Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Annual Baking Extravaganza

Yes, it's that time of year again (cough, or it was, cough...the holidays have me a little behind on posts). Time for endless baking, flour, sugar, eggs, chocolate, and cookies. That's right, it's the Baking Extravaganza with my best friend, Jessica. (You can read about last year's here.) It was only the two of us again this year, which is perfectly fine with me. Between the two of us, we have so many cookies, we never ever finish.

This year we began baking quite early on a Sunday morning. Actually, the night before we celebrated her little boy's birthday. So we were already hyped up on a ton of sugar. Cupcakes and cookie cake.

This little guy turned two over the weekend. I cannot believe how big he is! Last year at this time he was sooooo little. We celebrated his birthday Elmo style. And that cookie was addicting....I promise to feature my friend's mother-in-law's cookie cake recipe soon. Very soon.

Anyhoo, back to that early Sunday morning. Jessica arrived (baking was at my new house this year...lots of kitchen space), we set out the ingredients and supplies, and immediately got to work. She began melting butter for her pretzel bark, which was by far everyone's favorite "cookie." (Yes, I've included the simple recipe below. You're welcome.)

Jess mentioned we should tally up how many pounds of butter we went through, and I thought that was a good idea. Alas, neither of us tallied. I'm sure we could figure it out. Let's just say it was a lot, and I still have a few pounds in the fridge (because, as always, we are overly ambitious and always tire out).

We set up our "beauties," allowing us to make multiple batches of cookies at once. Like last year, we thought this was brilliant. We're no rookies.

It would have been brilliant had we more than two bowls.

We made a note of this for next year....guess what I want for my birthday? Guess what I'm probably getting Jessica for her birthday?

Once the bark was in and out of the oven and chilling in the freezer, we moved onto the Hot Cocoa Cookies (which were a huge hit last year, and I just had to make again this year). And, of course, I brilliantly decided the batch must be doubled.

Yep, I think we needed a bigger bowl.

While I was concentrating on not making a mess with the cocoa cookies, Jessica started in on her Cake Batter Cookies (another favorite among my co-workers this year). These pretty much consisted of any sprinkles we could dig out of the cupboards, which is why they were so beautiful. And tasty.

After these, we began on Pioneer Woman's Citrus Butter Cookies. These were the ones I was looking most forward to and ended up being Jess' favorite this year. And we also started on our musts: the Browned Butter Cookies with Caramel Frosting. (You know, the only ones Mr. B will eat. The favorites. The ones everyone eats. The ones we could make in our sleep backwards we've made them so much. The ones we always, always double and take most of our time.)

However, like some doughs, the cocoa and citrus batches had to chill in the fridge, which meant lunchtime. I made us my infamous Black Bean Beauty Burgers, a double batch so Jessica could take some home to her hubby and child, and thankfully I had made them the night before. After, it was time for presents. Jessica was super excited about her mini donut pan. Yes, I pay attention to Amazon Wish Lists.

Then, it was back to the cookies where Disaster #1 struck.

Our beloved Browned Butter cookies were not their perfect selves. The dough was spreading way too much in the oven, and I know it was because the butter was too hot. I mentioned it at the time, but we continued anyway. "As long as they still taste okay," Jess said. They did. But I wanted bite-sized cookies. I wanted them normal. We all know how Mr. B reacts when his favorite cookies are tampered with. This was his favorite. What if we screwed this up? What would he eat?

While I was starting to slightly panic over these favorites, Disaster #2 made its appearance. (I have to add that earlier I mentioned how we had no disasters yet. Jess yelled at me because I jinxed it. She was right.)

The Hot Cocoa Cookies were sticking to the pans, making a mess and not looking very pretty.

Jessica, graciously, took to the task of trying to get them off the pans. (Too bad we didn't have enough silicone mats for every pan....another birthday gift possibility....)

She succeeded in saving about half of the cookies.

But she's awful strong, that Jessica.

Take a good look at that above picture. Force + the placement of her arm + salvaged cookies placement =


Altogether we salvaged about a 1/4 of the entire (doubled) batch.

That's about the time Starbucks started calling. And thankfully they were running the "buy one, get one" special. So we turned the oven off, left the citrus batch in the fridge, and headed to Kent (our old college stomping ground, and, since our move, the closest Starbucks.....ahhh, the luxury of being an exit away from a steaming Caramel Macchiato).

It was Jessica's treat. Creme Brulee Frappes.

It had been a while since Jess had been in the Kent area, and a lot had changed, so I drove around showing her the new face of downtown, our old apartment, etc. It was enough to make us green with envy and a little sad, "Why didn't they have Acorn Alley when we were there?! What the heck is that? Why'd they cut half the parking? What happened to Susan's?!"

We spent a little longer in Kent than planned, so when we arrived home, we realized we'd have time for only one more cookie recipe.

The Ninjas.

We have to have the Ninjabreads.

So back to it. We took the citrus batch out of the fridge, got them into the oven, let them cool, and mixed up the icing.

And then Jess leaked it everywhere.

Well, not everywhere. Just on the counter. And the table. And the floor. A little.

Once the cookies were iced, the ninjabread dough was chilled and ready to roll out. I let Jessica have the honor of "releasing" the Ninjas. Mainly because it was her recipe, she wanted to do it, and I didn't.

But I was slowly cleaning up our mess (Mr. B was going to be home soon! He left about 1/3 of the way into the Baking Extravaganza. Messes make him cranky. He then makes us cranky. He spent the day watching football at his dad's.), and frosting his beloved Browned Butters, which was another disaster. The frosting was not at all like what it should have been. We must have become too cocky in our Browned Butter Cookie-making abilities.

I think it was about 8 p.m. before we had the kitchen cleaned up. We then divided up the cookies (Jessica did NOT take any Hot Cocoa Cookies home....they weren't pretty), loaded her car, and said good night.

It was another perfect day of baking with my best (girl)friend. [I have to let it be known Mr. B is my best friend.]

Finally, after days of non-stop baking, the cookies were ready to gift. I hope everyone enjoyed the deliciousness!

Yeah, I'm good with cookies until spring.

[P.S. Despite the way the Browned Butters looked, they tasted the same, so we divvied them up. Mr. B ate my half in less than two days. I apologize to family members who did not get any. Mr. B does not.]

Pretzel Bark
*recipe from my friend Jessica

(The above picture is the only shot I have of the Pretzel Bark. It's on the first platter, far right. I'll try to fix this!)

Makes one entire pan

Unsalted mini pretzel twists (enough for a single-layer on a pan)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 c brown sugar
Chocolate chips (as much or as little as you want)
Coarse sea salt

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spread pretzels evenly on a baking sheet lined with foil. (When I say baking sheet, I really mean a jelly roll pan. Just make sure the pan has sides so your ingredients won't spill over.) In medium saucepan combine butter and sugar, allowing sugar to melt and boil. Let it thicken (this takes a little time) and caramelize, then pour over pretzels. Bake 5 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips over caramel layer and spread evenly with spatula. The chips will melt while doing this. Sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool and then chill in freezer until completely set. Break into pieces and enjoy.

With Love and God Bless,


  1. Good times! This made me laugh out loud ( a few times!)
    I love how you said they were ready to gift, I never gifted any. I ate all of them and that is why I am now devoting the entire month of January to losing weight :/

    1. Haha. I love you. Do you see all of those cookies! I HAD to gift them. We had so many patrons bring in trays of cookies at work, I had my fill before I even made mine. The hubby enjoyed his cookies though (all to himself, I might add.) And the bark was gone before I could eat any!