Friday, May 30, 2014

Baking Friday - 5th Friday Pies

"Spirited" Father's Day Pies!  Please allow me to introduce you to Grand Marnier Pecan.
This unassuming little gem isn't your ordinary pecan pie.  This beauty is not only full of pecans and sweetness, it has an extra layer of flavor from orange zest, orange oil and that Piece de Resistance" (insert your French accent here) of orange liqueurs, the one all the rest try to be,  Grand Marnier itself.  I flat out love this pie.  I think it can't be as good as I remember, but alas, each time I taste it, I think, "Oh yea, it is THAT good."

Grand Marnier Pecan: meet our readers.

Readers: meet Grand Marnier Pecan.  He really isn't as sophisticated as his name would indicate.  Don't let him fool you.

Next, I would like to introduce you to our second "spirited" Father's Day pie - Kentucky Bourbon Derby.
This one may look quite similar to his cousin above, but they are quite different in personality.  This cousin is laced with not only pecans, but also semi-sweet chocolate chips and, of course, Kentucky Bourbon.  While some in my circle would ask if I had used 10-year Russell Reserve, alas the truthful answer would be "No" for I had Jim Beam with Honey on hand.  Sigh.  Plus I would never tell you that I was a Kentucky Bourbon snob.  I, on the other hand, simply observe and listen in as the Kentucky Bourbon oficianados talk among themselves and hope against hope that one will deign to toss me a crumb of knowledge.  Sigh again.  BUT, please do not allow such sayings from a Bourbon commoner deter you from trying our Derby friend here.

Kentucky Bourbon Derby: meet our readers.

Readers:  meet Kentucky Bourbon Derby.  His name doesn't even try to be sophisticated like his cousin.  He hails from the simpler side of the family, ya understand.

And finally, please let me introduce you to our last "spirited" Father's Day pies - the Bailey's Irish Cream Mousse Pie.
If you are one who loves to sip on a glass of Bailey's after a good dinner with family and friends or lace your after dinner coffee with a finger of Bailey's, this pie may be right up your alley.  Light in texture, mellow in its Bailey's-ness, as Bailey's should be, this more feminine cousin flirts with your taste buds for sweet and Irish Creamy goodness before she melts away into oblivion, making you want her all the more.

(Does anyone else need a cigarette about now?  Ahem...)

Bailey's Irish Cream Mousse Pie:  meet our readers.

Readers: meet Bailey's Irish Cream Mousse Pie.  Please forgive her shyness as she twirls a bit.  She isn't used to taking center stage.

So what do you think of our line up?  Do you think that these are special enough pies to be part of our 5th Friday of the Month "Extra" Baking Friday Pie Edition?  Could they help to make any Father's Day just that much sweeter and more "spirited" and better?  I hope so!

I won't walk you through the pictures of making all of them, but I will share the recipes for all.  I've made the "male" cousins above, Mr. Grand Marnier and Mr. Derby before, but I'd never made their more genteel cousin, Miss Bailey's, before so that is the one I am featuring below.  Despite their somewhat pretentious names, all three pies are truly quite simple to execute.  And if you have an aversion to using alcohol in your baking, you can still make the pecan (substitute some orange extract) and the derby (substitute some rum extract perhaps).  They won't be the same, but they will be close.  As for making the Bailey's without alcohol, I would suggest mixing about 1 T. of coffee with 4 T. of cream for the 1/3 cup of Bailey's called for in the recipe.  I'm not sure that will work, but that seems like it could come close.

Ok, so here is the link for the Grand Marnier Pecan  I make no changes to what Bree puts forth except a few drops of orange oil.  Sometimes you just don't mess with perfection!

And here is the link for the Kentucky Bourbon Derby Pie  I don't always have miniature chocolate chips on hand, so I used regular, and people seemed to really love the chocolate goodness, so I don't think miniature vs. regular is a deal breaker here!

So now for the Bailey's Irish Cream Mousse Pie recipe.  I found this on Saving Room for Dessert, a blog I enjoy where the writer, Tricia, spent 2011 baking 1 pie a week, and this was her # 9 that year.  Mine didn't make as pretty a piece picture as hers, but I think it still tasted pretty wonderful!  It probably needs to be served right from the fridge, and the longer you chill it the better.  I served it after a drive into work, so it had been at room temperature for about a half hour before the first piece looked like this...
See...I share my fails as well as my successes here....sigh...

