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Ta-DDDDAAAAAA!!!

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I’m ba-ack! And you thought you could get rid of me that easily. Not a chance, my people. Not a chance.

WELL, what have I been doing these past few weeks – er, months, but who’s counting? – that I haven’t written to you lovely readers? What haven’t I been doing is the real question (and don’t say “posting on your blog”. Not allowed.). In any case, here is a limited list:

1. My new job! I currently work as a part-time editorial assistant for the editor-in-chief of an academic journal. It’s a job, and it’s something I can do from home for a bit o’ extra money. It’s obviously not my ideal job, nor does it use too many of my hard-earned collegiate skills, but I do get to communicate with people from all over the world and learn some new stuff. It’ll do until…

2. …I finish my first app! As some of you may or may not know, I’ve dabbled in iOS (that’s iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) development in the past, and I’m turning much more attention to it now. Currently I’m catching up to speed on all the new development features that I’ve missed because of *SOMEONE* I’ve had to take care of for the past over 10 months. Psshh. I’ve got a couple of project ideas lined up already, and I’m hoping I can get them pushed out and ready to go in the next few months.

3. That *SOMEONE* that I may or may not have ever mentioned on this blog before. Yeah, him. He, uh, also occasionally takes up some of my time.

BABY PICTURES ATTACK!!!!!!!!

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There’s more where that came from, too, my friends. ‘Tis but a small selection. You’ll have to stay tuned for more!

4. Finally, baking. Yes, I may not have been keeping you updated about my baking, but I sure as cake was still continuing to bake (I honestly did not mean for that to rhyme). Because of the backlog, however, you’re just going to have to enjoy the pictures of my creations without too much background explanation. Me tired. I’ll start afresh with this weekend’s assignment.

Here it goes:

Orange-chocolate-pecan coffee cake:
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Somehow in all my adventures I’d never managed to produce a coffee cake before, but this one was definitely delish!

Tres leches cake! With real leches!

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Chocolate cappuccino cake, which was actually very cinnamon-y:

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This occasionally happens to me with baking; I, actually, was not the biggest fan of the above cake. I mean, it was ok, but it was not necessarily what I look for in a chocolate-coffee cake. For one, I thought it was kind of dry. HOWEVER, the things that I am usually meh about turn out to be some of the biggest hits with everyone else. This cake was exactly an example of that. People kept telling me how moist and delicious it was. Go figure. Whatever makes ’em (and “’em” being the people so gracious as to partake in my culinary exploits) happy, I guess!

So then I got on an insane scone kick. To the point where I wasn’t able to even take pictures of some of the ones I made because they disappeared so fast. But here were my favey-faves, maple oat scones:

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And James’s favorites, mini vanilla bean scones:

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Finally, there was the rediscovery of my amazing breadmaker, which produced this lovely lemon poppyseed cake:

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Alas, not pictured (because I somehow didn’t manage to snag these on camera!) are a classic pound cake, my father-in-law’s traditional birthday chiffon cake (which I even made twice, and still didn’t manage to catch on “film”!), lemon-blueberry scones, and orange-cranberry scones.

So you see, I have been a busy beaver. Those baked goods couldn’t just bake and eat themselves. And all the other stuff? Well, come on, let’s get our priorities straight. 🙂

Welcome back!

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Christmas Baking: Now with New Year’s!

Christmas Baking: Now with New Year’s!

Many years ago now, I somehow got bamboozled into baking cookies for Christmas. Don’t even ask me the exact details of how it happened. I only know that even back then I was intrigued by baking and had procured a cookbook all about cookies on sale at a local Barnes and Noble. I guess when Christmas rolled around, I figured it’d be the perfect time to prove my baking chops so I came up with a selection of cookie recipes from my book. I do remember enough to advise any aspiring baker that selecting and baking several new recipes at a very busy time of year and when you’re not used to baking is prooooobably not the brightest of ideas. Any old who, everything must have turned out mostly ok because ever since then, I’ve been tasked with the now-traditional baking of Christmas cookies for my family (which in itself is pretty funny considering that cookies are in no way a traditional dessert in Poland, let alone for Christmas. We usually eat cakes and tortes and strudels and such things).

So, naturally, this year was not to be any different, cookie-wise. I was fully expected to deliver on the cookie front, never mind the bouncing, full-of-energy baby boy I now have ruling my house. Luckily for me, I still enjoy baking and super-luckily for me, I thrive when working under pressure.

