Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘baking’

It’s nothing really. I just had a few extra pink cake layers. And you know what they say—when life hands you cake, make balls.

I’m not a cake decorator. So when people ask me to make cake for their special occasions, I refer them to Jamiecakes or Hy-Vee. But once in a while Jamiecakes can’t take anymore orders and I say yes to making a reveal cake for a family friend. The ultrasound was in the morning and they wanted the cake that night so I knew I needed to be ready with pink cake layers and blue cake layers because I wouldn’t have time during the day to bake.

It’s a boy! Which is why I had extra pink cake layers in my freezer, taking up valuable space that could be used for mocha cakes from Flandreau Bakery or cheesecakes. I was going to throw them out but I decided to tear them up, stir in a bunch of vanilla frosting, and make cake pops. It wasn’t as irritatingly tedious as I thought it would be. Although, I had intentions of actually making pops that weren’t upside down but I started the dipping process and realized I forgot to bring in a piece of styrofoam to hold them upright to dry. Oh well, I don’t think the gravity changed the flavor.

My daughter and I each ate one and we gave the rest away in random, special deliveries. I don’t have a specific recipe for cake balls. But this is what I did and how you can do it:

Cake Balls or Pops 

pre-made cake

one or two canisters of vanilla frosting

2 or more bags of Wilton pink candy melts

sprinkles

cake pop sticks

piece of styrofoam if you want the pops to be upright

  1. Line a pan that will fit in your freezer with wax paper to set the balls on.
  2. Crumble two 9-inch cake layers into a bowl (mine were homemade cakes but you could simply bake a box cake and use the entire cake – you don’t need layers, just cake to break up).
  3. Stir in at least one can of vanilla frosting (I used one and a half cans but it really depends on how much cake you have). You want this to be creamy, almost more frosting than cake really.
  4. Shape into balls, smaller than a golf ball but larger than a marble. Place on wax paper and set pan in freezer for approximately 15 minutes.
  5. Melt candy melts over low heat.
  6. Dip a stick into the candy melts, covering about one-fourth of the stick, and insert into semi frozen cake pop. Set pops on pan and put back in the freezer until fully frozen, at least 30 minutes. Keep candy melts warm. Add a few drops of vegetable oil to the candy melts to thin it out a little for dipping.
  7. Once cake balls are frozen, gently dip once into candy melts, fully covering the ball and letting excess drip off. Scatter sprinkles onto ball and place back on pan or insert upright into a piece of styrofoam (do a good job of tapping off excess). You’ll want to work this process quickly because once the balls start to defrost, they’ll fall off the stick when you are dipping.
  8. Let cool and set. Best eaten at room temperature. Can be stored in the freezer or refrigerator.

*****

Sweet wishes,

Staci

 

Read Full Post »

Within minutes of cracking my eyes open and my feet hitting the chilly carpet, the morning sunshine was overshadowed by gloomy sadness—it’s the same tinge of grief that creeps in every September 18, the anniversary of my best friend’s unspeakable death.

Since 22 years of heartbreak can’t be mended with a bottle of Patrón and Duct tape, the next best thing for me is baking. So after I got off the phone with Darya’s dad, Darryl, I wiped my tears with a lotion-y Kleenex and cranked the oven to 350°.

6 and a half layer bars

I recalled a story her mom, Carmen, told me recently. One time, Carmen put a pan of 7-layer bars in the oven and had to leave the house so she asked Darya to turn the oven off when the timer was done. Well, Darya did just that. She turned the oven off but she didn’t take the bars out of the oven. The bars continued to bake and caramelize and as Carmen puts it, “…best bars we ever had and we can’t seem to duplicate that.”

In sweet memory of my friend, I tried to recreate what she had done so many years ago. I changed up the recipe a little because I thought adding caramel, milk chocolate toffee bits, and salty pretzel crumbs could only make the bars better. I was right.

Just remember to turn the oven off and let them sit in there for a while.

6 and a half layer bars

What makes these eight-and-a-half layer bars? I swapped (pretzels for nuts) and added a few ingredients (caramel and toffee bits) from traditional 7-layer bars and, because I’m not a raging fan of coconut, I only use half the coconut most recipes call for. A sprinkling really.