On to the recipe!

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/4 cups graham crackers
1/4 c. sugar
5 T. melted butter

Mix the above together (a food processor makes this a snap!) and press into a 9" pie pan.  Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Ta-da!  (I know, really Deb?  It's a graham cracker crust.  Alas, you are right.  This could also be a vanilla wafer crust if you don't have graham crackers on hand.)

1 1/3 c. white chocolate, roughly chopped
1/3 c. Bailey's Irish Cream
Dash espresso powder
1/2 c. egg whites
1/4 c. sugar
1 c. cream

Tricia says to melt the chopped white chocolate with the Bailey's in a double boiler, but I simply melted on a low setting in the microwave.  And then when I tasted it, I felt like I needed to boost the coffee flavor ever so slightly so I sprinkled the slightest dash of espresso powder on top and stirred it in.
Next I whipped my egg whites and sugar until stiff.  I used the standard technique of whipping to soft peaks and then sprinkling in the sugar gradually while beating until stiff.
Look at that peak!  That's right pretty right there!

I took these whites out of my mixer bowl and then beat the cream until fairly stiff.  Another pretty peak!

Now Tricia says to fold the egg whites and cream together, which I did, and then fold in the Bailey's mixture.  I prefer to mix in a small amount of my whipped ingredients to my non-whipped ingredients to lighten the non-whipped before I fold everything together, so that is what I did.
That lead to this.
And then that lead to this.
Which then lead to this.
And this.  Which may or may not have included some yummy bowl licking!
After chilling overnight, I whipped up some additional sweetened whipped cream and piped that over the top plus grated some additional white chocolate as a garnish.
And it was done!  I chilled it again, but like I said above.  I really do think this one needs to be served as cold as possible.
I remembered to get shots of each cut piece, but those pics didn't turn out so pretty.  Here they are anyway.
I added some orange zest and the tiniest dash of orange extract to the last of the whipped cream to serve with our Grand Marnier Pecan.  I really liked this touch!  But then I tend to land in the camp that says, "Do I want whipped cream?  Why yes, of course!"

Here is our cut Kentucky Bourbon Derby.  He cooperated much better for his pic.
And I'm sorry.  What can I say about Miss Bailey's pic?  Perhaps she was still feeling a bit melty and in need of that cigarette from above?
Yes, you're right.  It is definitely time for me to stop right here.  Ahem.

Hope you enjoy!  Thank you again for stopping by!  I have two bake sales this weekend, so I gotta run, but I will do my best to post pics of those items by Monday!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Face Plant Slide Skills

This won't be anywhere close to a respectable Deb Dissertation, but I had to share this video of the little J-man learning all about slides.

J-man slide

I have every confidence that J-man will learn to lean back and land on his feet one of these days.  But ya gotta love his "Go!" and launches head first...all the way to the carpet...where he laughs and does it all over again.  (I know this because we have 2 other similar videos, but I will show some Mimi restraint and not go all "look what the grandson is doing today" on you...)

This made me laugh.  So I had to share!  Hope you're smiling or laughing, too!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Baking "Friday" - Cookie # 5

How many ways do you like chocolate chip cookies?

"Whatever way Deb makes them," was the answer from the first-time daddy of this new little one.
How sweet is that?  (Yes, I mean the daddy's reply but mainly this little sweet face.  Babies really are just the best way for people to start!)

But back to chocolate chip cookies.  How about with bacon?  I served these at breakfast time after all.
These are our Father's Day cookies.  We did fancier cookies for Mother's Day...pretty cookies, ladylike cookies...remember these?
But I wanted to do more "guy like" cookies for Father's Day.  And chocolate chip may be just about the most quintessential standard, universally loved cookie by "guys".  So chocolate chip was chosen.

As you know, there are LOTS of chocolate chip cookie recipes available.  Some people SWEAR by their chocolate chip cookie recipe as the BEST there ever was.  And others swear by the recipe on the back of the Nestle chocolate chip bag.  (Anyone have visions of the Friends' episode about this recipe now?)  I tend to land in the camp "is there really a bad chocolate chip cookie recipe?"  There are truly as many recipes out there as there are ways that people like chocolate chip cookies.  Do you like a soft and bendy cookie?  Or do you prefer them a bit crisper?  Do you like nuts with your chocolate chips?  How about oatmeal?   Or are you a purest?  I am a soft and bendy girl myself, but in all honesty, if a chocolate chip cookie is offered along side of other things, I will usually choose from the "other things" side.  They just don't happen to be one of my favorite cookies.  But this isn't about what I like. This is about something fathers might like for their special day coming up in June.