Pressure, you may ask? What’s so pressurous (um, it’s a word now!) about baking some good ol’ cookies? Well, due to cleaning, present-purchasing and -creating, general baby-ing, and the fact that I couldn’t very well start these cookies two weeks early otherwise you’d probably need a hammer to even break off a piece small enough to eat, I was only able to start baking on Friday afternoon (yes, Friday, the day before Christmas Eve. Now keep in mind that in Polish culture, our biggest celebration is ON Christmas Eve, so everything had to be done and ready to go no later than 5 PM that day.). So what does that mean, friends? I’ll tell you exactly what that means. It means I needed to make six types (not batches, mind you, types) of cookies in 24 hours. Which I did. Because I deliver on my cookie promises. Boo-yeah.

Due to the craziness that occurs around Christmastime in both mine and James’s families, I unfortunately only have one little, teeny, measly picture to share with you. But it’s pretty! Check it out:

Eh, eh? No, I'm not an engineer, and no, I'd never do anything symmetrically. Psshh.

So today’s quick run-down plus accompanying photo of each cookie is brought to you by the magic of zoom.


#1: Raspberry sandwich cookies
– James’s and my mom’s favorite.
– Almond shortbread-y cookies with raspberry jam inside and slivered almonds on top.
– Kind of a pain to make since you have to roll out the dough, cookie-cutter it, bake the cookies, brush them with jam, and assemble. Worth it, though, I think.


#2: Pecan Puffs, a.k.a. Mexican Wedding Cookies
– Just about everyone else’s favorite.
– Delicious little nutty spheres.
– Made them with freshly-ground pecans this year (as opposed to pre-purchased pecanmeal, which is what I usually use), since I’m going for the whole intense-baking-for-the-win thing. Totally made a difference, though, so that change is a keeper.

(I just realized I don’t have a picture of these since they were in a separate pan. Shame on me! I guess I’ll just have to fire my photographer.)
#3: Lemon Bars
– Shortbread base with a tangy lemon topping.
– Because every Christmas needs a little citrus?
– Much easier to make, as most bar cookies tend to be. Just bake the shortbread base a bit, throw on the lemony topping, and bake some more. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cooled.


#4: Viennese Mocha Almond Cookies
– Coffee-chocolate-flavored, slightly crumbly cookies dipped in chocolate and topped with a whole almond.
– Used to make these back in the day, then stopped – now I remember why. They’re supposed to be piped so they’re all pretty, but it turns out this is humanly IMPOSSIBLE. It’s not just me. I had James in the kitchen helping me pipe and we both turned blue in the face trying to pipe these cookies out but that dough just would not budge. Turns out rolling them into balls and patting them flat (and marking them with a… n almond) is about 74.8 times easier and faster and results in no less a delicious cookie.
– No clue why they’re called Viennese.


#5: Hazelnut Palmiers
– Named after elephant’s ears, these little cookies are very simple roll-ups of ground-up hazelnuts, cinnamon, and sugar inside puff pastry.
– Nope, didn’t make the puff pastry myself. I’m not that intense. Yet.
– I remembered buying cookies like this when I was little and wanted to throw in an easy but festive cookie into the mix.


#6: Chocolate Orange Biscotti
– SO excited about this one. I have wanted to make biscotti since the very first year I had that cookie cookbook and just now finally got around to it.
– This was the only recipe that came out of my new monstrous desserts cookbook and, as usual, it delivered.
– Biscotti means “twice-baked” and that’s literally what you do – make a loaf, bake it, slice it, bake the slices. Boom. Done. Easy, yet impressive dessert.

And there you have it! My Christmas baking in a nutshell. It was an intense time (um, yeah. Mama? The reason we were late for Wigilia? Definitely waiting for the biscotti to get out of the oven.), but it was fun and everything got done so all’s well that ends well.

And, as a bonus, check out the flourless chocolate cake I made for New Year’s Eve:

Again, I wanted to make something that was easy yet impressive and decadent. Does six eggs, a bunch of butter, and a pound of chocolate qualify for decadent? I’m going to go with yes. But we served it with whipped cream and raspberries! That’s gotta count for some of your daily intake of calcium and fruit. So when you think about it, this cake was actually healthy for you. Yes. Yes it was.

So that’s it folks. I should be pretty much caught up now, except for a quick celebratory post I’ll put up tomorrow. Yep, I’m making you wait again. So y’all come back now, y’hear?

