Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cheese-Marbled Brownies, Page 124, Column 2, 2nd Recipe Down

This week the recipe from my 1976 Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book is Cheese-Marbled Brownies.  My first bar cookie for this journey through my old cook book. 
The stars of the show
It’s another one of those recipes with all the ingredients in-line as you work through it rather than fulling listed up top.  I find these very annoying since I always feel like I’m going to miss something.

But first my archeology through my other 5 versions of the cook book.  As it turns out, this recipe is only present in my 1976 and 1981 versions and is substantially different between the two.  I looked to see if it was listed a Cream Cheese Brownies or something else in the other books, but it wasn’t there at all.  

My 1976 version uses honey, where the 1981 one uses sugar, the 1981 only calls for 3 ounces of cream cheese, which I now think is a typo.  And there is actually a step in the preparation that the 1981 version skips altogether.  Each uses semi-sweet morsels as the chocolate.

I could find no equivalent to this recipe online, but there are many cream cheese brownie recipes out there.  So I recommend trying one of these, even the ones where they have you use a brownie mix and your own cream cheese topping like this one: Philadelphia Marble Brownie
Chocolate chips with the butter in the pot
This recipe is has lots of steps. The first is to melt the chocolate with some butter.  (Less butter in the 1981 version.) Then blend it into the eggs and honey I’ve prepared in the mixer and then stir in the flour and other dry ingredients.  I also had to prepare the cream cheese topping and use a 2nd hand mixer I had.  All in all, many things used to create this.  I can totally understand why folks use brownie mixes now!
Cream cheese topping
Interestingly the recipe has you put half (what’s the best way to measure half?) in the 9x9 inch pan and bake it for 10 minutes.  Then top with the cream cheese topping and pour remaining brownie batter on top and swirl together if desired.
The topping and remaining brownie mix swirled together and ready to bake
The brownie batter seemed very thick, and I almost think piping it onto the cheese topping might have worked better.  Also I think it might work better to put it all along the edge as well.
Cheese-Marbled Brownies fresh from the oven
Still the result was quite pretty.  But the brownies overall were good but not great.  I suspect the changes in the 1981 version of the recipe were to improve the recipe, but the reduction of the cream cheese from 8 to 3 ounces seems like a mistake, a transcription error.  I made the 1981 recipe the next weekend and the cream cheese topping was very runny, fluffy.  It wanted to float above the brownie mixture I put on top of it and so the swirling of it was less effective.  

I brought in the 1976 version to work and they went over there better than they did at home as it would turn out. I may experiment with the 1981 recipe again, upping the cream cheese to 8 ounces to see what happens, but otherwise, just doesn’t seem worth the effort.  My preference will be for the fudge type brownies

Lessons Learned:

Get Cream Cheese to room temperature before using.

Get the brownie batter for top layer to the edges.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pecan Crispies, Page 117, 2nd Column, 2nd Recipe

My random recipe from my 1976 cook book for this weekend was an easy one, Pecan Crispies.  Basically a simple drop cookie with pecans.
The star of the show!

It’s in my 1953 cook book as well, but very different. No sugar, just brown sugar and 1/2 and 1/2 butter and shortening. It’s in none of the other editions I have, and I haven’t really found an equivalent online anywhere either unfortunately.  It’s pretty much a chocolate chip cookie recipe, but with the nuts instead, but there were differences in the ingredients and proportions even to the Chocolate Chippers recipe (this one is very similar to the Chocolate Chippers recipe, but not quite the same) in my 1976 book.

So first read over, and it’s pretty a pretty standard drop cookie recipe, but one thing stands out.  Oddly it calls for 6 tablespoons of sugar and brown sugar each.  What a pain in the rear to measure!  And it only uses a little over a cup of flour, so this would make only 2 sheets of cookies (3 dozen) at most.  
I immediately decided I’d do ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons instead, although sugar would be easy enough to measure, I couldn’t imagine packing brown sugar into the tablespoon 6 times.  But as I thought about the recipe over the week I settled on doubling it.  This way I could do ¾ cup of each of the sugars instead and have more cookies to bring into work.