Like you've read me type a few times before, I turn to the King Arthur Flour website for the chocolate chip cookie recipe that I use most.  And there are at least a dozen chocolate chip cookie recipes on their site.  I usually bake up the KAF Guaranteed recipe you find on that link with one fairly minor exception.  I add just a teaspoon of cornstarch to help them fluff up a bit.  But we will get to those details in a bit.  I wanted to do more than "jus'" chocolate chip cookies.  I wasn't sure I could come up with a true "Jus' Deb's Dissertation" about regular chocolate chip cookies.

So what to do?  Let's think about father's.  Father's are wonderful creatures.  I'm very glad that God thought of creating fathers, but I am also glad that they are not all the same.  Dads are far from cookie cutters.  Even when talking about cookies.

Some dads like the standard chocolate chip cookie.  These are the guys who ask questions like "why mess with perfection?"  My step kids father would be one of these.  I think it is safe to say that this is definitely one of his favorite cookies, if not his absolute favorite cookie.  But please don't go messing with a good thing!

And yes, even as I read this aloud to him, he starts shaking his head "yes" in that duh! sort of way, if you know what I mean!

Other dads are just a bit adventuresome - not crazy, you understand, but just a little - just a touch of spice to make their tongues wonder what is that flavor mixing it up with the chocolate chips - reminiscent of Mexican hot chocolate.  For these fine fellows, I offer you chocolate chip cookies with a few white chocolate chips and cinnamon chips tossed in and cinnamon chips added on the top right before baking.
Then we have dads who LOVE adventure, even in all things culinary.  But even these guys can be split into 2 camps.  Some like the adventure to mix it up with other sweet things like peanut butter cups and caramel and even sea salt for a slight savory finish.
And then we have The Bacon Dads.  Come on, you know who you are.  If "bacon" is close by, these guys are IN.  Always.  For these guys, the phrase "6 degrees of greatness" as penned by one of my most prolific taste testers (with an appropriate nod to Kevin B.) applies.  Bacon in the dough plus bacon on top of the cookie, glued in place with a touch of maple glaze - reminiscent of bacon and pancakes.  (Is anyone hungry about now?)
These.  These?  Were surprisingly good.  If you are into bacon that is.  If you are only mildly into bacon and bacon isn't The Best Meat Ever Invented, then these might not be your thing.  But for those who love bacon and chocolate chip cookies, ya might want to consider giving these a try.  Some used the word "phenomenal" to describe these.  Others said that they were "delicious!" and "most wonderful".  Our new daddy above had tried other bacony desserts, but they had been oversold and didn't really work.  He enjoyed these quite a bit, and I don't believe he is one that would simply blow smoke to make me feel good, if you know what I mean.  He's got a pretty discerning tongue.  I'm not trying to oversell these here, just letting you know that while the cookie might sound strange, they actually work quite well together.

You can always do what I did - make up a basic batch of dough and then split them however you like.  I did a double batch to be sure I had enough for everyone, but if you had less people to serve, you could split a regular batch just as easily.

Ready for the recipe?  Until such time as I ever have a "real" blog where I can make recipes easily printable, you may find it easiest to print the recipe from the KAF website.  I totally get that.  But here's the recipe as well, in the amounts that I made.

2/3 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar (see pics below)
1-1/3 cup sugar
1 cup butter (I'm bad, I used salted)
1 cup shortening (I used the butter flavored)
1 t. salt
Splash of vanilla and almond
2 t. white vinegar
2 t. baking soda
2 t. cornstarch (not in the KAF recipe)
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour (yes, I only use KAF brand...signed Flour Snob)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups milk chocolate chips

I began by creaming the butter and shortening.  How gorgeous and smooth is this?  This is with softened butter and shortening after about 4 minutes of beating.
Then I added the brown sugar.  Now, I had dark brown sugar in a canister and "dark" brown sugar in the bag, but I honestly think that this bag was miss marked.  Would you agree?  Don't you see two colors here?

