Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter Sunday & Monday!!

Happy Easter Everyone! Hope everyone is having a great long weekend while spending time with friends and family.My weekend has so far been pretty good and I was lucky enough to get Friday and Saturday off to enjoy a delicious turkey dinner for Easter. I also was able to fit in one recipe test for the next chapter of Classic Snacks and I'm excited to show all of you very soon.Well anyways,I hope everyone is enjoying my reviews so far and be sure to enjoy this weekend it will go by in an flash.It's already Sunday!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch:Nutter Butters Cookies

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Since the Homemade Oreo's were such a hit I made a decision to stay in the cookie chapter for one more recipe.I chose a recipe based on the store bought cookie called "Nutter Butters",which is a treat I haven't even tried since its sold in the states.Based on this homemade version they are a peanut butter shortbread sandwich cookie shaped as a peanut filled with peanut butter frosting.I thought this was a really cute idea for a cookie and I knew I had to test out this recipe.Also, I thought it be fun to not feel to worried about comparing the homemade to original.So this time I'll let all you readers and baker's see if they meet the challenge.

So far I have asked my face book page followers if they have tired Nutter Butters before and  I have received pretty positive reply towards the treat.So I'm hoping they will maybe try out the recipe as well and give me there feedback. Casey the author hasn't failed me so far with her homemade Oreo's so I think they will be pretty close to the original.

So when I began making this recipe I noticed the ingredients were very simple and the directions were very informative like the previous recipe I tested out.There are parts in this recipe where the visual descriptions are very helpful such as shaping the cookies and the baking.However there is one part in the directions where you roll the cookie dough into logs and I felt this step could of been simpler in the rolling aspect.So I made sure to put both their step and my tips in the recipe below.I still give a thumbs up for the directions in this recipe despite the complaint.

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Now, your probably wondering how these cookies are shaped into peanuts.Well cookie cutter's are not used in this recipe at all.What I had to do was place the unbaked cookies in the oven for 30 seconds,take them out and gently squeeze the edges in the middle to create groove.I really wondered how this shape was going to be formed without a cutter and never thought this would be the idea to create the peanut shape.However its really simple this way and definitely works. They actually look really cute in this shape and gives a peanut butter sandwich cookie character.

The funniest part of this recipe was making the frosting and assembling the "Nutter Butters". The frosting was really simple to make with my stand mixer and used powder sugar, peanut butter and shortening.The filling was really easy to spread on the shortbread and your able to put in a lot of frosting on each cookie. These sandwich cookies are really simple to assemble and its best to find the closest match for each cookie that you fill. Overall, this is the best part of the recipe because you get to create and see how everything comes together.

Once everything is assembling it is the flavor and texture test.So since I cannot compare it to the original I have to say these are some pretty good "Nutter Butters".They have a melt in your mouth shortbread that is mildly sweet with a delicious peanut butter flavor.While the filling is creamy with a mildly sweet and light peanut butter flavor.They are super addicting and I just love their shape.

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Overall, these are yet another sandwich cookie that everyone loves from Classic Snacks Made From Scratch.I love peanut butter so I knew I would love these even If I haven't tried the original "Nutter Butter".So I hope everyone tries out this recipe and comes back to tell me their own opinion on the homemade version of Nutter Butter's or tell me on The Art Of Baking Facebook Page. I will await to see if these really match up to the original and if your a fan "like" Classic Snacks Made From Scratch Page

Anyways, I shall get my butt moving onto testing some new recipes in the Cakey Treat chapter.Can you think of any of the treats that should be in that chapter? Enjoy this cookies.

The Recipe

Makes: About 2 dozen cookies.I had a little over 2 dozen.
Total: 2 hours including chilling time.It took a lot longer then 2 hours
Difficulty: 2. I agreed that this recipe is about a 2

Nutter Butters

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
8 tbsp or 4 ounces chilled unsalted butter,cut into cubes
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter


1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter   
1/4 cup vegetable shortening

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Whisk the flour,baking powder and salt together in a metal medium bowl,set aside.

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Using my kitchen aid mixer with a paddle attachment.I creamed the butter and sugar together on medium speed,until light and fluffy.Then I turned it down to low speed and added the egg and vanilla.Then I stirred in the creamy peanut butter on medium speed.Be sure to spray the measuring cup with baking spray before measuring the peanut butter. This helps extract all the peanut butter.

