Baking Adventures

Chocolate Cream Pie

Photo by: K. Henriques

Happy Pi Day! I love chocolate meringue pie and had been wanting one for a while. My husband has used a good recipe in the past from America’s Test Kitchen so I looked through our cookbooks and found this one. He swore it was the same one he used to make chocolate meringue pie last even when I questioned the fact that the recipe name was different. Spoiler alert: it is a different pie; however it was still delicious and if you look at the picture you can see I covered it in meringue so it was pretty close.

Since this wasn’t necessarily the recipe I was looking for we did make a few modifications. Firstly, I didn’t do the chocolate cookie crumb crust as the recipe recommends. I just used a store bought deep dish pie crust that I pre-baked using the instructions on the packaging.

The filling is probably pretty similar to what I remembered for chocolate meringue pie. Specifically, the constant whisking you have to do to ensure the mixture doesn’t burn on the stove top. Once you get all of your mixing and whisking done then you pour it into the pie crust. Because I wanted chocolate meringue pie I skipped the whipped cream topping and followed the meringue instructions (pg. 908) for the lemon meringue pie. I was concerned this might mess the pie but, but I figured it would be worth it if it worked out.

While this recipe isn’t actually a chocolate meringue pie recipe it turned out really good. I’m sure it tastes great with the whipped cream topping as well but I got my chocolate meringue pie fix and didn’t royally mess anything up so I’d consider this a success.

Baking Ease8
Time Spent8
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: America’s Test Kitchen The New Best Recipe p. 912-914

Soft Batch Chocolate M&M Cookies

Photo: K. Henriques

Today’s recipe is another Instagram find that I saved for later since these looked so delicious. I rarely use M&M’s to bake with, mainly because I forget about them; but it’s so fun to have such colorful looking cookies.

The recipe itself is really straightforward and honestly would have been ranked at a 10 for baking ease were it not for the melted chocolate part. I try to be very careful not to overheat because it really stinks when the chocolate seizes and I thought I was being careful this time but apparently not. The chocolate mixture was definitely not whisk-able (I’m making that an official word…) so I dumped it out and tried again. When it happened a second time I decided I was just going to use it anyway since it wasn’t fully seized to see what happened.

Moving on, I had already prepped all of my dry ingredients so I finished putting the vanilla, sugars, eggs, and milk into the chocolate mixture. I poured this into the dry ingredients and stirred briefly; then added the chocolate chips and M&M’s. I don’t normally keep milk chocolate chips on hand so I used semi-sweet chocolate chips in the batter.

My cookies were a little puffier which, based on the comments, might be due to over mixing when I put all of the M&M’s and chocolate chips in. Unfortunately I used all of the M&M’s in the batter so I didn’t have any left to press into the top so mine aren’t as pretty as the recipe shows but they tasted very good! Thankfully it seems my chocolate situation didn’t affect the overall outcome so that made me feel better. My husband dubbed these a party food as they’re very rich and would be great with a bunch of fun snacks. I’d definitely make these again and get a bigger bag of M&M’s for garnish.

Baking Ease9
Time Spent10
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: Baker By Nature

Salted Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

Photo by: K. Henriques

I follow Pies & Tacos on Instagram and it’s always fun to see the different macaroons and cupcakes showcased. I’ve been wanting to play around with Dulce de Leche but was still a little nervous about cooking it on the stove so I used the Oven Dulce de Leche recipe for this particular cupcake recipe.

As mentioned in the Dulce de Leche guide, the oven version yields a more runny Dulce de Leche but I actually felt like it was fairly thick compared to what I expected. I probably could have left it in there a little longer but it had already been almost 4 hours so I wasn’t willing to stay up any longer! I made the Dulce de Leche the evening before since it needs to cool before using.

The notes in this recipe mentioned it could get a bit lumpy, likely because of how it might naturally build up on the sides and stirring can loosen those chunks. I stirred the mixture every 30-45 minutes but found it was very smooth so thankfully that wasn’t an issue I encountered.

Once you’ve got the Dulce de Leche done the rest is pretty easy. The recipe mentions you can use hot water instead of brewed coffee, but I wanted the added coffee flavor. I did let the cupcakes cool before filling, however because my Dulce de Leche was more soupy rather than thick I found that it seeped into the cupcake so it didn’t look as pretty as those on the website.

The frosting was very simple and it wasn’t a big deal the Dulce de Leche wasn’t as thick here since you’ll use powdered sugar to help stabilize it. I pipped my frosting on without using a decorating tip and then topped it with a drizzle of Dulce de Leche and some Maldon Sea Salt since we didn’t have coarse salt.

These. were. delicious.

If you make your own Dulce de Leche, then this recipe does take a lot of time; however it’s very worth it. I’ve ranked this recipe with the assumption you’ll make your own, but if you don’t know the recipe is very simple and quick. I would highly recommend doing everything from scratch though because it’s more fun and I always feel like you can taste the difference!

