Date Squares | Pork Cracklins

We’re sticking with another one of the Twelve Days of Cookies for Baked Sunday Mornings this week, and I admit to being more than skeptical about these date squares. I mean, date squares? Ew… they sound like a grandma dessert. Something that is made only out of tradition, but really shouldn’t be made ever again.

I cheated a bit and used pre-chopped dates. There is such a thing. It felt dirty, but it was a weeknight, I was tired, and Google Shopping Express delivered them straight to my door.

The date filling is cooked with a bit of brown sugar until it’s soft. There’s not much more to it. It’s sandwiched between a sugary-salty-oaty layer that’s the perfect foil for the sweet dates. These are deceptively delicious. I couldn’t stop eating them, to be honest. People at work were a bit skeptical (dates? no thanks!), but those that bravely tried one were rewarded with delicious chewy sweet goodness for their mouth.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Campfire Cookies | Pork Cracklins

There was a smattering of cookie issues this week with melting or exploding marshmallows. Let me give just a bit more context here – imagine the flavors of a campfire s’more, except without the smokiness and in a cookie form.

The cookies have some graham cracker crumbs in the batter (although I think the flavor is a bit lost in there), along with chocolate chips and marshmallows (store-bought minis in my case). Have you ever put a marshmallow into a hot oven? Give it a few minutes, and it will start to bubble and melt. It makes kind of a mess. That’s what happens when this batter gets baked.

But I didn’t care about melty marshmallow bits. They’re delicious, and they snapped right off of the edge of the cookies once they had cooled (cook’s treat). I loved these cookies. Oh, and I added a sprinkling of fleur de sel to the top before baking them off – the cookies are even better with that hit of salt. The only thing I wish I would have tried before we ate all of the cookies was using my handheld smoker on a few of them.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Election Palmiers | Pork Cracklins

It’s back to a more manageable every-other-week schedule for Baked Sunday Mornings, and this is our first project out of the new Baked Occasions, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This is a great book; I can say that with confidence since I either tested or tasted just about every recipe in the book. I get a pass on the cake made of Rice Krispies due to my rice allergy.

These palmiers are a great way for us to kick off baking through the new book. On first glance, they seem kind of plain and ordinary, but they’re anything but. They’re extraordinarily buttery, very flaky and they have a kick, thanks to a bit of cayenne pepper added to the cinnamon sugar.

I’ve made a lot of puff pastry – the more laborious kind that involves a butter block and multitudes of letter folds. But more often, I make a rough puff pastry just like this one – pulse it in the food processor, and then give it a minimal amount of turns to create some layers. It works great, and is significantly easier and quicker than a properly made puff pastry. And most important, it gives the impression that you’ve spent hours of laboring over dough.

Once the dough is ready (it can be made ahead of time), the cookies are very quick to make – just roll them up with some of the cinnamon sugar, slice and bake. Don’t want to bother with the dough? Use an all-butter, store bought puff pastry (such as Dufour brand), and follow the instructions to roll, slice and bake. You’ll still love the results.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

S'More-Style Chocolate Whiskey Pudding with Whiskey Marshmallow Topping | Pork Cracklins

Two years, and sixty-six recipes later, and the gang at Baked Sunday Mornings has come to the end of another Baked book. We started with Baked Explorations before moving on to Elements. Baked: New Frontiers in Baking came out before the group began, but I’ve worked my way through a good portion of that book as well.

Out of the four Baked books, my favorite is still the first one. It’s the one that got me hooked on the Baked buttercream and solidified my appreciation for desserts that are homey but classic – but are anything but boring. Baked Occasions, the next book we’re tackling, is going to be great. Maybe even the best one yet.

Our last recipe in Baked Elements is an extraordinarily rich chocolate pudding. But not just a straight pudding – there’s a twist, of course. There’s whiskey in the pudding and in the topping. A layer of crisp graham cracker crumbs add texture, and topping it all off is a cloud of toasted marshmallow. It’s a s’more in a bowl.

My pudding turned out great, but it wasn’t without problems. It wouldn’t set up after it thickened on the stove (cause: too much heat for too long, or too much stirring – I’m guessing the first is the problem). I filled my cups partway and put them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before adding the layer to graham crackers (which promptly began to sink into my still-too-thin pudding). Back into the refrigerator for another hour before adding more pudding on top, and they eventually thickened up overnight. But I didn’t have a nice layer of graham crackers.

The marshmallow topping is spiked with more whiskey (Bourbon, in my case), then torched for that campfire experience. In hindsight, I wish I would have included a smoked element in the pudding. I could have even used my handheld smoker on the topping, without impacting the final texture.

We both like these a lot, but they’re ultra-rich. I made six servings, but twelve would have been more appropriate. After a couple of bites, I’ve had more than enough.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls | Pork Cracklins

I promise, this is the last time I’ll complain about a pumpkin recipe in Baked Elements. I guarantee there are be more pumpkin recipes in my future (Pumpkin Cheesecake Chocolate Swirl Brownies from the brand new, fabulous, just released Baked Occasions). But I’ve just about baked my way through all of Elements and I get to say goodbye to the dreaded pumpkin chapter for now.