On low speed, I stirred in the dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time, until just incorporated.

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The directions say to spread 2 large sheets of plastic wrap on a clean surface and divide the dough into 2 equal pieces on the sheets.Wrap each piece tightly to form a rough cylinder about 8 inches long and 1 1/2 inch diameter (My Tip:The dough is very pliable and its a lot easier to just roll out the dough for its length and width before wrapping it) Then place the dough logs in the freezer for 30 minutes. (A kitchen measuring tape helps to)

I preheated the oven to 350F and lined my half sheet with a silpat liner. The recipe directions say to use 2 cookie sheets and line with parchment paper or silpat liners.

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Then I took out the dough logs,unwrapped them and cut the chilled dough into thin slices that were no more then 1/4 inch.Then I placed the cookies slices on the prepared sheet and placed them in the full preheated oven for 30 seconds.(My tip: This is so you can easily shape them) Once 30 seconds was up I removed them from the oven and formed each cookie into a peanut shape by squeezing the sides gently into the middle to create grooves. 

 Once that was done I placed the cookies back into the oven and bake for 13-16 minutes. (My tip: For me it was around 10 -12 minutes) They were done when the cookies were dry and no longer shiny, but not browning at the edges.They will seem to look underbake, but remove anyways.Cool the cookies completely on a rack. 

Filling The Cookies 

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When the cookies were cooling I made the filling. Using my kitchen aid stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low speed (You can use a hand held mixer to) I creamed the powdered sugar,peanut butter and the shortening together until fluffy and the sugar was incorporated.Then once that was thoroughly mixed I tuned the speed to high to fluff it up.It will look creamy and smooth.

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Once most of the cookies were cooled I spread the filling evenly on the flat side of half of the cookies and topped them with the remaining cookie. (Doesn't matter if the size match to closely)

Store cookies at room temp in an airtight container for up to a week. (My tip: I keep them in an airtight container in the fridge because they are really good cold)

Recipe Suggestion:

In the cookbook Casey mentions that Nutter Butter are cousins to the Do Si Dos, the oatmeal peanut butter girl scout cookies.To make this version add 1/4 cup coarsely chopped rolled oats to the dough. Plus its best to give these oats a quick grind in the food processor along with the flour. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch:Chapter One: Oreo Cookies

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Don't you think Cookies are the perfect choice for the beginning of Classic Snacks Made From Scratch cookbook? Well I definitely think so! This chapter includes some pretty creative homemade recipes such as Animal crackers,Mallomars, Nutter butters and even the beloved Oreo cookie.

So now that I have mentioned just a few of these treats.How do we narrow down what we really want to test out. Well I think the best way is to look for the key components, which are affordability,difficulty level and favorites.So with these tips I chose to make the homemade Oreo,which is such an iconic cookie that it must of been a big challenge for the author to recreate.These are a cookie I rarely indulge in and are always a special treat.So with these versions I know they will have lower calories and none of those pesky preservatives to the original.However we still have to find out if these homemade versions really meet the challenge of the famous cookie.
So was Casey able to succeed the challenge? We will soon find out.
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When I made this recipe I found that the directions were quite detailed where everything was easily explained.I can see everyone at any baking level able to create these cookies.This is an attribute I definitely look for in an author where they are able to connect to a variety of readers and no one feels left out. All I know is were not all mind readers or professionals when it comes to baking and we all need some helpful tips as we go.

This is also a recipe where you really need time and patients.So just make sure you give yourself a lot of time,especially if this is your first time ever making an Oreo version.This is because making the dough,chilling,rolling,cutting,baking and assembling all take their time.However the directions make all these steps quite smooth to follow and the photos I added to the recipe make the process even easier. This recipe was a lot of fun to create and the assembling was the best part. I give a big thumb up for description and tips throughout this recipe.

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Now for the moment we've all been waiting for.Did these homemade cookie's really measure up? Well I was surprised how deliciously similar these were that I feel they are better then the original.Why you might ask? Well these homemade versions have all the same flavor and texture attributes;however they have no preservatives and no aftertaste compare to the original.They were so delicious that I have to give this cookie a two thumbs up.