Baking Ease9
Time Spent6
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: Pies & Tacos

Small-batch Maple Scones

Photo: K. Henriques

A few years ago I tried Baking Mischief’s Apple Hand Pies, and they quickly became one of my favorite things to make in the fall. So when I ran across this recipe for Maple Scones from them as well I knew I needed to give it a try.

As mentioned in the recipe, the scone is actually just a simple cream scone. These are pretty easy to make, though you want to make sure your dough isn’t dry otherwise they’ll just fall apart. I’ve found that I always end up adding a little more heavy cream than called for so the mixture holds together fairly well.

The glaze is what makes this recipe unique and unfortunately my version was probably less maple-y because I continue to forget that I don’t keep maple extract on hand. Every single time I think, “I’ll just use maple syrup” but it isn’t the same. The glaze still tasted good, but I felt like I missed out on a lot of the flavor by not having the extract. Regardless, these are very good and if you’re able to eat them while they’re still a little warm it’s even better!

Baking Ease10
Time Spent10
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: Baking Mischief

Chocolate Scones

Photo: K. Henriques

I realized I hadn’t tried a chocolate scone yet so I did a little research online and ended up going with this recipe from Sugar Salt Magic. I chose this recipe because it was triple chocolate and I thought it would be fun to use the biscuit cutter for the scones rather than doing the triangular shape since that’s all I’ve made so far.

This recipe is unlike most of the other scone recipes I’ve tried; for starters, it uses a food processor. I did use a food processor rather than cutting the butter in myself because I’ve found it makes things a little easier. This recipe also calls for butter and milk (rather than heavy cream). I noticed my dough was a lot drier than normal, even after putting a little more milk in. I rolled the dough out and once flattened to the appropriate size, I used the biscuit cutters to cut out circles.

Instead of just melting some chocolate chips and drizzling it over the scones I decided to make a chocolate icing glaze. I used about ¾ cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 2-3 Tablespoons milk, and a dash of vanilla extract.

The scones were good, but the dough felt a little tough. I’m not sure if I over mixed the dough, leading to the tough texture, or if that’s just how this recipe turns out. These did taste chocolatey, and while scones generally aren’t very sweet I do think I would have liked for this scone to be just a tad sweeter. All in all – it was a fun experiment and I definitely think I’ll try some variation of these again in the future.

Baking Ease10
Time Spent10
Taste8
Visual9

Recipe Used: Sugar Salt Magic

Chai Apple Cinnamon Scones

Photo: K. Henriques

I really like apple muffins to when I ran across these delicious looking chai apple cinnamon scones I was excited. Like most of the scone recipes I’ve made, this is pretty easy. You mix all the dry ingredients together, then add the apple and heavy cream. I know you’re supposed to prep all of your ingredients beforehand, but sometimes I’m lazy and just don’t feel like it so I loved the fact that they actual ingredients are listed below each step! I have found my dough is always dryer than the recipe says and I end up needing to add a little more heavy cream that the recipe notes.

I loved the idea of using a cake pan to help round the edges out a little more, but some of mine got stuck (despite spraying it) and it wasn’t quite as pretty as I’d hoped. Definitely wasn’t as messy as usual though so that was nice! After letting these sit in the freezer for the allotted time I brushed with heavy cream and sprinkled the sugar/chai spice mix. They already smelled amazing because of the spices so it felt like fall in the house despite being winter!

They were very good, though they get a little chewy a day later so try to eat these same day if possible. The chai yields a pretty strong spice taste and if I make these again I might back down just a little. I only ranked these at a 9 for taste because of this, but that’s just my personal preference. They were fun to try and a nice change from the other scones I’ve made!

Baking Ease10
Time Spent10
Taste9
Visual10

Recipe Used: Cambrea Bakes

Fresh Blueberry Scones

Photo: K. Henriques

I’m celebrating scones this month so each week during the month of February I’ll be trying different scone recipes. Last year I tried Cranberry Scones, Bacon-Cheddar-Chive Scones, and Cinnamon Swirl Scones; so I’ll be focusing on some different recipes this month. I’m kicking things off with this Lemon Blueberry Scones recipe from King Arthur.

Firstly, this recipe recommends weighing your flour so be sure to take note of that as too much flour can create very dry scones. It says to use your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients but I actually used a pastry cutter and felt like it worked well. I did find it a little difficult to mix in the blueberries because it’s a firmer dough and you don’t want to crush the blueberries so take your time otherwise you’ll just end up with a purple mess.

I completely forgot to cut these before baking so I ended up having to bake this longer since the middle wasn’t quite done. That’s an important step but know that if you forgot like I did then just keep an eye on these so they don’t burn and let it bake a little longer.

I didn’t eat these right out of the oven but I’m sure they would be delicious with some butter right out of the oven as the recipe suggests. I loved the blueberry taste for these but didn’t really notice the lemon so I’d probably either up the zest next time or use lemon oil. I also felt like mine were a little dry, but I know that’s probably because I forgot the cutting step and had to bake it longer so all of the scones were done which probably resulted in some being too dry. Despite these small missteps, I would 100% try these again!

