Club: Baked – Soft Candy Caramels

soft candy caramels

Our Club: Baked recipe this time around is something near and dear to my heart – caramels! Hosted by Teri at The Freshman Cook, I can’t think of a better treat to celebrate Valentine’s Day than caramels. Truthfully, I am not much of a chocolate girl, so these caramels were right up my alley!

soft candy caramels cooking with milk mixture
soft candy caramels cut

The process of cooking these was pretty easy. There are more steps and more ingredients than caramel recipes I’ve made in the past, however the instructions were simple enough to follow. I had a little bit of trouble cutting the caramels at the end. When my husband’s stepfather makes caramels, he lets them cool for a bit, but cuts them while they are still soft. In the future, I think I would try this as the caramels were a little hard to cut after they had set. In full disclosure, I let them set for closer to 18 hours before cutting, however they were still pretty set at the 8 hour mark. 

So did they live up to my expectations? Absolutely! Like many of the recipes in the book, we really enjoyed these. Mine start out a little harder than purchased caramels, but they soften quickly once in your mouth. Perfect texture for homemade caramels in my opinion. Enjoy! 

soft candy caramels wrapped

Be sure to stop by the Club: Baked page to check out the other caramels!


Club: Baked – Speculaas

This week’s Club: Baked recipe was co-posted with our sister group, Baked Sunday Mornings. Both of our groups are baking through the book, Baked Explorations, but we are typically on different schedules as the Sunday morning group was established before we began our trip through the book. For fun, this time we decided to join-up on a recipe. More people baking together at one time. Should be fun. I am looking forward to seeing everyone’s posts! As described in the book, these cookies came together really easily for me. I mixed them up before leaving the house to run some errands, and they were ready to roll out and bake when I got back. My dough was a little sticky when rolling it out, but that is the only (minor) complaint that I had. 
speculaas - rolling out dough
These cookies certainly end up on the crunchy side of things. I feel like mine were a little soft when I took them out of the oven, but the y set-up quite a bit as they cool. From the description of the cookies, it sounds like they are meant to be a crunchier cookie. I typically am a chewy cookie gal, but I found myself going back for these again and again. They were right up my husband’s alley as he likes his cookies crunchy. I can’t write this post without mentioning my beetle cookie cutter. I do actually drive a Beetle and received this cookie cutter as a gift from a 7-yr old family friend. Too cute!
speculaa in car shape
These cookies certainly have that “holiday” type flavor and seem like they would keep really well for some time (not that I would know as ours didn’t last very long). Something that I will definitely have to keep in mind for future holiday cookie plates. Be sure to check out the Club: Baked page to see the post from both our group and the Baked Sunday Mornings group. Should be a great round-up!

Club: Baked – Mississippi Mud Pie

One of my new goals for myself this year: bake with my groups more often! I really don’t know why I don’t do it more often as it seems more often than not the recipes we make are amazingly delicious. This one being no exception…

This time around, our Club:Baked recipe is hosted by Jess at The Saucy Kitchen. Her choice: Mississippi Mud Pie. I feel like I say this a lot, but without this group, I never would have given this pie a chance. Me. Dark chocolate and coffee? Na… give me some caramel and milk chocolate, and I’m a happy girl 🙂

Nonetheless, both my husband and I found ourselves really enjoying this pie. I made a half version in a little 5-inch pie tin since it was just the 2 of us, and everything seemed to come together really well. There are a lot of steps in this recipe, but most of it is melt, freeze, repeat. I am thinking that this pie could be the perfect solution for when I need a dessert in the middle of the summer. The no-bake factor certainly wins points in the Phoenix summers category. A couple people mentioned on the message board that they had trouble finding chocolate wafers. I have some leftover chocolate animal crackers from when my brother made this cheesecake, and they seemed to work just fine here.

Stop by the Club: Baked page today to check out the pies from the other bloggers, and be sure to stop by Jess’s blog for hosting! Enjoy!