The steps were completely standard for a drop cookie as well, cream butter and sugars until light then add other wet ingredients, except....hmmm.  This mixture of butter and the sugars was pretty darn dense!  I had to think over my measurements for the ingredients, did I go wrong with my doubling?
Butter, sugar, and brown sugar
looking a bit dense.
When I double a recipe, I get really paranoid that I’ll accidentally miss doubling something.  So I looked it over again and yes, I had everything right.  Wow was it dense, as you can see.  So I added the remaining wet ingredients, then after mixing the dry ingredients (excluding the nuts) I mixed that in next.  
The finished dough for the Pecan Crispies.
Again another surprise.  Where the Chocolate Chipper recipe dough is fairly easy to work with, not sticky, this stuff was very sticky.  Was it strictly the shortening vs. butter difference, or was the proportion of ingredients important to this as well?  I folded the nuts into the dough and proceeded to spoon out the cookies.  
Pecan Crispies ready to bake!
The whole process was slower because of the stickiness and I kept fretting that I had somehow forgotten to double something, but the dough tasted good, so I kept at it.  I cooked the first batch 10 minutes and that looked pretty good, I did do the last sheet for 11 minutes for an even firmer cookie, both tasted very nice.
Pecan Crispies cooling on the rack!
Because there is a preference at work for crispy cookies rather than chewy ones, I let these sit on the sheet for about 30 seconds before trying to remove them.  Then I let them cool on the rack completely, and finally even after I’d boxed them up I let the box stay open overnight to let them dry further.

The result was a hit.  Everyone at work liked them, and I really liked them too.  Although I got the comment that someone liked the cookies because they weren’t “too sweet”, perhaps it was the absence of chocolate chips or other sweet ingredient that did that because the proportion of sugar to flour seemed pretty standard, if not a little higher than usual.  

Lessons Learned:

I need a 3rd cooling rack.  Getting 3 cookie sheets has been really nice, I need to balance this out with a 3rd rack so that the cookies have enough time to cool completely.

Should I toast the nuts before using them?  In another cookie baking book I have they recommend toasting any nuts used in cookies for a better flavor.  I should do a cookie throw down and test the difference at work!

Next time I double a recipe, I think I’m going to get a post it and put it over the numbers in the list of ingredients and write in the doubled number.  This way I do it all in one go, and I can just read and not have to think about it as I go along.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rolled Ginger Cookies, Page 123, 1st Column, 1st Recipe

This week's recipe is Rolled Ginger Cookies, so another cookie requiring the rolling pin.  At first glance the recipe is huge!  It calls for 5 cups of flour, so I think I’m going to have a huge amount of cookies from this.

This recipe from allrecipes.com is very close: Gingerbread Cutouts but it has baking powder in addition to soda which is not in my recipe.  And mine had a bit more ginger too.  Also this recipe is effectively half the amount of the one I’m using from my old cook book.
Now in my other books I found that the recipe in the two most recent versions is basically exactly the same recipe as the one from allrecipes.com.  Which probably means someone just copied it up there from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  My 1981 version is identical to the 1976 one.  For 1953 the proportions and ingredients change a bit.  Biggest difference is the cloves are not included. And in the 1936 book, it’s not even there.  But there is a type of molasses cookie.

So this recipe is pretty standard again, cream sugar, shortening, add other wet ingredients then mix the dry stuff and mix in.  But this time it was just a huge amount!  I let it cool in the fridge for a day, although they only suggested 3 hours.

I used the rolling pin rings again, and you can see how they restricted the width of the dough.  So I could only roll our small amounts at a time.
This time as I rolled and cut out cookies I tried saving all the scraps together.  Then combined them at the end, but they definitely get dry from the extra flour, and the cookies don’t come out looking as good.  Maybe a better choice would be to fold them into new batches of dough as I do them.  May have to try that next time.
The interesting thing was that these were rolled out to ⅛ inch and then baked for only 5-6 minutes.  So although they took some time to cut out, they were quick otherwise.  I baked them 5.5 minutes, but I’m thinking 6 would have been better.  They were still a tiny bit soft inside, not completely crispy.  As a result, when I boxed them to bring to work, that remaining moisture softened the cookies completely, so they were no longer crunchy at all.
They went well at work, but I think they would have gone better a little crispier.

Lessons Learned:

Try folding in scraps with fresh dough to decrease the impact of the flour.

Cook just a tad longer, and perhaps let dry longer on the rack so they retain their crispiness when packaged up for taking somewhere.

I used apple cider vinegar, but in the 1953 edition of the recipe they specify white vinegar.  Should probably try that instead next time.