Friday, February 26, 2010

Chocolate Pretzels

Phew, now that I'm all caught up I can update my blog on time!

Today I made chocolate pretzels-- not pretzels dipped in chocolate, but actual chocolate cookie dough shaped into pretzels. They were temperamental little things too; they had to be chilled the perfect amount of time, only handled for a certain period of time, and folded exactly right (Otherwise they fell apart.)

One of the biggest issues I have with my recipes is making them small enough to ensure that everyone at work gets one (or four) so with recipes like this one I have to try to adjust cooking time to meet the smaller size. The recipe says it makes 28 -- I made 48, and it says to bake 10-12 minutes -- I baked for about 4. I personally think that they tasted slightly overcooked (probably because of their size) but most everyone else thought they were fine.

They should've been the size of a pretzel; the sort you can buy in a bag in the chip aisle at a grocery store. Mine ended up being more like mini-pretzels instead. The dough was easy enough to make, but definitely make sure to chill everything for long enough! This dough is waaay easier to handle when it's cold!

I chilled the dough for 1.5 hours, molded it into the balls, and chilled more while taking 5-6 from the fridge at a time.

If you can, I highly suggest making the larger pretzels. While the littler ones are really cute, they were also really crisp like a cracker. I think being bigger would make them have more of that cookie-softness.

They also tasted dry to me, so I drizzled them with melted milk chocolate before sprinkling on the sugar crystals. With this, they were a tasty little treat!

Chocolate Pretzels Recipe:

Prep time: Approximately two hours (including chilling time)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar (calls for superfine/used granulated)
  • 1 egg

  • 1 egg white (or, as an alternative, melted milk chocolate to drizzle instead)
  • coarse sugar crystals


  • Sift together flour, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter.
  • Add sugar and beat "until light and fluffy."
  • Beat in the egg.
  • Add the dry ingredients. (Recipe says stir to blend-- I used the electric mixer.)
  • Form dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper, and chill for 1 hour in the fridge, or 30 minutes in the freezer.

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F
  • Take the dough from the fridge, roll into 28 (walnut or slightly smaller than) sized balls.
  • Keep 5-6 balls out, and put the rest back in the fridge to continue chilling until you need them.
  • Roll each ball out to about 10" long (a ruler is VERY handy here to ensure pretzels will be uniform)
  • Form into a pretzel shape. (If you don't know how: Shape the rope of dough so it's almost a circle. Then bring each end toward the bottom center of the pretzel, and press down lightly)
  • Place on cookie sheets that are either greased or lined with parchment paper.
  • IF YOU'RE USING THE EGG WHITE: Brush it over the pretzels. Sprinkle on the sugar crystals.
  • IF YOU AREN'T USING EGG WHITE: Put into the oven.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

  • IF YOU'RE USING CHOCOLATE: Let the cookies cool, and then melt your chocolate.
  • Put in a pastry bag / Ziploc with a corner cut off / use a fork to drizzle the chocolate over the cookies.
  • Sprinkle on the sugar crystals.

Note: This recipe is to make the larger pretzels. To make the smaller ones cut everything in half.

  • The easiest way to get the smaller balls is to roll one into a walnut size, then half it or shape it slighly larger, then model the rest of the balls to the same size.
  • 5" instead of 10" ropes
  • Bake 4-5 minutes, and be sure to check on them!

There's also a snazzy tip at the bottom of the recipe in the book: "To make mocha-flavored pretzels, replace 2tsp of cocoa with instant coffee powder." I think mom would love this!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Marbled Caramel Chocolate Bars

My second experiment, done on Friday the 19th, was marbled caramel chocolate bars!

The recipe said there should be 24 servings, but upon cutting them into 28 my mom and dad (always the first to try my experiments!) said they were still too big.
So I ended up cutting them into squares (y'know, the size of a square of fudge) and those ended up being perfect.

The pan pre-cut

I didn't have as many problems with this recipe, but I DID have to run back to the store at one point.

This recipe has three layers: 1) The base, which is delicious and cookie-like, 2) The center, which is sticky and also delicious, 3) The top, which is three types of chocolate. Deeeelicious!

I learned to rub-in butter for the base! Granted I used a fork for much of it, but I love getting my hands dirty so I used them, too. (A baking guilty-pleasure of mine is separating an egg with my fingers instead of with the shell, because I'm weird and like the way it feels. Mom thinks I'm gross.) The base was the easiest part, surprisingly.

I ran into a serious problem with the center. It's butter, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk. At one point the recipe says to bring it to a boil, but to stir constantly to keep from burning it. I've never done this before, and as soon as I moved the heat up past medium, it immediately began to burn. And me, being me, kept stirring for about two minutes before I realized that it was actually burning!