This recipe made a lot of cookies and everyone really loved them.They ate them with milk,coffee and even hot chocolate.Everyone was certainly impressed and are now excited to try out some more treats from Classic Snacks. Enjoy!

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The Recipe


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3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 oz Semisweet chocolate,coarsely chopped (a scant 1/3 cup) (My Tip: Bakers Chocolate, Two squares)
8 tbsp or 4 oz chilled unsalted butter,cut into cubes
1/2 cup vegetable shortening ( Doesn't specify original or golden)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs


2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
2 tbsp whole or reduced fat milk
1 tbsp vegetable shortening (Doesn't specify original or golden) 

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 I whisked the flour,cocoa powder,baking soda,baking powder and salt together in a large metal bowl until no lumps remain.I set it aside until use.

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I used baker chocolate semisweet, 2 bars equal 2 ounces.I coarsely chopped the chocolate with a bread knife and place in a small sauce pan to melt over low heat,stirring constantly until liquefied.Then I set it aside to cool slightly.

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To measure the chilled unsalted butter.Well 8 tbsps equals 120ml. So I measured 125ml or 1/2 cup and then weighed it on a scale to measure in ounces and remove butter until it reached 4 ounces.If you don't have a scale measure 125ml/1/2cup and remove 1 tsp from the butter.

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With my kitchen-aid mixer using a paddle attachment.I creamed the butter,shortening,and sugar on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy.Then on low speed I added the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next egg.

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I poured in the melted chocolate and mixed until combined on low speed.Then I added the dry ingredients and mixed until soft dough forms.Soft dough will develop very quickly with a stand mixer.

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I shaped the soft dough into 2 discs of roughly equal size and wrapped with plastic wrap. I Refrigerate the dough for more then an hour until firm.You can prepare pan with parchment paper or silpat mat.I used my silpat pat with my half sheet.Once the dough was firm I removed the dough from the fridge and preheated the oven to 375F.

Then I rolled out one of the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out 1 1/2 inch cookies.You can use a cookie round or biscuit cutter.I made my own cookie cutter stencil with card stock and cut the shape with a knife.Then I place the rounds on the baking sheet and baked for 12 minutes exactly,until cookies were slightly crisp on the edges and puffed up on top and still pliable in the center.Cool completely on wire rack before filling.Repeat these steps for the remaining dough.

Filling and Assembling

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Using my kitchen-aid mixer with the paddle attachment.I mixed the powder sugar,corn syrup,milk and shortening on low speed until combined,for about 30 seconds. I increased the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds more to whip slightly.However it was a little too thick so I added 1 tsp of milk to create a smoother icing.

Then I used a flat icing spatula to spread about 1 tsp of icing to a cooled flat side cookie.If you want a double stuff cookie the author say to double the icing recipe if your an icing lover.I think Ill have to take that offer next time I make these.Then top with a second cookie flat side down,squeeze together slightly.Repeat to fill all cookies.

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It says these cookies can stay at room temp in an airtight container for up to a week.However I left mine in the fridge because these are so good cold.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch is a cookbook written by Casey BarBer and published by the Ulysess Press.Classic snacks is inspired to make homemade versions of all our favorite brand name treats and even encourage readers to implement their own creative idea.Casey BarBer has taken on a big challenge to find out exactly how all these treats tick and develop a recipe that everyone can make.I love the challenge and creativity that is found in this book,which is the main reason I took the opportunity to review for my readers.I am super excited to see how the recipes turn out and It definitely will be a fun review for me and my taste testers.I hope everyone is as interested as I am and will tune in on the recipe testing.Enjoy!

 (I received this cookbook free for review and all my opinions share throughout this review are my own.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Petite Treats:Fancy Stuff,Strawberry Cream Eclairs,Final Review!

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We have reached the final chapter of Petite Treats that is dedicated to the "Fancy Stuff" that will definitely test your skill and expertise in the kitchen. Some of the recipes included in this chapter are canoli's,eclair's, mini cheesecake's and bear claw's. Don't those all sound so delicious and creative that you just want to test them all out.Well before you dive into this chapter you might want to hear my experiences with "Fancy Stuff".

In this chapter, I have learned that all these recipes need a lot of patients and the ability to cope with very  fragile treats.That being said I don't recommend the reader to start making any treats from this chapter until they test out recipes throughout this cookbook.Trust me with saying this because I have reviewed one recipe from each chapter and I still had a difficult time when I tested out a recipe from "Fancy Stuff".I learned they were no where kidding about how this chapter tests your baking skills,especially for their recipe for Strawberry Cream Eclairs.