So that's why I wrote it that I used 2/3 cup of light brown sugar and 2/3 cup of dark.  I've personally found them to be just about interchangeable with the dark giving only a slightly more molasses-like flavor.

I beat in these sugars with the white sugar, salt, flavorings, vinegar, baking soda and cornstarch until smooth.  Then I added the eggs, scraping the bowl from time to time, before beating in the flour on low speed.

Then I added the chocolate chips.  I like to combine the semi-sweet with the milk, but that is obviously only a personal preference.
Then I started rolling into balls using my small ice-cream scoop, ready to bake.  I did about half the batch as the standard, basic chocolate chip cookies.

These balls of dough weren't quite right.  I forgot two steps with these.
These baked up like this.  Not "broken" just not quite as pretty and appealing as they could be.
These I did right.  And by right I mean that I rolled each ball in superfine sugar and then added 3 chips on the top.  I blew up this picture so you could see those details a bit better.

And so this is how those baked up.  A bit more appealing, right?  Right?
Oh!  And yes, I am one of those that bakes one sheet of cookies at a time and always on parchment.  I also use my tried and true air-bake cookie sheets to keep the bottoms from browning too quickly and burning.  I figure - if I'm baking cookies, I would rather take a bit longer overall time and get each sheet as good as I can than cut the time but end up with mediocre results.  So I baked all of these in my oven at 375 for right at 9 - 10 minutes and then resting 1.5 - 2 minutes on the sheet before sliding all of them off at the same time by simply sliding the parchment paper onto the counter for final cooling.

Now to the rest of the dough, I went on the adventures!  To a small amount I added white chocolate chips, a few cinnamon chips and then after rolling in the sugar, I topped with a few more cinnamon chips.  These may have been my favorite of the bunch.  They kind of reminded one taster of a scone, and I get that.  They are not too sweet, but have a certain spicy sweetness to complement the chocolate chips.
For the next portion of dough, I added some butterscotch chips, and cut up some mini peanut butter cups.

Would you like a closer look?
I still rolled these in sugar but I didn't decorate the tops with any chips....because... I did something crazy to these when they came out of the oven.  I put a whole mini peanut butter cup on top of the hot cookie to let it melt just a bit and get all soft and gooey.
And then I drizzled a bit of caramel sauce (like for ice cream sundaes) and just a light sprinkling of sea salt.  The chocolate stayed soft and gooey.  So soft and gooey, in fact, that I couldn't cover them with waxed paper or plastic.  These are definitely SWEET, even with the sea salt, but if you are a peanut butter cup fan, I say, "Go for it!"
And now...finally....the Bacon.  I fried up about 5 thick slices that I had diced beforehand and sprinkled them with about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup right before removing from the pan to drain.
Then I fried up about 7 more full slices (3 of which were used for a BLT for G's supper that night.)  The remaining 4 got cut up into 6 bite-size pieces each or enough for about 24 cookies.
I mixed the diced pieces into the dough and began to roll into balls, again rolling them in sugar.  Can you see the bacon peaking out?
How about now?
After they had cooled, I mixed up a small batch of a normal powdered sugar glaze (pat of soft butter, few grains of salt, vanilla, powdered sugar & milk) and added a drizzle of maple syrup.  I added a dab of this to the top of each cookie, and then added a piece of bacon for "garnish".  And because The Bacon Dads could not care less what platter their bacon comes on, I served these on a Christmas platter.
And before I knew it, I had chocolate chip cookies 4 different ways.

Classic "Don't Mess with Perfection" - served on a basic platter, but served abundantly..
Slightly spicy - unassuming, for those dads who like to keep their adventure understated.

Sweet Adventure - served on a platter that my sister gave me after S&K got married as a MOTB gift...
And finally our "Cookies with Bacon!"  I have a feeling that I need to do something next week that does NOT include bacon, because as one manager put it, "These emails are more effective leading everyone away from their desks than the Pied Piper!"
How many ways do you like chocolate chip cookies?  Or more importantly, how many ways does your dad like chocolate chip cookies?  Where does he land on this flavor spectrum?

Intriguing for thought...Ooo!  Did you catch the pun?

Thanks for stopping by!  See you next week for a 5th Friday Pie!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Happy! Happy! Birthday to A-man!

Some of you may be stopping by looking for our next Friday Baking post.  And if this was any normal Friday, your efforts would have been rewarded with a look into our Cookie # 5 for Father's Day.

