bake from scratch (because it sure does take so much longer than using a box mix)?

I’ll admit that a lot of box mixes don’t usually have quite the same quality as a recipe that you can bake from scratch, they’re still pretty good. In particular, I tried a gingerbread box mix from Trader Joe’s (pictured above and linked below, in case anyone is interested), and it turned out surprisingly well. Nice and spicy, and the cake was very moist, which can be hard to achieve even when you’re baking from scratch. And it was really helpful to have something quick and easy to make when I had a limited amount of time before going to hang out with some friends.

What do you think? Especially for any bakers out there, do you still use a box mix on occasion, or is it from scratch or nothing? Let me know in the comments.

Happy baking!

Alyss

(photo courtesy of Trader Joe’s)

Gingerbread cookies


Lara’s tender gingersnaps recipe from Taste of Home

Gingerbread is one of my favorite winter flavors, and always makes it feel a little bit more like Christmas, in my opinion. So I’ve been meaning to bake some kind of gingerbread for a while now, and finally got around to it. I decided to go with gingerbread cookies and found the recipe linked above on Pinterest. I chose it mostly because I already had all of the ingredients on hand, but it ended up turning out really well.

These are definitely softer gingerbread cookies rather than the crunchier kind you might decorate, but I prefer that. So did everyone else who tried them. I brought some to work, and even received comments that these were the best gingerbread cookies that people had ever had. While that’s incredibly flattering, I think it might be more due to the over-abundance of dry and crunchy gingerbread cookies out there. But I’m still glad that everyone enjoyed them.

I should also add that the recipe calls for the mixed dough to be chilled for a couple of hours before baking, but I didn’t have time, so I didn’t chill it. I think they still came out very good. I never really know what the purpose of chilling cookie dough is, and as a rule I tend not to chill my dough. I’ve never had any cookies that have come out bad due to lack of chilled dough, but maybe I’m missing out on even better cookies. Please enlighten me, if anyone knows why some recipes call for chilled cookie dough, and if it really makes a difference.

Whether you want to wait that long for cookies or not (I never do), I definitely recommend trying out this recipe. It’s pretty quick and easy, and makes for some damn good gingerbread cookies.

Happy baking!

Alyss

(Photo courtesy of Taste of Home)

Honey Beer Bread

honey-beer-bread-recipe-1-1

Here’s the link to the recipe, from Gimme Some Oven.

This was my first year making a Thanksgiving meal (up til now, I’ve only ever helped or made a certain dish or dessert), and at the last minute I was looking for a good bread recipe that I could make with ingredients on hand. So I turned to Pinterest, like you do, and found this recipe.

I’ve made bread with beer before, and enjoyed it, so I had high hopes for this bread. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. Not only is this bread easy to make, but it’s also a really nice combination of flavors. It’s nice and bready from the beer, buttery from the melted butter used, and slightly sweet from the honey. It’s also a really moist and dense bread, which I appreciated. It didn’t need any butter or spread of any kind. It’s good all on its own.

This is one of those mix-it-all-up-and-bake type recipes that’s really simple to whip up. The weirdest part of the recipe is the fact that it calls for you to not only grease the pan with melted butter, but also pour some over the batter before baking. I was a little skeptical about this, since I’m used to putting butter on bread after it’s been baked rather than before. But it really turned out good. The melted butter essentially just gives the bread more of a buttery crust. I might try using a little bit less melted butter next time, but it definitely wasn’t the worst thing ever.

I recommend trying out this recipe. It was good with our Thanksgiving meal, but I’m sure it would be great with soup too. If you do try it, let me know in the comments how it worked out.

Happy baking!

Alyss

(photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven, at the link above)