Club: Baked – Buckeyes

My mom called the other day mentioning that she saw a girl wearing a shirt saying, “Once a Husker, always a Husker.” She really wanted to get one for me since we have moved away from Nebraska, but the store had already sold out of them by the time she found it. Being a “true Husker girl” I have never made nor tried a Buckeye candy, but I decided to embrace my full B1G 10 spirit and give these a shot (j/k) 🙂

Named after an opposing mascot or not, these little candies crafted of peanut butter and chocolate are not something to pass up. Karen from Karen’s Cookies Cakes & More is hosting this week’s Club: Baked recipe, and as usual, I had a lot of fun making something that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen. 

They were really simple to make. Mix together the peanut butter part. Melt the chocolate. Dip, set, and eat. As we were forewarned in the book, the peanut butter mixture was a little dry, but I was able to push it into a ball with my hands pretty easily. The hardest part about these for me proved to be waiting for the chocolate to set. I moved a few of them too soon, but it was nothing a quick set in the refrigerator couldn’t fix. I could see these being a great recipe for when you need something quickly but still want it to be a hit. Just proves it is hard to go wrong with that classic peanut butter-chocolate combination.

Be sure to stop by the Club: Baked page to see the results for the other bloggers. I am thinking this will be a delicious week for everyone involved!

Club: Baked – Sawdust Pie

When Karen approached me about choosing a recipe for my host date of Club: Baked, she asked if I would be willing to pick a recipe out of the pie section of the book we’re baking through, Baked Explorations. If you have been around my blog at all, you know that pies aren’t exactly my area of expertise. I can count the number of pies I have ever made on one hand, and I don’t even need all my fingers. That said, I approached my pick with a wide open viewpoint since most of the pies in the book would be something “new” in my mind.

So, what made me choose this sawdust pie? First, while it has quite a few ingredients, the recipe itself is relatively simple. Outside of the crust, it is just mix, pour, and bake. Second, the ingredients were things that we really like. Coconut has to be one of my husband’s favorite ingredients in baked goods. Lastly, it was a unique recipe with unique ingredients. Who would have though of adding graham cracker crumbs in the filling of a pie?  While I don’t have too many pies that I can speak to in my repertoire, this is certainly one that I have never heard of prior to this book.

As it reads in the book, the pie came together pretty quickly. Since I don’t have a “go-to” pie crust recipe, I also made the crust recipe exactly as written in the book. I feel like the crust turned out pretty good, however I think I may have added just a little bit too much water. Still working on that perfect flaky pie crust. Add the filling and some whipped cream to the crust, the pie was great! I am not kidding when I say that my husband loved it! In the comments about the recipe on the blog page, several of the ladies were comparing it to a pecan pie, and I can definitely see the reference given the chopped pecans although I feel that the texture difference from the graham crackers and coconut give it just a little bit more. With this one now in my pie repertoire, I may be making pies more often. At the very least, it will be making its way to our Thanksgiving feast. 

Be sure to stop by the blog page to see pies from the other ladies. Thanks for baking along with me! 

(Printable Recipe)

Sawdust Pie 
Adapted from Baked Explorations  
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

1/2 crust recipe
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1-1/4 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1-1/4 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
21 graham crackers (I used 21 half sheets)
2 ounces high-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
6 egg whites
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
whipped cream for serving
sliced bananas for serving (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together. In a measuring cup, stir 3/4 cup water with several ice cubes until it is very cold. 

Cut the cold butter into cubes and toss them in the flour mixture to coat. Put the mixture in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the butter pieces are the size of hazelnuts. Pulsing in 4-second bursts, slowly drizzle the ice water into the food processor through the feed tube. As soon as the dough comes together in a ball, stop adding water. Remove the dough from the food processor and divide it in half. Flatten each piece into a disk and wrap each disk first in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator before proceeding with your recipe.

For the pie, dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Roll out the dough ball into a 12-inch round. Transfer it to a pie dish and carefully work it into place, folding any overhang under and crimping the edge as you go. Wrap and refrigerate the crust for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to combine the sugars, coconut, pecans, graham crackers, white chocolate and salt. Add the egg whites and vanilla and stir until just combined – the egg whites should coat all the ingredients.

Transfer the filling to the prepared pie shell. Bake until filling is set to the touch, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool the pie for at least 1 hour before serving it warm, with whipped cream and sliced bananas, if you like.

Club: Baked – Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

I resisted as long as I could, but I am finally admitting that it must be fall. I have had a hard time this year getting “in the mood” for fall. I know it officially became fall on the calendar last weekend and football has been on for several weeks now, but I still am in a summer state of mind. In fact, my husband had to beg me this week to put up our fall decorations. It has started to cool down a little here, and I have been able to venture outside for a couple of outdoor runs. Hoping this will help me get excited for fall and all the seasons coming!

These muffins are our next recipe for Club: Baked chosen by Billie of Chocloate and Chakra. As you may have guessed from above, these muffins were my first venture into anything that could be considered “seasonal cooking,” but I think they may have given me the kick I needed into fall cooking and baking. The savory nature of these muffins made them more of a dinner pairing than a breakfast treat in my mind, so I went completely into the fall state of mind and served them with some soup. 

I halved the recipe and ended up with six muffins. One thing to note is that the muffins don’t rise very much. I took the advice of some of the other group members and filled the muffin papers pretty full, and it seemed to work really well. While pumpkin and cheddar cheese may not be first two flavors you would choose to pair, we really enjoyed these muffins. The cayenne and black pepper give these muffins a little bit of a kick, and they paired really well with our soup. My husband was even thinking further ahead in the fall season thinking that these would be great for Thanksgiving. We’ll see 🙂

A big thanks to Bille for choosing another great recipe and giving me the kick I needed into fall! Be sure to stop by the Club: Baked page to check out the muffins from the other bakers!

Club: Baked – Sunday Night Cake

The next Club: Baked recipe was chosen by one of my favorite bloggers, Julie from Little Bit of Everything. I first met Julie through SMS, and she was the first blogger that I knew in my town. We have since moved to a new state (from NE to AZ), but I still love looking through Julie’s recipes!  

In the book, they talk about how this is one of their favorite cakes. While fancy layer cakes are nice, they take a lot of time and patience to make. Sometimes it is nice to make a cake in a pan, frost it, and eat! That’s exactly what this cake is. It is a white-cinnamon base topped with a dark chocolate, pudding-like frosting. We really enjoyed the cake portion. The recipe called for a 9×9-inch pan, but I baked mine in a 8×8-inch pan. I had to add about 10 minutes to the bake time called for in the recipe, but it seemed to work okay. My cake turned out a little dense, but it was definitely still nice and moist! In my opinion, the frosting was just okay, but this may be due to the fact that I don’t tend to gravitate towards chocolate-heavy recipes. I also think I may have let the frosting beat in the mixer just a little too long because the butter almost started to separate, so I would recommend to stick to the 2-3 minutes called for in the recipe. If dark chocolate is your thing, you’d probably love this frosting as it is chocolatey and pudding-like, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. 

But, don’t let my chocolate aversions keep you from trying out this cake. We were already discussing other possible frosting ideas for the cake. I’m thinking maybe a cinnamon buttercream or even a cream cheese frosting would be great! Be sure to stop by the Club: Baked page to check out the other cakes. I know there are some other ladies there that are chocolate lovers, so they may have a better review of the frosting 🙂 Enjoy!

Club: Baked – Chocolate Mint Thumbprint Cookies

Mother nature was against me last night. I was on track to get these cookies finished and photographed before I lost my daylight, and instead we got a monsoon that made it dark about 45 minutes before the sun usually sets. I am really not being dramatic calling it a monsoon either. You should see how hard it rains when it finally decides to down here!

Weather aside, this is our next recipe for Club: Baked hosted by Jamie of Random Acts of Food. I am a cookie girl, so I was excited to see how the first cookie recipe in the book panned out. Overall, I think the process of putting these together went quite smooth. I used 72% dark chocolate and white chocolate that I picked up from Trader Joes and the Andes mint pieces (baking isle) for the mint chocolate. I did opt to use my standard cocoa instead of Dutch processed cocoa, as I really don’t bake with chocolate that much. My only problem was trying to press a “thumbprint” in the cookies without causing them to crack. It is harder than it sounds! Even with a few cracks, my cookies all held the white chocolate ganache without leaking 🙂 

My makeshift double-boiler set up.

Halving the recipe left me with 14 cookies (I’ve noticed my yields have been quite different than the listed yields in the recipes). I didn’t try one as I am much for most chocolate goodies, but I can tell you that my husband wouldn’t even share a bite of his 🙂 The rest of them are headed to work today with him. Thanks to Jamie for hosting and be sure to stop by the Club: Baked page to check out the round-up!

Club: Baked – Farm Stand Buttermilk Donuts

While I make a lot of things that we eat from scratch at home, there are still certain things that have never occurred to me to make at home. Donuts (or doughnuts) are one of these things. Part of this is probably the fact that they aren’t a food that we commonly eat, but I cannot blame it all on that as I have been known to enjoy a donut or two in my day. Well, I can no longer say that I am naive to donut-making as these farm stand donuts were the pick of Gloria from the Ginger Snap Girl for our second recipe in the group Club: Baked.

In reality, like most recipes that I seem to be a little weary of, the donuts were really simple to make. About an hour from start to clean-up. I did (and still do) have a fear of frying things. Something about having a pan of hot oil bubbling away on my stove makes me anxious. I am petrified of burning myself or worse lighting something on fire. Nevertheless, I heated up the oil as directed by the recipe, and in the end things (in the frying department) turned out just fine. 

I halved the recipe and ended up with 7 donuts and 7 donut holes. On the group discussion board, a couple people mentioned that their dough was quite sticky. Mine actually ended up too dry, and I had to add a little bit of milk to get the dough to come together. This may or may not be due to the fact that I live in the desert? Since I do not own a biscuit cutter, I also used a drinking glass and shot glass to cut out the respective portions of the donut. As it turns out, the difference in diameter between our glasses and the shot glass is not very big, and I think this affected the way the donuts fried. My donut holes turned out really good and puffed up quite nicely, but my donuts stayed flat when they cooked. Does anyone have any insight on this? 

Nevertheless, we still enjoyed both the donuts and the donut holes, although the donut holes were our favorite. I “dressed” the donuts with a couple different toppings – vanilla glaze and cinnamon sugar. The vanilla glaze was our favorite, but we are frosting folks around here 🙂 If you want to see how the other bakers fared, check out the Club: Baked blogroll page and be sure to give Gloria some love for picking a fun recipe!

Club: Baked – NY Style Crumb Cake Muffins

Woo hoo! First recipe for a new baking group! Club: Baked came about as an idea from Karen of Karen’s Cookies Cakes and More. While it’s been a great ride, our SMS recipes will wind up in August, and several of us decided that we were in for more baking so we chose another book 🙂 Truthfully, I had never heard of Matt Lewis’s Baked: Explorations before it was mentioned for this group, but after receiving the book, I am stoked for this group! If this first recipe is any indication, baking through this cookbook is going to be great (and delicious!).

Our first recipe was hosted by Karen and you can find her post here. The cake was originally intended to baked in a 9×13 with a crumb layer in almost equal thickness to the cake layer. I am definitely amongst the crumb-layer lovers, so this ratio sounds perfect! In reality, I didn’t end up making the full recipe as that would be a TON of cake for only two people. Karen had noted on the website that she had trouble when baking half the recipe in a 8×8-inch pan, so I opted for muffins. The only downside of my muffins – they can’t hold onto nearly as much crumb topping as the cake. I still really want to make this recipe as written and am absolutely going to keep it in mind if I ever need to bring a dish! 

My muffins came together really easily, and I ended up with a dozen typical sized muffins and a little extra crumb topping. Not knowing how long they’d need to be in the oven, I originally set the timer for 18 minutes. Not even close. In the end, they needed about 28-30 minutes to finish baking. While they were baking, my husband kept asking me are these going to be good? With that much crumb topping, how could they not? They were awesome! We were able to enjoy them warm from the oven on the first morning, and what a great way to start the day. Sounds like this group is going to be great!

If you want to see the other bakers’ links or want to join up with us, check out the Club: Baked page!