In elementary school, on special occasions, we used to get ice cream after lunch in the cafeteria. We had a choice of three desserts: a Hoodsie, a Nutty Buddy, or—my favorite—an ice cream sandwich. What could be better than rich, velvety ice cream squished between two pliant pieces of chocolate cookie? Years later, I still love ice cream sandwiches above all other frozen treats. That's why I was excited to try out Stonewall Kitchen's Ice Cream Sandwich Cookie Mix.
'baking' on Serious Eats
A disproportionate amount of my life is spent eating jam, thinking about jam, sourcing new flavors and brands of jam, and thinking about how to incorporate jam into new foods. So, inspired by a recent orange-apricot jam purchase, I whipped up these swirl cookies.
Banana cream pie always brings to mind those revolving fridges at diners, stockpiled with chilled desserts gussied up with from-the-can whipped cream bouffants. I love bananas—and those lit-up iceboxes—but it has never once occurred to me to order banana cream pie. It always looks jiggly and a bit sad, especially next to the buxom double-crust apple pie and the luscious chocolate silk. It was time to give the banana cream pie some help. And yes, bourbon is very much involved.
Since there is no fresh peanut butter stirred into the batter, too often the flavor of peanut butter cookies from a mix falls short—the cookies taste bland and plain with only a trace of nuttiness. Is it possible to get big, bold peanut butter flavor from a boxed mix? This week I put Krusteaz's Bakery Style Peanut Butter Cookie Mix ($3.19) to the test.
Where exactly in Philly did this cake come from? Who named it Philly Fluff? And why wasn't it the least bit fluffy in texture?
Duncan Hines recently introduced a new line of "decadent" cake mixes that look much fancier and more upscale than the traditional Classic Yellow and Chocolate Fudge varieties. This week, I tried out the apple caramel version.
Is ten minutes too long to watch a baker fold sheets of dough and butter to make croissants, pains au chocolat, pain aux raisins, and more? Nope. (Warning: You may really want a croissant after watching this.)
Meyer lemons are prized for their thin skins, ample juice, sweet flavor, and lack of acidity. In many dishes they are preferable to regular lemons because they provide loads of citrus flavor without the lip-puckering bite. But would their essence really come through in a cake mix? Was there any actual Meyer lemon in the mix, or was it a misnomer? I put Dassant's Meyer Lemon Cake Mix ($6.99) to the test.
When compared to a batch made from scratch, the Fat Witch ones were indistinguishable. Their tops were shiny, smooth, and slightly crackly; the centers were gooey and almost pudding-like. The brownies had nice, thick high edges (if you're a corner person you would love them!) and the center pieces were like squares of baked fudge.
We love dark, spicy, molasses-laced gingerbread. Of course, there are tons of recipes for baking it from scratch but gingerbread mixes are a great option when you're short on time. Which brand to choose? We tested five: Betty Crocker, Krusteaz, Trader Joe's, Williams-Sonoma and King Arthur Flour. Did any pass as homemade-esque? Check out our results.
I chose a basic butter cookie to test out five different brands of cookie sheets. Its pale color would make detecting subtle variations in browning more obvious, and the recipe called for baking on an ungreased, unlined cookie sheet. Could these pans stand up to the naked-baking test, or would the cookies stick? I baked 10 dozen cookies in one day in order to find out.
Since I can't get enough of gooey, toasty, nutty desserts (and I suspect many of you can't, either) this week I baked a batch of Krusteaz Pecan Bars. The filling was smooth and buttery with hints of toffee, and each bite was loaded with toasted pecans.
As a professional pastry chef, I did the unthinkable last night. I bought pre-made cookie dough from the market. (Shame.) It was a chilly night and already 9 p.m., and spending an extra hour making cookies from scratch on top of dinner prep was simply out of the question. So I did something I haven't done since I entered culinary school 12 years ago—I used my dough to buy another's.
In the fall months, I crave desserts and baked treats that are either loaded with harvest fruits or subtly spicy. Give me anything with apples, persimmons, and figs, or cinnamon, ginger, and chipotle. This week, I tested two truly unique (and all natural!) mixes from The Invisible Chef: a vanilla-fig tea cake, and chocolate chipotle brownies that you bake in a loaf pan.
Pastry chefs Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake and Johnny Iuzzini of the Jean-Georges restaurant group recently battled in a cupcake-off at the Astor Center in Manhattan. So what cupcakes did they make? Both involved chocolate, but the similarities pretty much ended there. Falkner did a Chocolate Pub Cake with stout beer in the batter and an easy-to-whip-up fudge frosting (here's the recipe!) and Iuzzini did a chocolate-beet cake (mmm, you really have to make this) with raspberries.
I was excited to hear that Vosges has recently expanded their line of baking mixes. Now, in addition to pancakes so delicious they just might bring a man to his knee, there are sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, a dark chocolate triple layer cake, and—wait for it—caramel toffee chocolate chunk brownies.
We all agree that brownies are awesome, right? Right. (Well, many of us, anyway, though I have yet to meet a brownie-hater.) But now that there are so many unusual chocolate products on the on the market, from filled and infused bars to flavored hot chocolate to exotic bonbons, it's understandable that you'd get the urge to mix in something aside from walnuts from time to time.
What I like to bake most in autumn are treats redolent with warm spices. I'm over summer's berries and stone fruit. Give me cinnamon! Nutmeg! Ground cloves and cardamom! Fancy Flour's Ginger Spice Cupcake Mix ($9.75) seemed like the perfect thing to try out for this week's Mixed Review.
On a recent trip to the supermarket, I spotted this mix not in the baking aisle, but in the produce section. Why? Because unlike other readily available banana bread mixes this one actually calls for real bananas. Additionally, wheat flour is listed as the first ingredient, and the mix doesn't require copious amounts of oil. A low-fat quick bread with real banana flavor? I couldn't wait to test it out.
Like fruitcake, its gentile cousin, Jewish honey cake is generally reviled. People tend to find it, depending on the recipe, too sweet, too dry, too oily, or too spicy. But at Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) you simply have to have one: the holiday just wouldn't be the same without it. This year, I decided to try out Manischewitz's Honey Cake Mix ($6.49). The real thing was already so bad, I reasoned, could a boxed mix be that much worse?