Welcome to another rendition of my Latest Recipe Testing series!
Never have I been in the kitchen so much, so often, and with so many flops. It’s a numbers game. I’m currently testing recipes for right now, for the holiday baking season, and for my cookbook. So, I’m bound to have more recipe disasters, right?
Over the past several years, as the holiday baking season becomes more and more prominent on my website, I’ve learned that I won’t be able to keep up unless I have a stock of content ready to go. My website sees the most website traffic from September through December, and I want to take advantage of the desire for fall and holiday baking! Last year I published about 30 brand-new recipes during that time, and I plan for the same amount of content this year.
I already have 4 done!
So right now, my team and I are balancing recipes for 3 different time frames. It’s been hard to mentally organize when jumping between decorating Valentine’s Day cookies for now, photographing pies for Pie Week later in the year, and developing new recipes for my cookbook, which won’t come out until 2024 or 2025.
We dedicate 1 week per month to each of the 3. That’s the best way I’ve found to compartmentalize all this content!
Bran Muffins That Don’t Taste Like Cardboard
One of the first projects I worked on this year was my recipe for bran muffins. I played around with the amount of wheat bran, flour, and liquid a few times until I reached a nice balance of hearty and soft, without tasting like cardboard. (Always a nice bonus.)
One of the test batches was tasty, but the batter was quite thin and the resulting muffins were squat and greasy. Adding a little more flour bulked up the batter, and the final batch was a success.
Saucy Blueberry Sauce & Lemon Cheesecake
The first photo in this post is my blueberry sauce topping. This one didn’t need too much testing, as I used the swirl from this blueberry swirl cheesecake and topping from this blueberry cream cheese pie as my starting point. I added considerably more water so the sauce is, well, saucy. 😉
I also have a new recipe for lemon cheesecake on my site. For this recipe, I used my key lime cheesecake as the base, and infused the sugar with lemon zest for extra flavor. This was easy to test as well—I love making cheesecake.
The Incredible Shrinking Cake
I developed this chocolate raspberry cake primarily for the raspberry filling, by popular demand. Over the years I’ve received lots of requests for a raspberry cake filling recipe, and now the answer is… yes, I have one!!
I based the chocolate cake batter on this recipe for dark chocolate peanut butter cake, but accidentally used 8-inch pans instead of 9-inch pans. While this usually isn’t a big deal—just need to adjust the bake time—I actually overfilled the 8-inch pans, which did nothing in my favor. The cake layers baked up in the strangest way and looked like brains. Totally unintentional, but maybe I’m onto something for Halloween? LOL.
The cakes rose up, sank down in the centers, and finished with sad crinkle-wrinkle centers. The lesson here is: don’t overfill your cake pans, and use the recommended cake pan size.
Baking does require using your brain (especially when doing the math for cake pan sizes and conversions!), but cakes that look like brains were definitely not what I was going for.
Great news… you can bake a non-brain cake by following my chocolate raspberry cake recipe. 😉
Strawberry Cream-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes
My recipe for chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes was originally published in 2018. I recently changed the chocolate cupcake batter so it matches my cream-filled chocolate cupcakes. (Which are quite possibly the best cupcakes I’ve ever made, and I stand firm on that.) The updated batter simply bakes up stronger, and holds the strawberry buttercream a little better. They’re deeply chocolatey and extra moist. Like Hostess cupcakes, with a strawberry twist.
If you loved the old version, the batter matched these chocolate cupcakes!
Getting a Head Start on Sally’s Cookie Palooza 2023
I’m really excited to publish a recipe for gingerbread cookie bars later this year. My first batch was supremely flavorful and spiced (just what I wanted!), but the texture was completely off. They were fluffy and cake-like, as if you were eating a heavy square of gingerbread cake:
I had a good feeling about the cookie dough, though. It’s similar to my chewy chocolate chip cookies, and so I decided to reduce the flour and bake the dough in a larger pan. The bars were thinner, which made them flatter and chewier. This is just what I wanted: dense, chewy, moist, spiced, perfect.
That recipe is coming in December. Told you I was getting ahead!
Still on a ginger molasses kick, I decided to bake a batch of these white chocolate chip molasses cookies in hopes to update the photos. Well, I forgot to set the oven timer, took a phone call, forgot they were in the oven, turned the oven off, then 2 hours later preheated the oven for something else.
As my assistant, Beth, and I went to put some bread in the oven, we found a baking sheet of lumpy hockey pucks. The cookies baked as intended, and then continued their oven journey as the oven cooled down, and preheated again. I’m sad to report that they did not survive the whirlwind adventure.
Oven timers… time and time again… prove to be useful. 😉
Q: Have you had a recipe fail lately?
Cookbook Sneak Peek
My next cookbook is well underway, and it’s untitled at the moment! This baking cookbook will be my biggest yet. 100 baking recipes divided among chapters including yeast bread, breakfast, cookies, cakes, quick breads, cupcakes, and more. The book will be mostly new and exclusive recipes to the book, and will also include a handful of the most popular recipes on my website. It will be nice to have them professionally printed in a tangible book!
My manuscript deadline is a year away, and then the book will continue in the editing and design phases before heading to print. Thank you in advance for your patience. This is the first time I’ve written such a large manuscript, while simultaneously managing employees, operating a large website, and raising kids!
And trying to find time to rest and recharge so my creative juices continue to flow!
The latest cookbook recipe I tested was a spin on my buttermilk biscuits. Think bacon, spicy honey, cheddar cheese, and chives. My knees actually went weak at the first taste. And you’ll enjoy recipes for soft jalapeño bread, deeply chocolate cheesecake, another recipe for chewy molasses cookies (I’m on a kick!), and you can bet these popular banana muffins will make an appearance. I can’t wait to share more with you! Stay tuned.