Thursday, February 24, 2011

Foolproof Desserts

February 14 & 22

I last posted after a tough weekend of cooking Mexican food. Before I could redeem myself later in the week with some recipe success, my California family - my group of girlfriends - was struck with a horrible tragedy. The death of our friend’s husband took us in all sorts of directions over the past week, and the road ahead is going to be a long one. With my schedule thrown into absolute craziness for the time being, I’ve only had time to throw together comfort foods.

In the past week, I have cooked little in the way of meals and stayed with tried-and-true recipes that were successful in the past. My only new adventures were in the realm of baking, and though neither were complicated dishes, they were very necessary to calm my frayed nerves and emotions.

The first was a sort of lemon bar recipe, officially called Lemon Mascarpone Blondies. I had mascarpone and needed something sweet, so I stumbled upon this recipe online and followed it to a tee, as baking is utterly intimidating for me.

Basics:  Buttered and floured the 8x8 pan. Whisked melted butter and sugar, added egg and vanilla extract, and then the lemon juice, lemon zest, and mascarpone cheese. Finished with flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, mixing everything together. Poured into pan, baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, cooled on a wire rack.

I’m not confident I did everything correctly, though I followed directions exactly, and I say that because it seemed to rise considerably above the pan and never quite finished cooking in the center. Nevertheless, the ingredients were a tasty combination, and the lemon squares were a tasty treat while remaining fairly light.

The second dessert attempt was a quick batch of cookies. I was hosting some of the aforementioned girlfriends for a dinner and gathering-of-the-minds evening, and I wanted something sweet but easy for a dessert. For the easy part, I pulled out my oldest cookbook, the one that my mother gave me when I first moved out on my own: “Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her?” It has been immensely helpful for various foods through the years, not to mention all of the little household tips, measurements, and other kitchen advice. And in those yellowed pages (I have had it for more than 20 years, ya know!) was a recipe for chocolate chippies. Perfect!

Basics:  Combined 1 box of chocolate cake mix, ¼ cup butter, 1/3 cup milk, and 1 egg with hand mixer. Stirred in 6 oz. of chocolate chips. Dropped by spoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Baked at 375 degrees for 12 minutes and cooled on wire rack.

This was the first time I’ve made cookies that didn’t burn! The recipe was so easy that I could not screw it up, and the batter itself was so chocolaty and smooth that I left some for pre-tasting. The cookies baked perfectly according to the recipe and came out soft and delicious. I would make these cookies again in a heartbeat.

Hopefully, I will be back in the kitchen with some new recipes in another week. Cooking has become a relaxing and mostly enjoyable endeavor for me, and I look forward to resuming this journey in the first week of March.

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