Eight-and-a-half layer bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup pretzel crumbs

11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) butter, melted

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate toffee bits

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping (such as Mrs. Richardson’s butterscotch caramel)

1/2 cup (or your desired amount) shredded coconut

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together cracker and pretzel crumbs with melted butter. (I use a blender to make the crumbs and then add the butter.)
  3. Dump and firmly press the crumb mix into pan.
  4. Evenly scatter butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and toffee bits onto crust.
  5. Drizzle on about 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping.
  6. Sprinkle with coconut, reserving a tablespoon or two.
  7. Pour condensed milk over coconut. Sprinkle with last bit of coconut.
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn off oven. Leave bars in oven for about 15 minutes before transferring pan to a cooling rack.
  9. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in airtight container.

With sweet memories of my BFF,

Staci

Read Full Post »

Like speed limits, recipes are merely suggestions for when normal conditions exist. But who defines normal conditions? Maybe you never have a box of Chex cereal (or three) in your cupboard when you have the hankering to make traditional Chex™ Muddy Buddies™ so you have to think outside the box. Why not make puppy chow, also known as people chow, with the traditional peanut butter, chocolate chips, and powdered sugar but use your favorite cereals?

people chow puppy chow

In my most recent batch, I folded in Golden Grahams, Corn Pops, and Corn Chex cereals for an even tastier version of puppy chow. I planned to toss in chow mein noodles but I forgot to add them. Did you know that if you store puppy chow in an airtight container in the refrigerator it stays crunchy longer?

hodgepodge people puppy chow

You might also like Corn Pops Clusters

Corn Pops Clusters

If you have a box of Golden Grahams cereal, reserve four cups to make what will become a fight-over-the-last-piece family favorite: Marshmallow Creme Crunchy Graham Brownies.

marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies square

Of course there’s always a special version of Chex Mix Like You Mean It.

Staci's version of Chex mix

Hodgepodge Puppy Chow with Corn Pops, Golden Grahams, Chex, and Chow Mein Noodles

9 cups of a combination of your favorite cereals and maybe chow mein noodles

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1½ cups powdered sugar

  1. Put all the cereal in a large bowl.
  2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter together. Stir until melted and creamy. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture over cereal and toss until all the cereal is drenched in chocolate.
  5. Using a 2 or 2.5 gallon plastic zipper bag, dump in 1/2 cup powdered sugar, chocolate coated cereal, and top with remaining 1 cup powdered sugar. Seal bag and shake it like a Boggle game until everything is coated with powdered sugar (everything in the bag, not your kitchen).
  6. Spread the cereal mixture onto a sheet of wax paper until cooled.
  7. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

May your recipes feel like suggestions,

Staci

Read Full Post »

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they can’t make cheesecake, I’d advance my own cookbook and give my debit card pin to my favorite charities.

Their stories go one of two ways. They’ve either tried once, maybe twice, to make cheesecake and it didn’t turn out as perfectly as they expected, or they’ve never tried to bake cheesecake because they assume it takes special skills.

monster cookie cheesecake

It is possible that your first cheesecake won’t look like a Food & Wine centerfold. And it does take skills:

  1. The ability and patience to bring ingredients to room temperature. Using room temperature ingredients and adding the eggs last, and not overbeating once you add them, are the secrets to making cheesecake. Simple as that.
  2. The availability to be at home for a few hours. (But you can even run errands while the cheesecake cools.)

If you have these ordinary skills, you can make cheesecake. So let the big bad scary cheesecake out from under your bed and let’s talk about how you can make extraordinary cheesecake at home. My suggestion is to start with the easiest cheesecake and work your way up to making a more time-consuming, but not more difficult cheesecake, like monster cookie dough.

Vanilla cheesecake with fresh berries | Random Sweetness Baking

I know you can do this. In my early days of learning to make cheesecake, I undercooked a cheesecake and brought it to work. I was mortified. So I tried again. And now I’ve mastered the art of making cheesecake but I’m just a home cook. My field of training is in communications and business, not culinary arts. I flunked art in middle school and my home ec sweatshirt was too long and crooked. I once hot-glued wallpaper to cover a section of bedroom wall when I lived in a trailer house. And every once in a while, my cheesecakes have sinkholes, but so what? Did you know that a bad-looking cheesecake still tastes better than any pie or cake ever?

Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

Crust (I toss whole crackers, sugar, and the melted butter in my food processor.)

1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

4 (8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened to room temperature (Take the cream cheese out of the packages and set them in your mixing bowl. Cover with a towel while they come to room temperature, at least 60 to 90 minutes before you are ready to bake.)

1-2/3  cups sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I use Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla Bean Crush)

3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream, at room temperature

3 large eggs at room temperature (Set these out when you get the cream cheese out.)

fresh berries of your choice

Put it all together

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. For a 9-inch springform pan, grease the springform pan with baking or cooking spray. For a 9-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper or pan lining paper leaving extra paper hanging over the edge to use as a handle to lift the cheesecake out.
  2. Combine the crushed graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir well. (Or combine in a food processor.) Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat room temperature cream cheese on medium-high speed until creamy throughout, with no chunks or pieces. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing. This will take approximately 3-4 minutes. This only works if the cream cheese is at a soft, room temperature consistency.
  4. Add the sugar to the cream cheese mixture and beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until sugar is well combined and the texture is creamy.
  5. Put the cornstarch in a tiny bowl. While stirring, add just enough ice-cold water to dissolve the cornstarch. It’s probably a teaspoon or two of ice water. Stir until dissolved and then add to the cream cheese batter.
  6. Pour the vanilla extract and room temperature whipping cream into the batter and then beat on medium until all the ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low just until combined. Turn off the mixer and gently scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg is added. Do not overbeat.
  8. Gently pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350° for approximately one hour and 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown and the center is just set. Turn the oven off and crack the oven door open slightly. Let the cheesecake completely cool in the oven for two hours. (You can run your errands now.)
  9. Once cool, run a knife between the pan and the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides, then cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan or remove from square pan by lifting the edges of the parchment paper. To slice, run a large knife under hot water and dry before making each cut to keep the slices smooth and free from crumbs. Serve with your favorite berries.

Keep cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to seven days. If you want to freeze the cheesecake or slices of cheesecake, (remove the berries first) wrap tightly in foil or seal in freezer bags for up to six months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight and at room temperature for 2 hours or at room temperature for three hours.

If you want to bake these in 4-inch springform pans as I have pictured, lower the oven temperature to 275° and bake approximately 35-40 minutes. If you have mini cheesecake pans, bake for approximately 26 minutes.

Once you rule the kitchen with vanilla cheesecake, you are ready to make any cheesecake. Because the same basic rules apply—use room temp ingredients and don’t overbeat once you add the eggs to the batter.

Try Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce.

Key lime cheesecake with Patron Sauce

Or Andes Mint Cheesecake.

Andes Mint Cheesecake

And then try a savory Taco Cheesecake. Yes, savory cheesecake.

Taco cheesecake

And then you are ready for Monster Cookie Dough Cheesecake, which is really quite easy, it just takes a little extra time to make the cookie dough balls.

monster cookie dough cheesecake

Monster cookie dough cheesecake

Crust

1 (17.5 ounce) pouch peanut butter cookie dough mix and the ingredients to make them

1/2 cup mini M&Ms

1/2 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats

Filling

5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 eggs, room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. For a 9-inch springform pan, grease the springform pan with baking or cooking spray.
  2. Make cookie dough according to package directions. Add the mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, and quick oats. Press a layer of cookie dough into the springform pan, approximately 1 cup of the dough. Bake for 5 minutes.
  3. Take 1 cup of the dough and roll into tiny balls, about the size of a nickel, and set aside.
  4. For the remaining dough, break into pieces and put on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes, just until you can use them as cookie crumbs to top the cheesecake slices.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add white and brown sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Do not over beat.
  6. Pour 1/2 of the cheesecake batter into pan. Scatter the cookie dough balls into the pan and then cover with the remaining cheesecake batter.
  7. Bake in 9-inch pan for 50-55 minutes or until the top starts to turn a light brown and the center still looks a little shiny.
  8. Remove from oven and cool 2 hours. Refrigerate at least 12 hours before serving. Top with reserved cookie crumbs when ready to serve.

Give one of these a try and then come back and let me know how you did. I’ll be your cheesecake cheerleader! Friends don’t let friends eat store-bought cheesecake.