So after I poured it out, I had to run back to the store to buy more sweetened condensed milk. I wound up buying 4 cans instead of 2, just in case I had to try it a third time. When I got home I tried to look up tips online on how to not burn it, but I found nothing. So instead of boiling it, I just heated it on low for a very, very long time until it thickened up some (though I assume, not as much as it should've.) It worked well enough!

The top was also a little hard, just because I've never 'marbled' anything before! You can see all of my popsicle sticks in the top of that picture!

As for the taste: EVERYONE loved them! Mom called them "decadent." A girl I work with said they were the best food I've ever brought in. From Friday to Sunday, every little square was eaten.

I suggest these if you're looking for a BIG crowd pleaser! But they are kind of sticky, so make sure you have a napkin with you.

Marbled Caramel Chocolate Bars Recipe:

Note: This recipe requires each level to cool completely before adding the next, so you'll have to put time into this one as well.

  • 2 1/4 cups flour (a little less to start!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (calls for superfine, I used granulated)
  • 3/4 cup softened, unsweetened butter

  • 7 tbsp diced, unsweetened butter
  • 1/2 cup (light/golden) brown sugar
  • 2 - 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk

  • 5-6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (better to have extra than not enough-- 5 is extra/just enough)
  • 5-6 oz milk chocolate
  • 3 oz white chocolate

Cookie/Crust Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F, grease a 9x13 pan
  • Put flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter until it looks nice and crumbly
  • Sculpt it into a dough with your hands
  • Put the dough in the tin, and use your hands to spread it evenly over the surface
  • Prick with a fork all across the surface. Bake ~20 minutes, or until light brown.
  • Remove from the oven and put the entire pan on a cooling rack. ...Cool.

Center Preparation

  • Put butter, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk into a pan.
  • Put on a low/medium-low heat and stir CONSTANTLY. Do. Not. Stop. Stirring.
  • Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and the butter is melted.
  • If you dare, this is the part of the recipe that says to bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and heat for 5-10 minutes "until it has thickened and turned a caramel color."
  • If you don't dare, I just kept it at the same temperature and heated for about 15 minutes before my wrists got too tired to continue and I decided it was good enough. (Note: A con to this is that you might not get it thick enough)
  • Don't let it burn. It makes it smell disgusting, and probably taste worse.
  • Once that's done, pour it evenly into the pan, over the cookie.
  • Let it cool, because it thickens up a little more.

Top Preparation:

  • In three separate bowls, melt your three chocolates. (Microwave is easiest for me!)
  • Use a spoon to make 1.5-2" thick strips of the semisweet/milk chocolate down the pan. (Long strip of milk chocolate, long strip of semi-sweet, strip of chocolate, semi-sweet, etc until done)
  • Add random blobs of white chocolate around the pan.
  • Use a skewer/popsicle stick/knife to drag through the white chocolate and create a marbled effect on the surface.

Once this is done, let the chocolate set and then you're good to go!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ladies' Kisses Berets

On February 13th I tried out my first recipe: Ladies' Kisses!
(Or, with a tweak to the recipe, a creation I like to call Ladies' Berets!)

You can see a few Ladies' Kisses in the back there

I wasn't quite as successful as I'd hoped to be with my first experiment, but hey, I'm learning!

To say the least, I had a lot of issues.

1) The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of flour, but even after I'd only added 1 1/4 the dough was really dry and crumbly. I suggest only going up to 1 cup, and then judging for yourself from there.

2) I was supposed to be able to roll 40 balls with the dough, but ended up only having 26. Basically, I made them twice as big as they were supposed to be, but I didn't want to start all over again so I just left them.

3) The recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate, aka regular chocolate chips, aka a very bland flavor. I think next time I'll spring for some fancy Dove milk chocolate or something.

4) I missed the page in the book that calls these (and other cookies in the section) "Teatime Treats."

These are more like cookies meant to accent a nice cup of tea, and on their own are a little on the plain side.

After I had the cookies all baked and the chocolate melted, I ran into my problem from earlier: A single cookie twice as big as it should be leads to a sandwich cookie that someone can only eat if they're able to unhinge their jaw.

So after making three gargantuan Ladies' Kisses, I decided to get creative and added chocolate to the top of a cookie, but left it as is instead of making it a sandwich cookie.

Hence, the Ladies' Berets!

Most adorable, if I do say so myself!

Ladies' Kisses Recipe:
Note: This dough has to be chilled for awhile-- Take that into account before starting! I didn't, and didn't finish them until 11:30pm.