That said, I really liked making these cinnamon rolls. I love working with enriched doughs. This one was really sticky and not super easy to work with, but it’s forgiving and the rolls turned out great (if you like pumpkin, that is).

The pumpkin is in the dough (I used canned, not fresh), but the flavor really comes out. Larry liked these, so I’ll probably make them again for him.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes | Pork Cracklins

There’s something to be said for a classic chocolate cupcake. It’s not fancy, but it’s satisfying.

There’s no butter in the batter – typically, no-butter cakes will use oil for the fat. It’s one of my favorite types of cake because it’s typically very moist. The twist in this recipe is the use of a healthy amount of mayonnaise rather than oil or butter. The cake is tender and moist, and deeply chocolate-y thanks to both melted chocolate and cocoa powder.

Oh, and the frosting. No butter in the cake, but three sticks in the buttercream more than makes up for it. It’s not the typical Baked buttercream, which starts off with a cooked flour base. This is just butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and melted chocolate, beaten into submission until it’s light and silky. It’s rich. But really good.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Pumpkin Harvest Dunking Cookies | Pork Cracklins

After more than two years baking out of Baked Elements, we’re down to the last three recipes. I love all of the Baked books, but I’ve had more misses in this book than the rest. And I’m really excited to move on to Baked Occasions, releasing in just two days.

The pumpkin chapter of the book is my least favorite, but Larry’s very much in favor of it. There’s one more pumpkin recipe left after this – hurrah! That said, these aren’t overly pumpkin-y, and they’re nicely spiced. They’re soft, meant for dunking in milk or coffee (or hot apple cider? Tea?). Not just like a soft cookie, but oddly soft, resembling a cross between a soft cookie and a muffin.

I resisted the urge to replace the dried cranberries with dried blueberries. I think it would be a nice match with the cinnamon.

Most of these went to work, and they got a good reception. Larry liked them a lot, too. I think they improved after a day or two in an airtight container.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Tunnel of Hazelnut Fudge Cake | Pork Cracklins

Remember that old timey Tunnel of Fudge cake? Invented in the 60s by a woman who entered it (and came in second place) into the Pilsbury Bake-Off, it’s a simple chocolate Bundt cake that magically creates a ribbon of fudge in the middle of the cake as it bakes. It’s also the cake that’s responsible for the popularity of the beloved Bundt pan.

The original recipe calls for Pillsbury’s Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream Frosting Mix – a product that’s no longer in production. But no matter, because in true Baked fashion this is a twist on the original, which also included walnuts in the recipe.

This is more like eating undercooked brownies than cake – which isn’t a bad thing. Instead of walnuts, the Baked recipe uses hazelnuts. Not my favorite, but it works. I think it would be lovely with walnuts or almonds instead.

This cake instantly gets points for simplicity – dump, stir, bake. It’s so easy, especially if you’re lazy like me and use Trader Joe’s pre-roasted, mostly skinned hazelnuts. Even if you toast your own raw hazelnuts, I think you could leave the skins on.

I left the cake in the lunchroom at work.. came back an hour later, and it was gone. I think they liked it.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins | Pork Cracklins

I like these muffins, don’t love them, but they’re pretty good. They’re intensely chocolate, with a hit from a generous amount of chocolate chunks in the batter. I’d almost venture to call these a cupcake. They’re close, but don’t have the fuss of needing frosting.

There’s a surprise inside, too, which I think is the best part – a cheesecake filling. The filling is also spiked, with chunks of milk chocolate that add melty, creamy bits to the dense cream cheese.

My muffins turned out fine, other than a few of them cratering on top. And I think I used too much filling in them, because I had enough for a dozen muffins, but then I still had enough chocolate batter for six more straight chocolate muffins. No matter, the chocolate ones are good too – especially when, as suggested in the recipe headnote, they’re sliced and lightly toasted.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Candy Bar Cookies | Pork Cracklins

This is an ironic cookie. It’s the best way to describe an elegant looking little cookie that surprises you with a candy bar inside. It’s highbrow meets lowbrow, and it works really well.

The cookies are simple to make. The dough is kind of sandy and initially kind of a pain to work with, but it turns out to be very forgiving. It’s a little messy, since the candies need to be smooshed into a ball and then wrapped up in the dough before baking, but it’s all chocolate so it doesn’t matter.

I dipped some in white chocolate, some in dark. I love how they look like little petit fours. I served some to friends that came over for cocktails, and the rest went to work, where they were quickly gobbled up.

I wasn’t as creative as my fellow bakers, though. They tried all sorts of different candies inside these cookies – I just went with the recommended Mounds and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Word is, candies with a lot of caramel don’t work as well because the caramel just melts all over the place. I thought the ones with peanut butter cups were really good – and the ones with Rolos sound great, too.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.