Now at first I thought this recipe would of been a breeze since I have made puff pastries before.However I was wrong and ended up with a bad experience with the choux pastry.Now the directions to making the pastry were very familiar to me and were easy to come together.Also the piping was alright it just took some time getting use to.However the trouble came from the baking part of the recipe.The recipe mentioned to bake these eclairs at about 20 minutes until golden brown,which seemed way to long for eclairs so I made sure to always keep watch.When I was done baking all the pastry I noticed that some of the eclairs were very flat and not useful.This was quite confusing to me since the recipe didn't mention this could happen.

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This is what I ended up with.
Then I realized that I made a big mistake when I was baking this pastry. I remembered a tip I learned from a recipe that you should never open the oven door to puff pastry since it will cause them to deflate.So I made sure to redo the recipe with the tips and they came out a lot better with only a few that went flat. I felt pretty stupid when I forgot about this tip;however it made me wonder why the recipe didn't mention anything about it.If that little nugget of information was added to this recipe it would prevent many people from becoming discouraged ,especially first timers. So I'll have to give a thumbs up to the directions to making the choux pastry, but a thumb down for the baking portion of the recipe.

Now on to the more relaxed and fun part of the recipe.Creating the vanilla cream and berry filling.This part of the recipe is heaven compared to the choux pastry.First,the vanilla cream is super easy to make with only using vanilla bean,heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar.The vanilla bean can be found at any grocery store, down the baking aisle and is very important to the flavor.If you don't know how to scrape the vanilla bean I'll give you some tips in the recipe.The directions are also super easy to follow and it can be made with a kitchen aid mixer or a hand held mixer.

The berry filling is even easier to put together then the vanilla cream.All you need is fresh strawberries,chopped, granulated sugar and fresh mint or basil.I would not dare use frozen strawberries for this since it will be way to watery for the filling.The mint or basil is your choice of what flavor you like to have bond with the berries.Overall, the filling does takes some time to come together since it needs one hour to let the flavors bond.Beside the wait it is super easy to create. I will have to give both these fillings thumbs up.

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Now the assembling of these eclairs are the most fragile part of the recipe.Its will be a lot harder in person then its explained in the recipe because your dealing with a very sensitive pastry.What you have to do is cut the eclairs length wise,horizontally without wrecking anything.Then you have to pipe in whipped cream, top with berry filling and then place the top back on.All while trying to make it look quite fancy.It is also very important to have your pastry completely cooled and your whipped cream with stiff peaks.The recipe does a pretty good at explaining what to do,but it feels a lot different when your actually assembling.Also, its your choice if you want a dust of icing sugar for the assembling. I chose not to since its already a pretty sweet dessert.Anyways,I give a thumbs up for the directions in assembling.

Now for the moment we all been waiting for the, test test.These Strawberry Cream Eclairs were delicious even after all that frustration with creating them.The pastry was mildly sweet with a soft and airy texture while letting the vanilla cream and berry filling shine through.The cream was rich and creamy with a strong vanilla flavor.It also had beautiful specks of vanilla that created a really unique look.

The berry filling had sweet and juicy strawberries with just a hint of mint flavor.It gave off a beautiful vibrant red with just a few specks of green from the mint.The eclairs had layers and layers of flavor and everyone really enjoyed them.Everything was really good that the flat eclairs even got eating because once you dip them in vanilla cream and berry filling the taste buds can't tell the difference.I'm so glad nothing went to waste and everything was delicious.

So overall, I really love this recipe for its creativity,simplicity and of course the flavor.The recipe may suffer problems with lack of information and if the recipe had just had that extra help for the reader I could give it a perfect rating.However I got to be honest so I will give a thumbs up for its flavor,texture and simple direction.While I give a thumbs down to lacking information and the baking directions of this recipe.  I wish I could give it a better rating,but that's how it turned out for me.

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So Wow! We are now coming to the end of my review of Petite Treats, even though I know I left out one last chapter to review.The last chapter to this cookbook is dedicated to toppings,frosting,streusels and drizzles.I felt I had to leave this chapter out since I wasn't able to use any of the recipes in any of the treats I tested.It might of not been the best reason to leave out a chapter;however I felt it was the best for me.