  • 10 tbsp softened butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar (The recipe calls for caster sugar, but I used regular granulated since they don't carry it at my local grocery store)

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

  • 1 cup ground almonds

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (And I suggest even less, just to be safe)

  • 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate (This is an absurdly small amount of chocolate. A bag of chocolate chips is 12 ounces.. I think I melted 6 oz and I only had a little leftover. The more chocolate the better!

Dough Preparation:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together. (Make sure to get extra sugar from the bottom of the bowl-- I had a LOT of sugar that didn't want to blend in)

  2. Beat in the egg yolk, almond extract, and ground almonds.

  3. Beat in the flour. (I always save the flour for last to make sure everything else is mixed in properly.)

  4. At this point the dough should be nicely lumped together.

  5. Chill for 1.5 to 2 hours

This is where you get to read a book or watch TV or knit that afghan that you never got around to before.

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Break off bits of dough and roll into balls. (Note: The ones I rolled were the size of a walnut, and I only got 26 balls. If you want to make the actual sandwiches, go much smaller!)

  3. Place on a cookie sheet a little ways apart. They spread, but not much. Just give 'em space!

  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until they start to get light brown. (My oven heats hot so I only baked them for 16, and they were perfect.)

  5. Immediately remove from the pan and place on cooling racks. And, well, let them cool.

Filling Instructions:

  1. Melt the chocolate, either using a double boiler or (my preference) the microwave.

  2. Spoon chocolate onto the flattened side of the cookie.

  3. If you did smaller cookies, put the flattened side of another cookie on top of the chocolate. If you did larger cookies, you're done!

Be sure to have a glass of milk ready, and enjoy!

The Book

Unless otherwise noted, all of the recipes I'm trying are from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible.

The book was put together by three women: Catherine Atkinson, Joanna Farrow, and Valerie Barrett. Lovely women, in my opinion.
Oh man, I'm a poet!

Part of the reason I already love this book so much is attributed to the first 65 pages. It covers things that amateur bakers (like me) don't know: All of the different types of flour, different types of sugar, types of equipment, how to add various flavors, and more. It even tells how to follow certain directions-- I had no idea how to "rub-in" butter when it called for it in the recipe, but now I know thanks to page 25!

The book is also very British (I think) but does a great job of providing adjustments for American readers.
For example, in one recipe that calls for butter it asks for:
150g/5 oz/10 tbsp
The heat suggestion is: 160°C / 325°F / Gas 3
(I don't even know what Gas 3 is!)

There are also interesting differences between what particular foods are called.
Black treacle = Molasses
Bicarbonate of soda = Baking soda
Sultanas = Golden raisins
Muscovado sugar = Brown sugar

And the ones that make me smile!
Ice lolly sticks = Popsicle sticks
Digestive biscuits = Graham crackers

Then there are ingredients that I've never heard of before, such as carob powder, sunflower margarine, and orange flower water.

This is going to be an adventure!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Entry

So all the cool kids have blogs these days, right?
Well I'm hopping on the bandwagon!

Okay, so from what I gather about blogs, the first entry is always the basic stuff.
My name is Taylor*, I'm 22, and I attend the University of Kansas -- Rock Chalk!

I love baking, but it seems like I never have the time! The further I advance in school, the harder it is for me to find time to spend a couple of hours just...baking. But now I've made time!

A few weeks ago I was at Borders when I happened upon an amazing sight: Sitting on the clearance rack, marked down to $4.99, was The Cookie and Biscuit Bible. This book of over 500 pages with over 400 recipes was begging to be picked up, and that's just what I did! The book covers a huuuge expanse of recipes, from sugar cookies to fortune cookies to biscotti to scones. My intention is to a) Get my baking fix, and b) Learn new recipes!

So every Friday I intend to bust out a new recipe and try it! And why Friday? Because I only work on the weekends due to my classes, and this way I can feed my experiments to my co-workers! There's nothing quite like having co-workers constantly asking "Hey Taylor, when are you bringing treats in next?"

*To explain the title of my blog, I should also explain my "other" name. Back in my junior year of high school I took a creative writing class. One of the most common activities was pairing into groups, and our teacher would give us a "picture prompt"-- basically, we look at the picture, and create a dialogue for the people in it.

On one such occasion I was paired with my friend Brent and our characters were named as follows: Marzipan Pettyweather, and Jasper Tarnish. I think that Jasper has fallen off the face of the earth, but Marzipan Pettyweather stuck. She's a little smidge of nostalgia, and refuses to be forgotten. I even signed her name onto my Facebook.

Hence the adventures with marzipan, both because Marzipan is used in a few of the recipes within the book, and because I'm slightly psychotic.

Onto the cooking! Allons-y!