(Sorry about that last line. James and I are sitting here exchanging travel-dealfinder-site ditties, such as Expedia and Kayak, and that made me think of yokel-ish talk and other ditties such as the Yahoo! one from back in the day and then I got very yokel-y while ending my post. It’s always a party around here.)

When life gives you desserts, part dos

Ok, let’s just put it this way. Holidays tend to seriously, seriously mess with my schedule. I can honestly offer no justification for my long absence (one about which I have been reminded by several people now… Sorry!) except that around here, we tend to go absolutely nuts around the holidays. Between the cooking and the cleaning and the BAKING and oh yeah, that baby kid, I just found all my free time being quickly gobbled up. My new pastime of making Maciek’s food from scratch, as well as a project that was supposed to be done by Christmas Day but that’s still in the works (can’t say more here – the wrong eyes might see it!), and the far-away rumblings of a potential job (more on this later!) may, just may, have contributed to my recent absence as well. Unfortunately some of these things may keep me scarcer than usual for a couple more days yet, but hopefully not for long.

Anywho, as a peace offering, please accept my last post which was still in the pipeline (from many, many weeks ago), a promise that Christmas baking shall be thoroughly covered soon, and some cute pictures of Maciek. Because, hello, babies make everything better. Enjoy!

During his photo shoot for his Grandpas' Christmas gifts.

Enjoying his new toy from his Aunt Becky and Uncle Michael.

With his cousin Kacio. Gaaaaah, I'm dying of cuteness!!!

Last time, we talked about repurposing your leftover dessert into yet more dessert. It seems pretty straightforward to take the bits and pieces you’re left with and combine them into something interesting and new, no?

But what if you have two perfectly good, simple, standalone, classic dessert favorites? You could eat them separately I suppose.

Or you could SMASH THEM TOGETHER.

A-like so:

I give you, ladies and gentlemen, Brooksters. No, I’ve never heard of them before, yes, they make a complicated dessert out of two very simple ones, but you know what WHO CARES because they were totally worth it.

I was tipped to the idea of these by my lovely brother who found a specialized Brookster pan at a kitchen store and immediately thought of yours truly (thanks, Matt!). He had good timing, too, because I was sort of stumped as to what I should try out this weekend. Silly me, not thinking to just throw two desserts in a pan together. So I pulled out my trusty desserts cookbook to find some good, simple recipes.

The Brookster starts with some basic brownie batter and some basic chocolate chip cookie batter. Actually I suppose you could use whichever brownie and chocolate chip cookie batter you like, the instructions just say to have some of each. Speaking of which, I’ve made CC cookies from scratch plenty of times before, but I am ashamed to say that for the looooooongest time, I was convinced brownies were one of those things you just HAD to make out of a box. I mean, for me there was just no way you could recreate the ooey, gooey richness of a brownie without trusting the masterminds at Ghirardelli and Betty Crocker. Don’t ask me why. I don’t make any of my desserts out of boxes, but for some reason brownies-out-of-a-box just held their own special magic with me. Come to think of it, this is actually the first time I’ve made brownies from scratch. Huh. Well, bye-bye box! Honestly, these Brooksters ended up being most valuable to me in showing me how delicious a good, homemade brownie can be.

Once you’ve got your recipes lined up, Brooksters are fairly straightforward, just sort of time-consuming. You can pretty much only make one batch at a time, since you spoon brownie batter into the wells of the Brookster pan (which, if you’re interested in making this, looks like a shallower version of a jumbo muffin pan. And trust me, these things would be just as delicious even if they weren’t as huge, so use regular muffin pans, too) and let that chill for an hour, then make chocolate chip cookie dough disks, press them on top, bake the whole thing, and let the Brooksters cool in the pan. So you see, your pan ends up being tied up for quite a while, but it’s a fun dessert for when you only need to make a few of them/you have several Brookster/muffin pans.

So try these next time you want a classic, no-frills dessert that’s still a little different. You’ll be glad you did!

Adieu for now, friends, until next time when we talk about the annual Christmas baking that goes on around here. I’ll leave you with this teaser for now: 6 types of cookies in 24 hours. And I mean baking them, not eating them (although that happened too, shh). Aw yeah. Ciao!