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Anyways, Everyone wants to hear about the overall opinion of the cookbook, right? Well I find that Petite Treats is a very creative and inspiration cookbook.There are many recipes that people will enjoy and I also love that their is vegan friendly recipes as well.The photos included in the book are excellent and quite detailed.Lastly, the directions and ingredients in the recipes are also quite simple for many to understand.

Now with all these great attributes to Petite Treats there are a few downfalls.The recipes in Petite Treats may be quite simple;however they do need more detail and information to help the reader understand.Their is also a typo in one of the recipes titled F.U Brownies and I hope their isn't any more in the other recipes.Overall, I do have to say I really like this cookbook for its creativity and recipes.I will recommend this cookbook for others to learn how to make their own mini dessert treats.

I find Christy Beaver and Morgan Greenseth, the author of Petite Treats to be very inspiration and I just hope their next cookbook includes more information and tips for the readers like me.I hope everyone enjoyed my recipes reviews for Petite Treats and I hope you all tune in for the next cookbook I review that is all about our favorite snacks.I am so excited!

The Recipe

Strawberry Cream Eclairs

Makes 20

For the Eclairs:

1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs

For The Vanilla Cream

1 vanilla bean,split lengthwise
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar

For The Berry Filling

2 cups strawberries,finely chopped
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp finely chopped fresh mint or basil (Your choice)
1/2 powdered sugar,dusting (optional) 

Make The Eclairs:

Preheat the oven 400F.Line two baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the paper with cooking spray. (My Tip: Be sure to spray the sheet with cooking spray if not they will stick)

Combine the milk,water,butter and salt in a medium saucepan.Heat over medium-high heat ,stirring constantly,then remove from the heat.

Add the flour and stir until combined.Return the pan to medium- high heat and cook for 4 minutes,stirring constantly,then remove from the heat. (My tip: The mixture will become a ball of dough)

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Transfer the mixture to an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.Mix on medium speed for 1 minute.Add the eggs one at a time.Make the first egg is incorporated before you add the second one.(My tip: Can use an handheld mixer and keep the mixture in the pot while beating in the eggs)

Transfer the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2 inch tip. (My tip: If you cannot find this size tip, cut an disposable piping bag until reaches the right size.Use a kitchen measuring tape to help you out)

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Pipe the eclairs about 2 1/2 inch long onto prepared baking, about 10 per sheet. (My tip: Use a kitchen measuring tape to help you get the right length and 10 per sheet depends on the size of the pan) 

Bake until golden brown,about 20 minutes. ( My Tip: For me this time was way to high so be sure to keep an eye on the pastry and do not overcook.Also DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN!. They will deflate if the oven is open so just look through the oven door and remove when golden brown.)

This picture includes flat eclairs and some that are a little useful.
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Make Vanilla Cream: 

Chill the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer for 30 minutes in the freezer. (My Tip: Can use a metal bowl and mixer attachments to an handheld mixer as well)

Scrape the vanilla bean in to the mixer bowl.Discard the pod. 
(My tip: Cut vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape top to bottom, using the dull part of the blade.Also, DO NOT DISCARD the pod.You can use it towards making your own homemade vanilla or by adding one pod to sugar to create vanilla sugar.)

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Add the whipping cream.Beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.With the mixer running,gradually add the powdered sugar and beat medium-high speed, until stiff peak form (My Tip:  Same rules apply to a handheld mixer)

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Transfer the whipped cream into a pastry bad fitted with a large plain tip and refrigerate, until ready to use. ( My Tip: I used a large star tip for my piping bag which created a nice design)

Make The Berry Filling:

Place finely chopped strawberries in a medium bowl.Add the finely chopped mint or basil.Add the sugar and stir.Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.(My Tip: 1 package of fresh strawberries is more then enough for 2 cups)

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Assemble The Eclairs:

When the eclairs have completely cooled, slice each one in half lengthwise, horizontally.Set each top next to its bottom (My Tip: Slicing these can be very difficult since the pastry is very fragile)

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Pipe the vanilla cream onto each bottom.Top the cream with the berry filling. (My tip:Be sure the vanilla cream is thick with stiff peaks.)

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 day.