Sunday, September 22, 2013

Diving into the Self Publishing Pool

I've been working on a cookbook for the past several months. What started out as something for my friends and family is rapidly growing into a much bigger production. I decided to self publish it for many reasons: 1) my friends and family are scattered across the globe, 2) most of them are big eBook fans, and 3) I want to keep the cost as close to “free” as possible. Because a few of them want a print copy, I need to price it at Amazon's minimum to be eligible for their CreateSpace print-on-demand option.

Several of the GRRWG members have had great success lately going this route. As a new author, I am not holding out hopes for large number of sales, but hope to at least get my setup costs covered. ISBN's must be purchased, a publishing company name needs to be selected, I need to develop the book cover, have it edited, get testers to test the recipes and pick a name for it. Lots of work yet to do for what I thought would be a “quick” side project.

The biggest obstacle is simply me being me. An IT geek by trade, I'm always thinking of ways to improve thing, and my recipe list is growing as I keep thinking up recipes to add. My “beta tasters” are growing to hate me as their waistlines have grown since I started down this path. I've selected my most “kid friendly” recipes for this book as I'm a big believer in teaching kids bake and cook simple things for themselves. The one thing I can't really do for this book is the artwork, as I am not an artist or photographer.

I'm still debating about the photos after seeing how much work it may be to get the layout I see in my head to work for an eBook. So for the first edition it may end up with no photos, but I gave myself to the end of the year to get this book out, so I may have to give up a few things to get the first edition out. Plus it's a lot of work to get all the samples ready for a photo shoot, and I'm a horrible procrastinator.

Another thing to consider when self-publishing is which platforms you want to publish on. There'sjust so many: Amazon vs. Nook vs. Smashwords, just to name a few. The decision may end up being a tad easier for me though as Amazon seems to be the one platform that all of my potential readers can get to.

Who know that self-publishing could get so complicated?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Brownie Cookie Perfected!

Note: This can also be found on my crafting blog at (in case anyone was worrying about copyrights).

It's taken me longer than expected, but I finally got the recipe down. These turned out nice and chewy once completely cooled and are very close to my all-time favorite one that I used to get in high school. They're not exactly alike though as I refuse to use corn syrup in my recipes whenever I can avoid it.

So here's the basic recipe and if you're a corn syrup fan, you can take out 2 tablespoons of the sugar in exchange for 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup to get a moister, chewy brownie cookie.

First whisk together (or use a mixer) the following:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter (melted) or you could substitute for shortening, but then why bother?
  • 2 teaspsoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt  (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee/espresso (optional)

Put the mixer on slow and add the following:

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (regular or dark cocoa) - add this 1/4 cup at a time
  • 2 eggs - extra large or jumbo size

When the eggs are just blended turn off the mixer and stir in the dry ingredients by hand:

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (if you like "cakier" brownies use baking powder)
  • 2 1/3 cups flour

The dough will be thick. You can either spoon them onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (non-stick may work too), or do what I do which is roll them into a ball, much like Snickerdoodles.  For a thinner cookie, use wax paper and the bottom of a glass to flatten them out, otherwise they spread fine and end up about as thick as my Snickerdoodles.

Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 8 minutes (undercooked is ok) and leave them on the still hot cookie sheet for at least 4 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cook.  These are at their chewiest after they are completely cooled.

Feel free to add in whatever you wish, chocolate chips do really well in these as do nuts, cinnamon chips, white chocolate, and vanilla chips.

These are a good cookie to involve your kids in too as there is no need for a mixer and kids are always good to have around for rolling cookie dough. Just remember to kick the dog out of the kitchen - the cocoa powder is a major no-no and my dogs kept trying to sneak back in while I made these.  Be kinder than I was and put them outside where they (hopefully) won't be able to smell the heavenly aroma.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Accidental Whoopie Pies

I'm still adding a few last-minute recipes to my cookbook that I'm planning on self-pubbing by Christmas.

Imagine my surprise and joy when trying to develop the "perfect" chocolate brownie cookie I accidentally whipped up my grandmother's old Whoopie Pie/Moon Pie recipe.  It wasn't planned as I haven't had her recipe in my hands since I was a Tween.  I was simply fiddling with a cookie recipe, and accidentally had these come out of the oven.

Maga (my grandmother) made hers with Carob powder, I made these with Cocoa powder, but either way works wonderfully.  My "tasting crew" at my favorite local diner all gave me thumbs up on these, so I figured it's worth posting here.  Pictures will come later.

The key to these is the way they are mixed, so read the instructions before you start pouring stuff into the bowl.

What you'll need for the cookies:

          1 cup butter, softened (nuked in the microwave works too)
          1 cup Cocoa powder (I prefer Nestle or Hershey's_
          1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
          2 eggs
          2 teaspoons vanilla
          2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
          1 tsp. baking soda
          1/4 tsp. salt  (optional)
          Parchment paper
          Wax paper (just a little piece will do)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream the sugar and butter really well. Turn off the mixer, add in the Cocoa powder and mix on low/medium speed until really well mixed then increase the mixer speed. Add in the eggs and vanilla, mix until "fluffy" or well blended.  Add in the baking soda, flour and salt and mix well BY HAND, until all the flour is incorporated.

Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (non-stick may work too).  Place wax paper over the cookies and press flat using the bottom of a glass (if you don't have waxed paper, you can dip the glass in some cocoa powder to keep it from sticking).

Bake for 8 minutes, remove from the cookie sheet after a few minutes and let cool completely.

What you'll need for the icing:

          3 cups powdered sugar
          1/2 cup melted butter
          2 tsps. vanilla
          2-3 tablespoons milk

Place all of the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Start out slow, scrapping the sides until it is all incorporated, it will be thick at first. Add 1 tablespoon of milk, increase the mixer speed and continue mixing, continue adding milk until the icing is of the right consistency (thick but spreadable). When it looks "right" whip it for a few minutes more until it gets fluffy.

Place the icing in a frosting bag or baggie that you will cut the end off of and pipe the frosting onto a cookie bottom and top with another cookie. If the frosting is a bit loose, place the cookies in the freezer or fridge for a few minutes and it will firm up.  I would not suggest spreading the icing on as you would a cake, the cookies are a bit too fragile to hold up to that.

Serve with milk and don't worry about the calories!