Sweet and not-so-scary-cheesecake wishes,

Staci

Read Full Post »

It didn’t start out to be a Labor Day weekend in the kitchen but in the past 24 hours I’ve washed a lot of dishes.

It started with a text from my nephew Garritt. “How busy r u this weekend?” I proceeded to tell him that I’m around, working on a few things around the house and waiting to see if my daughter was coming home. He asked if he could put in a request for me to make something – pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Well how do I say no to a sweet, innocent face like this?

(Disclosure, I Photoshopped a small injury off my forehead because I didn’t want to tell you that right when I was hosting the CBS Sunday morning crew for my real job, I cracked my head open a tiny bit with my car door. But now you know anyway. So, I Photoshopped the injury back on my forehead.)

Staci Garritt 2014

The two middle children in our family. T-R-O-U-B-L-E is our middle name.

Staci Garritt 2015

So, I baked Garritt’s favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

pumpkin chip cookies

While I was at it and washing dishes anyway, I made the Caramel Apple Nut Bars that I had intended to make for my sister Kalli’s birthday last week. I delivered them today. Better late and sweet than never I guess.

Caramel Apple Nut Bars

I’ve been trying to thin out the shelves in my pantry a little so today seemed like the perfect day to bake a big old pot of Make-It-Your-Way Rainy Day Chili. (I should’ve made Beer Chili instead so I could also get rid of a bottle of beer).

rainy day chili

Of course I made from-a-pouch cornbread and added a few dollops of Lake Benton honey. And a bowl of French vanilla pudding with banana slices (because Jason likes it).

And a pie plate of Cherry Crunchobblerumble (because we both like it).

Cherry Crunchobblerumble | Random Sweetness Baking

Well, enough about all the dishes I washed this weekend. Tell me about all the fun you had!

Sweet wrinkly wishes,

Staci

Read Full Post »

It’s not like anything needed to be improved upon with the original marshmallow creme crunch brownies. In addition to being a favorite treat around these parts, the recipe has been one of my most viewed on Random Sweetness — more than forty thousand people in the past few years. I hope at least half of them baked and shared the sticky squares.

But just like Golden Grahams cereal makes sweet no-bake s’mores bars, I had the feeling that using it instead of Rice Krispies would make marshmallow creme crunch brownies even harder to resist.

marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies

Did it? Well, there are a few globs of marshmallow creme stuck on my camera and there are definitely a few brownies missing from this picture.

marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies square

Marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies

For Brownie Layer:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

6 Tablespoons cocoa

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 cup flour

*************

7 ounce jar marshmallow creme (Sometimes I use most of a 13-ounce jar but they get pretty sticky.)

1 cup creamy peanut butter

12 ounce bag chocolate chips

4 cups Golden Grahams cereal

  1. Beat softened butter on medium for 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat 4 minutes. Beat in cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Stir in flour just until combined.
  2. Pour brownie batter into a well-greased 13×9 pan (or lined with parchment paper). Bake at 350˚ for 25-30 minutes or until done. Cool completely.
  3. Spread marshmallow creme on cooled brownies.
  4. Melt the peanut butter and chocolate chips together over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in cereal. Spread over marshmallow creme layer.
  5. Chill before serving.
  6. Store in refrigerator.

Sweet marshmallowy wishes,

Staci

Read Full Post »

There is no better fall smell than filling your home with the comforting scent of spicy pumpkin, especially when the cozy aroma wafts from your oven, not a candle or an outlet. Before your house smells like turkey and scorched potatoes, start your Thanksgiving festivities with pumpkin streusel coffee cake.

A few years ago I baked this cake to celebrate a coworker’s birthday. After I got strange looks from people that morning, I found out I was supposed to have brought treats the day before; but once we sliced into the soft, warm-in-the-middle cake, they quickly forgave me. See, look at those beautiful, forgiving smiles.

The recipe is from VeryBestBaking.com., a website on which I have a recipe box overflowing with homestyle goodness. But here’s what sends it over the top — instead of using plain nuts in the streusel, I tossed in Praline Pumpkin Seed Crunch from King Arthur Flour. I don’t think they sell it anymore, but you could use any praline nuts like pecans or cashews and crush them up.

Cozy cake wishes,
Staci 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: