We are about half way through the summer, and it has been the busiest, yet one of the best! Last week was my birthday/July 4th weekend, and I opted to make two of my grandma's Strawberry Pies instead of one and a blueberry tart.
It's funny, since I have had this blog and everyone knows I love to bake for others, this year on my birthday, no one asked what I did or what I got for my birthday. Instead, the first and pretty much only question was "Did someone bake YOU a cake?" Well folks, I must report that no one baked me a cake. In fact, while I had MANY birthday desserts (and by many, I mean cheesecake, creme brulee, berry filled churros, ice cream, dark chocolate cake... okay I'm done incriminating my diet), I did NOT once have a slice of birthday cake. It's probably for the best though. Tony Horton, Mr. p90x, would not have been supportive of my birthday dessert binge. (Yes, you're reading this right. I'm currently on Day 43 of p90x. Began on Memorial Day.)
Anyways, back to this week's baking adventure! Not sure why I went off on that tangent...
FOCUS ASHLEY FOCUS!
This week's baking adventure is a baked good that I am not so much a fan of typically. In fact, when I first tasted this particular recipe for it, the person allowing me to try it didn't even know what it was called; thus, allowing for no preconceived judgements to be had, so without further ado...
A little background on Blondies: Blondies were actually developed before Brownies.
Ok, that's it. There's your background. You're welcome.
This recipe was given to me by a friend's mom who tweaked it to make it her own by adding in butterscotch chips and adding a caramel frosting. SWEET doesn't even begin to encompass the final result, so if you're into things with less sugar, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME but if you're into things that melt in your mouth, ignore the previous warning and give it a try!
First things first: P to the R to the E to the P! [or PREP for those of you who aren't chipper like me in the morning]
The first step in the Blondie making part of the recipe is to melt the butter and brown sugar until smooth.
While the butter and brown sugar are melting, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and roughly chop up the pecans.
I halved this recipe, so this is about half a cup. [Make sure to keep stirring the sugar and butter so that it dissolves together well and doesn't burn. If you're NOT a multi-tasker, it's more than okay to chop up the nuts before beginning this step. I just prefer to live my baking life on the wild side.]
After the butter/sugar mixture becomes smooth, remove it from the heat and let cool for about 3-5 minutes while continuing to stir. Next, it's time to add the eggs one at a time... but before you do, did you let the buttery sugar cool long enough? Not sure? Well check and see! Otherwise when adding the eggs, you could be making some sweet scrambled eggs instead!
After adding the eggs, add in the flour mixture making sure to incorporate about 1/3 at a time until everything is fully combined and smooth and dreamy.
After smooth and dreaminess is obtained, stir in the pecans, vanilla extract, AND bbb-bbb-baaaaa [that was my attempt at making a trumpet sound] the butterscotch chips.
Once combined, pour the batter into a greased pan and bake in the oven at 350 for about 25-28 minutes.
After the blondies have baked, allow them to sit out to cool and go to town on making the frosting!
Allow me to interrupt this post for a bit, have I told you lately how much I love frosting? I love it so much in fact that I could eat it with a spoon and nix the cake that typically comes with it altogether, so here's my ode to Frosting (as sung to the tune of "We Love you Conrad" from Bye Bye Birdie):
"I love you frosting,
Oh yes I do.
I love you frosting,
You know it's true.
When you're not near me,
Oh Frosting, I LOVE YOU!"
Ok, where was I? Oh yes, making the frosting...
Before beginning, make sure to clean out the saucepan you used to make the batter (unlike when making Texas Sheet Cake) or get a new saucepan. Melt more butter and sugar together and allow to boil for a few minutes while stirring occasionally.
Let cool slightly and add powdered sugar and milk.
Then stir to combine and create the most luscious caramel frosting you will set your eyes on.
Pour said luscious caramel frosting over the top of the cooled Blondies and allow to cool completely before cutting into. This will take a couple of hours, so if you absolutely have no self control and can't wait, grab a spoon and dig in! (In fact, I highly recommend this method of consumption.)
Now, you would think that would be the end of this blog post right? RIGHT. Well, I am here to tell you otherwise. Before we go, I should tell you a story and it goes a little something like this:
Once upon a time... There was a pint-sized princess. This princess loved to make sweet, scrumptious things and share with everyone in the land. One day, the princess decided to make a dessert named after her golden locks. This dessert was called Blondies. Everything went smashingly when preparing, making and cooking the Blondies until... duh duh duh... it was time to clean up after sitting the Blondies on the castle counter to cool... Something I forgot to mention is that this princess is quite a clumsy one... and while attempting to clean up the kitchen so that Queen Mom wouldn't banish her for a making a mess, the princess accidentally knocked the cover on the stove and the Blondies pan began to slide to its death on the floor. ALAS, the princess immediately grabbed the pan and all was saved and they lived happily ever after.
[Please reference the picture below for evidence regarding the heroic efforts of the princess of our story to save the Blondies.]
Luckily! These Blondies were cut into squares when cooled and no one knew any different!
Hope you all have a wonderful week! On a personal note, it's going to be a strenuous one for my family. Would those of you out there please keep my family, in particular my sister, in your prayers over the course of the next week? Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Until next time!
P.S. If you're interested in this recipe, feel free to leave a comment with your email address and I'll send it to you!
I just wanted to pop in and wish you all a very happy 4th of July weekend and send a HUGE THANK YOU to all of those men and women who have fought and are fighting to keep our country safe and free! Without your bravery and dedication, who knows where we would be??? You are in my prayers always.
Stay tuned for my post-4th of July post! I'll be making Grandma's Strawberry Pie and perhaps a blueberry tart as well!!!
Before I close this post, I wanted to leave you with one of the best songs about our wonderful country:
As I sit here in my food coma, I figured what better to do than blog about the amazingness that recently hit my taste buds and is now nestling in my belly...
My dad has been requesting Chocolate Cream Pie (the third of his pie requests if you recall) for a while. [In fact, if I had a dollar for each time he mentioned it over the last month or so, I could possibly invest in the KitchenAid Stand Mixer I've been eyeing for quite some time.] Dad has been hounding me so much about this pie request that I'm almost positive he thought it would be his Father's Day "surprise" I've been so secretive about. Well, I must tell you: HE HAS BEEN FOOLED!
This week's baking adventure is an old recipe made by a very special lady and I really believe she had a hand in how wonderful it turned out as she rests in heaven with our eternal Father.
GRANDMA'S TEXAS SHEET CAKE
Like I said, a very special lady came up with the basis for this recipe and I just found out the story behind it tonight. Sure, you may find other recipes for TX Sheet Cake online but my grandma's will trump them all (Is being biased a sin?).
The story behind the cake recipe is that my grandmother used to make Jiffy Cake out of the box for 39 cents all of the time, and my dad loved it so much that she wanted to figure out how to make it on her own. [SIDE NOTE: Dad used to eat the entire box of Jiffy cake in one sitting with a gallon of milk... (that makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it) Told you he gives my sweet tooth a run for its money, didn't I?]
Anyways, back to this week's baking adventure...
My cousin stumbled across grandma's recipe as she was going through some old pictures and things and typed it up and sent it to me a little over a month ago. Immediately, I knew I HAD to make this for Father's Day. My dad is one of those men who is extremely difficult to buy gifts for but this was sure to surprise him!
First was to prep the ingredients. In case you hadn't noticed, I love Publix brand bakery items.
Now, this recipe is different from most cakes I've made. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING went into a saucepan and was heated on the stove at some point during the process. It was so simple and so much fun to make.
First step for the cake itself was to combine 2 sticks of the butter, 4 tablespoons of cocoa, and a cup of water.
Heat until boiling.
Then remove from heat and dump in flour, sugar, and salt (that had previously been sifted together). Stir this until well mixed.
Then dump in eggs, sour cream, and baking soda. Mix this until well blended and smooth. (You might see air bubbles but that's about it)
Pour cake batter into a WELL-greased jelly roll pan (I HIGHLY recommend PAM for Baking) and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.
While the cake is baking, it's time to make the frosting! (Arguably the best part of eating cake... in my humble opinion.)
Take another stick of butter and 4 more tablespoons of cocoa and melt over the stove in the SAME saucepan you made the batter in...
and GET THIS: there is absolutely no need to clean the saucepan OR spoon/spatula you were preparing the batter with (unless of course you lick the spatula) Please see below for evidence supporting the only reason to clean...
Does this face scream guilty or what?
After the butter has completely melted, add in powdered sugar, vanilla (there was no vanilla in the cake batter... shocker, I know!), and baking soda.
Mix until smooth (except for maybe some air bubbles).
Grandma's recipe calls for a cup of chopped nuts to be added; however, my dad and family aren't fans of nuts in baked goods so instead I decided to substitute Heath bar toffee bits to maintain the crunch factor.
After the toffee bits are evenly mixed into the frosting, maintain stirring every now and then until cake is ready to pull out of the oven. Once out of the oven, frost IMMEDIATELY.
Then let cool completely before decorating and cutting into. If you can't wait, I highly recommend licking the bowl and spatula yet again to satisfy the sweet tooth. ;-)
And decorate with the worst hand-writing known to man... ok, maybe yours won't be this bad but it was late at night (I had to wait for dad to go to bed so his surprise would be awaiting him upon stumbling down to the kitchen on Father's Day morning) and I was rushing... or at least that's my excuse for now.
Before I forget, I must show you one of the KEYS TO SUCCESS when baking. Everyone is always asking me different tricks and tips, but this one is a MUST no matter what you are baking...
Are you ready???...
Here it is...
Never before revealed...
You must, and I repeat, must, make a MESS of not only the kitchen but whatever article of clothing you're wearing as well.
Whew! Now that the secret is finally off my chest, this is what awaited dad the next morning:
Alright, alright... I will write another blog post! You don't have to be so cruel... hehe. Just playing. But really, I am SO sorry for taking a month "off" of blogging. Baking has still occurred but life has just gotten in the way lately... imagine that?!
See below for evidence of MUCHO baking-o that happened:
AND NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT!!!
This week's baking adventure actually occurred.... ohhhhhh about 2 weeks or so ago. *Bad Ashley* My dad is ruler of the roost and has arguably a larger sweet tooth than myself (combined, we are dangerous in a bakery or candy shoppe or FUDGE shoppe in Helen, GA that shall remain nameless to keep all those involved safe... just playing. Or am I?). Anyways, my grandmother was an amazing cook and BAKER and even though she has passed, her legacy lives on.... as do my dad's memories of the delicious pies she used to make. For a few months now, my dad has been requesting three in particular said pies: Coconut Cream, Banana Cream, and Chocolate Cream. As you saw in the slideshow above, I conquered the Coconut Cream pie and the Chocolate Cream Pie will come soon... me thinks. Which then leaves pie request #3...
Even though the pie order listed above doesn't reflect it, the Banana Cream Pie was my first stab at his requests. I found the recipe on Delish.com (shocker!) and altered it slightly. You'll find out shortly how it was altered... aka I cheated. Whenever looking for recipes, I'm mostly drawn to the simple ones with minimal ingredients but maximum taste and reviews.
First things first, per usual. PREP the ingredients. Otherwise you'll be running around the kitchen like a chicken with your head cut off... much like I did when making the Cinnamon Raisin Bread for the SECOND time.
After prepping the ingredients, whisk the milk, corn starch, sugar, and salt until dissolved. Allow the mixture to thicken and boil while making sure to stir constantly. (You'll see in a bit that I kind of neglected this part of the instructions and had some of the custard stick to the bottom and then make it a little lumpy... Hey! It still tasted good though!)
While the custard is beginning to boil (or before if you don't want to be a rebel like me), dice up 3 of the 4 bananas.
And divide in half, as you will be making two layers of 'nanners (or dice up 1.5 bananas at a time so you have an EXACT measurement if you're an anal mathematics nerd like me).
Next it's time to take the pre-separated and whisked egg yolks and add some of the hot milk to them SLOWLY, VERY SLOWLY, WHISKING THE ENTIRE TIME so that you temper the egg yolks before adding them back into the saucepan of hot milk. (Tempering keeps the yolks from curdling people... you don't want scrambled eggs in your pie do you? Yea, me neither.) Keep stirring the quasi-custard until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon thickly (Think pudding consistency).
Once you reach the consistency you want, then remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract (I don't feel the need to spend oodles of $$$ on vanilla beans just yet).
[I must apologize for the lack of pictures during this process but everything happens so quickly and unfortunately, I do not have a third arm or sous chef/photographer to help. Any volunteers?]
Transfer the custard to a medium bowl and press plastic wrap down onto the top of the custard (so it's actually touching it all over) and place in the fridge to cool. While the custard is cooling, arrange half of the bananas you cut earlier in the bottom of the cooled pie. [Where did this miraculous pie crust come from? This is where I cheated (yet again). I bought it pre-made in the Frozen foods section of the grocery.]
Then, once the custard has chilled and set some in the fridge, layer half of the custard on top of the first layer of bananas.
Add another layer of bananas and then a second layer of custard. Place plastic wrap around the top of the custard again and place back in the fridge to cool completely (a few hours or overnight if you wish).
When ready to serve, make the homemade whipped cream. (I whipped it a little stiffer than normal.) Pile on top of the cooled custard pie and then layer the last sliced banana on top...
Admire for 2.5 seconds before diving into a big slice of Banana Cream Pie goodness!
I did warn you it was a big slice right???
Ok, ok... this may have been a few slices. hehe.
I hope you all can forgive me for being away for so long! I have also been trying to diet a little (it is bathing suit season afterall), so the baking has been less experimental as of late... gotta avoid sugar intake as much as possible. Until next time my friends! Thanks for hanging in there while I was away!
Mother's Day 2010 was spent with the greatest mom in all the world. (You're probably sitting there thinking yours is, but I beg to differ and I will fight you over it. *puts up dukes*)
My mom always dreamed of having three little girls... which she wanted to name Marcia, Jan, and Cindy [I kid you not]. By the grace of God, she was able to have her wish, and by the grace of God, we were not named after the three daughters in the Brady Bunch.
She first became a mother in July of 1984 but was too afraid of dropping her baby, so her husband took over the baby-holding for the first few weeks of my life... Her next daughter came out fighting and loving Mexican food in March of 1986 and last, but not least, little "Katie" arrived relatively peacefully in June of 1991.
My mom is the epitome of selflessness. She has always put her family before herself for as long as I can remember. The ONLY time she puts herself first is when we make her... even then, she can't help but do something for us. There aren't enough praises in the world that could be given to justify everything she is, stands for, and has done for our family.
Last Mother's Day, I started a little tradition of cooking her one of her favorite meals and continued it this year... dad was none-to-pleased either year but he gets his turn on Father's Day. Below are the two things I cooked for her this year. Both were super fun, delicious and relatively easy to make!