But THIS.  THIS?  THIS isn't any normal Friday!  THIS.  TODAY.  Is A-man's 6th Birthday!!!  So Baking Friday - Cookie # 5 will just have to wait until tomorrow.  (Besides that, I was out of town much of this week, so my regular taste testers aren't getting their tasting until this morning anyway...but more on that later.)

For we have some birthday love to celebrate of this guy!

6.  Years.  Old.  Today.  Happy!  Happy!  Birthday A-man!

Here are the Top 5 Things We Love About A-man...

# 5 - He is the only person on the entire planet that I have ever ridden a camel with.  Even if I ever ride a camel with someone else, he will always remain the first person I ever rode a camel with.  Good time.

# 4 - A-man says that I'm not old.  He said it twice.  In one weekend.  The first time we were cuddling and we start to talk about his upcoming 6th birthday.  A-man asked, "What if I was 9?"  To which I said, "And you would be turning 10, you mean?"  A-man nodded, and I told him how I remember turning 10, because then I was in the double digits.  But then I said that was a LONG time ago, because I'm old now.  And right on cue, without even hesitating, A-man laughed and said, "You're not old!"  A similar story happened when we were walking out of church on Sunday and the idea of wrinkles came up.  He said I didn't have any.  So whether he is telling the truth or not, I gotta love this boy for saying the right things!

# 3 - A-man has quite the dramatic flair.  I have every reason to believe that Grandpa G and Grandma Deb will see this boy on stage as the lead actor one of these days.

Plus it simply takes a certain sense of dramatic confidence to pull off wearing a pair of Grandma Deb's shoes with such style.  I'm jus' sayin'...

# 2 - His love for his Grandpa G.

And the # 1 Thing We Love About A-man...

# 1 - The relationship he is building with his brother.  Little O-man had fallen on the porch step.  He wasn't really hurt; he was more scared and upset.  But it was A-man's love and attention that calmed O-man down and cheered him up the best.  A couple of whale crackers from A-man's T-ball snack were just about the perfect trick.  Nicely done, A-man!

Now for the Top 5 Things We Would Give A-man For His Birthday if Time, Money and Resources Were No Object...

# 5 - Chocolate Ice Cream.  Or more specifically a lifetime supply of Triple Chocolate Concretes from Andy's Frozen custard.  A-man said last weekend that he was "related to this" stuff and that he "was going to marry it."  I didn't get a pic of A-man's current bride to be, but here is A-man relishing a chocolate cone from the beloved Andy's last summer.  Think this pic in concrete form...and having that Triple Chocolate Concrete for supper!  Talk about celebrating your birthday a bit early!!

# 4 - A stage.  A-man's Grandma S gave him a recorder/microphone toy last year (that Mommy & Daddy just "loved" for about 5.3 minutes!), but A-man was singing and "on" with this toy!
So we would give him his very own real stage with an audience so he could be King of the Theater!
# 3 - A pond.  With fish.  And other living creatures.  Or, I guess, really we would give him his own personal ocean.  A-man loves to learn about living things like sharks and snakes and we're not entirely sure that we'd be able to fit all of those things into a pond.  So it would need to be an ocean.

Or more trips to Bass-Pro with Grandpa G and Grandma Deb.  It all works.  Right?

# 2 - Cousin Time.  A-man is not only a great big brother, he is also a really great big cousin to the K-man.  I'm sure he is also a great younger cousin to the ones on his Mommy's side, but I don't really have pictures of those, I'm sorry to say.  But we have this one from last Sunday.  I do believe that the K-man thinks that A-man is just about one of the coolest dudes.  Ever.  And K-man would be right, of course.

And the # 1 Thing We Would Give to the A-man for His Birthday if Time, Money and Resources Were No Object...

# 1 - A train just a bit faster than the one shown here, so he could hop in, push a button, wave good-bye to Mommy and Daddy and come visit us way more often!
OR - maybe a swing a bit bigger than this one...
...and a jet pack attached to these two suits...

...that would propel both of these guys safely to our house in just under 10 minutes - just long enough to give them a great ride, but just short enough (complete with tracking devices) so Mommy wouldn't worry for too long.

Happy!  Happy! 6th Birthday A-man!  We love you and loved seeing all of you last weekend!  We hope you have a GREAT day with Popsicles at school and celebrating this weekend!  You make 6 look good, buddy!