Baking Ease10
Time Spent10
Taste8
Visual9

Recipe Used: King Arthur’s Baking Companion p. 74 or their website

Mini Strawberry Cheesecake

Photo by: K. Henriques

Sometimes making a whole cheesecake can be daunting. I wanted to make a strawberry cheesecake for a friend who was graduating, but honestly didn’t have the time to bake a full-size cheesecake since the one I made last year took what felt like forever to bake. I mean, it was delicious and looked beautiful but I didn’t have that kind of time. I searched for a mini cheesecake recipe online and saw this recipe from Chelsweets and since I follow them on Instagram I was excited to give it a try.

I really like all of the substitutions and swaps notes here since sometimes recipes can be very vague and sometimes the little details make a huge difference. I chose to make my own graham crackers using a food processor since I usually have those in the pantry. We don’t own a mini cheesecake pan (though now I’m seriously considering buying one since the ones of the website looked so pretty), so I used a regular muffin pan with liners. I felt like it worked really well and the liners came off fairly easily once you’re ready to display/eat.

Once you’ve got the graham cracker crust done it’s time to move on to the filling; which is simple. Just be sure to follow the instructions and scrape the bowl a lot since cream cheese has a tendency to cake up on the sides of the bowl. My cheese cakes needed a little more time than what’s listed on the recipe so just keep an eye on it until you notice the tops are set.

The strawberry sauce is easy as well; the hardest part here is just dicing all of the strawberries. You might notice there’s no sugar in the sauce and I really felt like that made these taste more like an actual strawberry and since the cheesecakes themselves are sweet it complimented it nicely. I saved a few of the nicer looking strawberries to use as garnish and these looked so pretty amongst the rest of the spread of delicious food served. If you want cheesecake without all of the time involved this is the next best thing! These were easy, fairly quick, beautiful looking, and delicious; a win in my book!

Baking Ease9
Time Spent10
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: Chelsweets

Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting

Photo by: K. Henriques

It’s national peanut butter day! In honor of the day I made some peanut butter frosting to put on my chocolate cupcakes. You’re probably about to lose some respect for me here but I should just go ahead and let you know that I’m not a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate. I’ll eat a Reese’s every once in a while and I like peanut butter, but the combination of the two just isn’t something I will seek out. Even though I don’t like peanut butter and chocolate, other people do so it’s always good to have a good recipe on hand when needed.

For the actual cupcakes I used my favorite devils food recipe. One of the things I don’t like about a lot of peanut butter recipes is how thick it is. I wanted a frosting that was really fluffy and light, which you can usually tell based on coloring. The Taste of Home frosting recipe looked like it would be perfect so I decided to give it a go.

Even if you use a box cake mix making, making frosting from scratch is easy and makes a huge difference taste wise. Almost all buttercream recipes use some variation of confectioners sugar, butter, vanilla, milk, and then whatever else you add to change the flavor; this recipe used equal parts butter and peanut butter.

The key to a light frosting is to make sure it’s whipped really well. Be sure to let the mixer run for a few minutes to ensure everything is mixed well and if you use the whisk attachment on your mixer it helps add air into the frosting to give it a silky texture. Take a spatula and get a little of the icing out and if you can get medium-soft peaks that hold it’s best for piping. If the peaks are there, but seem stiff you need to add a little milk as it’ll be tough to pipe. Too soft though and your piping won’t hold.

As a final touch, I cut up some Reese’s cups for garnish and they really looked nice!

Baking Ease10
Time Spent10
Taste10
Visual10

Recipe Used: Taste of Home

Crispy Belgian Waffles

It’s waffle time again! Last time I made waffles I used the King Arthur recipe so in the interest of experimentation I found another recipe to try this time. I prefer a really crispy waffle so that was my goal in searching for the right recipe.

One key difference between this recipe and others is that it’s designed for a Belgian waffle maker, though I’m sure you could use a normal waffle maker if you needed to. According to this recipe, “The secret ingredient to get them extra crispy is the cornstarch!” I know I’ve said this before, but I really hate folding whipped egg whites into a batter. I always feel like I either don’t mix enough, or mix too much. Thankfully this is something my husband is good at so I always pull him in to supervise.

Once you’ve got your batter done just pour some of it onto the hot (and sprayed) Belgian waffle maker and wait. This is the only part about making waffles I hate, because it feels like it takes forever and if you’re making a batch you risk the waffles getting a little soggy while you wait for the others to cook. We always turn the oven on and throw the waffles in there to help keep them crispier.

I definitely noticed a difference in crispness over the King Arthur recipe. It still wasn’t quite as crispy as I prefer, but I also think I could have left mine in the waffle maker a little longer. They were very good though and this recipe warrants another try in the future!

Baking Ease10
Time Spent9
Taste9
Visual9

Recipe Used: Jo Cooks