When life gives you desserts

Ok, folks, I really dropped the ball on this one. Today I write about not this week’s dessert, but last week’s, with the hope that I might write about this weekend’s dessert much sooner and be all caught up. Hopefully. I’ll just blame the rush of the holiday season. Yeeeeah, that sounds good.

Anywho (or as I saw someone spell it on Facebook recently, “newho,” and sat there for about five minutes trying to figure out what that word was supposed to be and how to pronounce it), last weekend we celebrated my wonderful mother-in-law’s birthday, so it was time for more birthday cake! If it seems like I write about a lot of birthday cakes on here, by the way, I do. That’s what happens when you’ve got parents, parents-in-law, four siblings, four siblings-in-law, three siblings-in-law-in-law, four nieces and nephews, a beloved hubby, and a wee babe. Notice I don’t count any extended family here, either…

When thinking of a cake for Mom G, my first thought went to something with ginger (Mom G loves ginger), but to go with something a little more universal, I went with one of Mom G’s next favorites – dark chocolate. Gotta love those antioxidants!

During my perusal of my awesome cookbook, I stumbled upon this little gem:

Raspberry Whipped Cream Truffle Cake

Really hard to get that ganache perfectly smooth.

I wish all pieces of cake were this big!

The dark brown and pink contrast as well as the chocolate and raspberry flavors. How's that for artsiness?

This decadent, delicious cake really is like a truffle in cake form. I was especially proud of the way this dessert turned out – it’s probably the most even-looking, cake-shop-window-worthy (hopefully!) cake I’ve ever made! AND it didn’t even slide apart once it was finished! YAY! Anyway, the cake was comprised of moist layers of chocolate cake sandwiched between a rich ganache and raspberry whipped cream. Yum. Check it out here – it’s definitely worthy of a special occasion, but just give yourself enough time to work ahead. You’ll be aptly rewarded for your patience.

So, the next question is, what DO you do when life gives you desserts? Why, make more dessert of course! The truffle cake recipe only called for three out of the four layers that you end up with, so the fourth cake layer went to this:

Chocolate cake parfaits with raspberry whipped cream. Like a little cake in a glass. Although I think the whipped-cream-to-cake ratio may have been a little skewed. Delicious nonetheless. And in fact, not all of the leftover cake went into this. Half of it currently lives in my freezer, waiting to be turned into – you guessed it – more dessert.

So that’s how it’s done, folks. You apparently can never have too much dessert. Or maybe it’s just me who can never have too much dessert. In any case, stay tuned for this weekend’s creation. Here’s a hint: there will be more dessert(s).

Takin’ a breather

As you may or may not know, there’s a big holiday coming up this week. One of my favorite ones, actually. The food, the family, the conversations, the DESSERTS (oh come on, like you’re surprised), with no pressure. By no pressure I mean, Thanksgiving is one of those rare holidays where you don’t have to decorate, don’t have to dress up, don’t have to send cards, don’t have to go somewhere to see fireworks, it’s just a fabulous excuse to spend time with family and eat a bunch of good food. I have such good memories of Thanksgiving so I’m really looking forward to this week.

HOWEVER, due to the aforementioned desserts, I will be very busy this coming week. Between all the family get-togethers, I’m looking at baking approximately FIVE desserts this week. Yikes! So partly due to that and partly due to the fact that I just needed to take a breather from all these intense cakes I’ve been making, I decided to take it easy this weekend.

And still ended up making two desserts from my favorite cookbook.

Sigh. ‘Tis the life of a serial baker, I guess.

To be honest, it all sort of happened by accident. James and I were sitting around, enjoying our lazy Friday evening, when all of a sudden, I wanted to make a dessert. I just ached to create something. It was that moment that reassured me that I’m not crazy for wanting to make all these desserts and write about them on a blog and everything. The moment I relaxed, the first thing I turned to was dessert-making! It’s just a comfort to me.

So here’s my impromptu, what-can-I-make-with-what’s-already-in-my-pantry dessert:

Loving' me some coffee.

Chocolate Espresso Pudding with Espresso Whipped Cream. I had never made pudding in any way than from a box or package before, and I was so surprised to find how easy it was to make it from scratch. You honestly just need basic pantry ingredients for a basic pudding, and you can just dress it up from there.

The next thing that surprised me was how delicious it was. There are times that you just can’t beat the combo of coffee and chocolate, and I am not exaggerating when I say this five-minute dessert was better than some of the cakes I’ve labored over for hours. Fantastic. Try it here, and don’t skimp out on the instant espresso. I think it probably gives a much more interesting flavor to the pudding than regular ol’ instant coffee would.

The second “dessert” I baked this weekend wasn’t a dessert at all. It was actually breakfast. A Dutch Baby is a kind of baked pancake, and I felt like I’d kept seeing or hearing about it everywhere recently, so I just decided to try it. This, again, was one of those things you can make out of typical ingredients you already have. Unfortunately, we dove into this thing too quickly to take any pictures, but essentially it looked like this:

Plain and simple.

Simple. Low-key. Fast. I think I liked it better than a regular pancake. Try it out next time you want to try something new.

So that’s it for this weekend. Baking and dessert-making continue to be my hobby of relaxation, and I’m hoping I can channel that relaxation to this weekend’s dessert marathon. Eep! Keep your fingers crossed, or, as we say in Polish, hold your thumbs!

Good ol’ CCCs

This past week has been, ahem, different at the Goertz household. That subject matter will be saved for a different post, but I’m just trying to come up with an excuse as to why I haven’t written in a while. Did it work?

Anywho, this past weekend’s dessert has to be one of the most well-known and well-loved desserts in this here country. Bring it to a potluck and all of it will disappear. Serve it at parties for both adults and kids and everyone will be happy. Feel free to eat as many as you want yourself, but be sure to keep a big glass of milk nearby (unless you’re my husband, who doesn’t like milk at all. What?!).

But as quintessential as this dessert is, I’m often dissatisfied with the specimens I find. They’re either too hard, too crisp, or too crumbly. Being a soft-cookie person myself, it drives me crazy when I pick up a hard

Chocolate Chip Cookie.

That’s right friends, deliciously soft chocolate chip cookies were the dessert du jour, if you will, this past weekend. Although this blog and its accompanying baking/dessert-making is meant to be a kind of culinary-education endeavor, sometimes you just have to fall back on an old favorite. Besides, this past weekend was my sister-in-law’s birthday, and I wanted to make her a dessert that she would like (I think she’s not always a fan of my fancy fancies!) so I looked to an old standby and made chocolate chip cookies (hope you liked ’em, Olivia!).

The recipe I use yields soft, chewy, delicious chocolate chip cookies. The secret ingredient is – are you ready for it? – a box of instant vanilla pudding! I know, sounds weird. When I first saw it in the ingredients list, I didn’t know if I was going to have to make the pudding before putting it in the batter or whether the cookies would be all powdery and vanilla-y or what, but I decided to go for it. Turns out it makes all the difference!

Here’s pictorial proof of last weekend’s dessert:

Only two and a half?!

Mmm, cookies.

Don't forget the glass of milk!

Droolworthy.

And here, by popular request from last weekend’s post, is the recipe. Just don’t skip the pudding!

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.
– In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
– Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.
Makes 3 dozen.

Recipe was taken from allrecipes and altered to include the suggestions of the highest-rated review. Also note that my recipe is scaled to half of what is shown on the allrecipes site.

Since I’m including the recipes now, if you end up making any of these desserts, please let me know! I’d love to know how they turned out. 🙂

Oh, sheet cake!

Alrighty everyone, sorry for the delay, but I give you last weekend’s dessert:

Texas Sheet Cake, in honor of the Texas-Oklahoma game (but let’s not talk about that).

According to the cookbook, no one really knows why this cake is associated with Texas. It is topped with pecans, which are pretty Texas-y I suppose, but the cookbook also suggests using different toppings; so much for the pecans “Texas-ifying” this cake.

In any case, this was a super-easy, simple, quick, delicious cake (I sense a pattern with my baking – I’m either making something overly complicated or ridiculously easy. I like it.). In fact, I started it at half-time and we were eating it by the time the game was over. Not bad for a whole cake.

The cake was a simple chocolate-cake batter topped with toasted pecans and a chocolate glaze. I forgot to take pictures of the whole cake since we dug into it pretty quickly, but here’s a slice accompanied by a glass of cold milk:

Nothing like chocolate and milk.

All forked up and ready to go!

I'm ready for my close-up.

Chocolate-y.

Yum. Because this cake is so simple, I imagine that variations of the basic recipe would be pretty easy and interesting, beyond just using different toppings.

That’s it for this week’s dessert. But I have a question for all of you – would including recipes for the weekly desserts be of use to anyone? I thought I’d run that idea by you to see what you thought. ‘Til next time!