Crystal Davidson enjoys baking. For most of her life, she mostly baked cakes from a box mix and a shortlist of cookie types including Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies. She learned to bake from her mom who made the majority of desserts that were in the house growing up. Crystal's mom loved collecting recipes from friends, coworkers, magazines, and newspapers. In late 2015, her mom had bought a candy thermometer with the intention of learning to make hard candies as some of her coworkers would bring in some very tasty ones. Sadly, her mom passed away suddenly and never got to try her hand at the candies. It took nearly a year before Crystal took her mom's brand new candy thermometer out of its box and decided to use it to try new confections. She started the baking blog, Casual Confections, and shared her baking experiments and lessons as she took on new challenges. Crystal's bakes now include cakes from scratch, biscotti, fudge, ganache, glazes, donuts, bars, sandwich cookies, different types of frosting, and more!
This is one of my most popular offerings. Even those who aren’t fans of butterscotch or don’t typically enjoy fudge have found themselves happily nibbling away at one of these frothy-looking squares. The recipe has been on this site since 2018, but that doesn’t mean you’ve given it a go yet. Making fudge can be quite unnerving if you’re not used to making candy. The base gets quite hot and can easily burn you, you need to hit the right temperature in the softball stage range to get the consistency you want, you have to mix your ingredients so they’re smooth before they set, and then there’s the clean up which looks intimidating (just soak everything in hot water with a drop of dish soap).
If you’ve been holding off on trying this recipe for want of a push, here’s a slight nudge. Watch me cook up a batch and then bake along with me on your second watch! Come back and tell me how it went. How did the batch turn out? Did you end with more confidence than when you started? Are you going to make another batch now that you got all the nerves out in the first batch? What did you end up doing with all of that fudge?! (Pssst, fudge freezes really well, lasts a long time, and takes no time to thaw on a countertop.)
One thing to note: If you are gluten free, find butterscotch chips that are not Nestle. Nestle uses barley protein as part of their flavoring/coloring. This is not labeled on all of the bags. If you’re not concerned with gluten, then grab a bag and go to town.
Come do a baking experiment with me! In this video, we try making a five layer cookie bar we saw on Instagram from Fitwaffle Kitchen! This one is great for people who are a little nervous about baking as you can use pre-made ingredients and practice layering.
Ready to give it a try? Great! You’ll need a batch of cookie dough (made from scratch or bought premade) – can be sugar cookie, chocolate chip, or other , a jar of Nutella, a jar of Biscoff cookie butter, a baking pan, non-stick spray or parchment paper, and something to spread with (butter knife, spoon, rubber spatula, offset spatula). That’s it! At Casual Confections, there are very few fails, lots of accidental successes, and plenty of tasty tasty mistakes. Let’s do this!
5 Layer Cookie Bar – Fitwaffle Kitchen 1 batch of cookie dough 1 jar of Nutella 1 jar of Biscoff cookie butter
Preheat oven to 350ºF
Spray 8×8 baking pan with non-stick spray or cover with parchment paper. Press down enough cookie dough to cover the bottom of the pan. Spread a layer of Nutella over the top of the cookie layer. Press a second layer of cookie dough on top of the Nutella. Spread a layer of Biscoff cookie butter over the cookie dough. Then add the rest of the dough on top of the cookie butter. If it does not cover edge to edge, it is ok.
Bake for 30-40 mins on a middle rack. If your top layer is browning too fast, place a piece of foil loosely over the top. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan. Cooling may take a while as the bars are thick. Leave out to cool at room temperature or place in the fridge. Once cooled, run a knife or spatula around the edges to loosen it up. Flip bars onto a cutting board. Slice and serve.
This is a fun, quick, and easy recipe and turns out a dessert in perfect portions for small to medium groups or individuals! For a shopping list of ingredients and tools, jump over to the previous post.
Crust: 3 tablespoon butter 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs 3 tablespoon granulated sugar 1/3 cup chocolate chips
FILLING: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/3 cup milk 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil 1/2 cup flour 1/4 cup granulated sugar 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips 1/4 cup shredded coconut 1/4 cup crushed walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl (15 second increments). Mix together graham cracker crumbs and sugar, then add in melted butter. Combine well.
Put mixture into a one-quart casserole dish. Spread evenly. Press firmly into bottom of dish. Top evenly with chocolate chips.
Bake for 5 minutes, or until chocolate is melted. With rubber spatula, spread melted chocolate out smoothly. Set aside.
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add milk, oil, and vanilla and mix on low, until smooth. With mixer still on low, add chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts. When thoroughly mixed, pour filling over crust. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick comes out clean.
(Optional) Toppings: Spoon 2 tablespoons butter on ovenproof plate and place in oven until butter melts. Remove plate from oven and place large piece of warm pie right on top of the melted butter. Top pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Top with hot fudge & caramel toppings. Sprinkle with walnuts.
Pi Day is coming up and I have a small-portion dessert to help us celebrate! Gather these ingredients and tools and get ready to bake up a tasty treat! Video link for bake-along will be posted later this week.
Copycat Recipe Chili’s Paradise Pie
Ingredients: 3 Tbsp butter 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs 1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp granulated sugar 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (separated into 2 1/3 cups) 1/2 cup flour 3/4 tsp baking powder 1/3 cup milk 1 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil 1 tsp vanilla extract 1/4 cup shredded coconut 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Optional toppings: Vanilla ice cream Hot fudge Caramel sauce 1/4 cup chopped or crushed walnuts
LetsLearnAboutScience is an Instagram page focused on young kids and science education. It includes lots of science activities you can do at home! Let’s Learn About Science is currently doing a series on learning about jobs. This week is baking/cooking week and Casual Confections was more than happy to lend a hand!
Charlie designed his own version of the cookie experiment! Head on over to Instagram to see his work and results and then head to our YouTube channel to learn how you can run your own edible experiment!
Notes: I left out the salt (personal choice) and nuts (better visuals for the trials I selected) for my experiments.
Determine what trials you’re going to run. For example, if you’re going to test how different amounts of flour change your cookies, then you won’t want to add the full amount of flour right away. Planning ahead will help you determine how you will modify the recipe.
I had a control and three changes: baking powder instead of baking soda, no baking soda or baking powder, and too much sugar.
Prepare labels that you can attach to your bowls and your cookie sheet so that you can keep track of your batches.
I broke my experiments out using two batches of cookies for a quick and easy breakdown but you can break down a single batch.
2 ¼ cups of flour split into two is 1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour
1 tsp of baking soda split into two is ½ tsp of baking soda
I had four bowls of dry ingredients:
1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour + ½ tsp of baking soda (control)
1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour + ½ tsp of baking soda (too much sugar)
1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour + ½ tsp of baking powder (baking powder instead of baking soda)
1 cup and 2 Tbsp of flour (no baking soda or baking powder)
I added the butter, sugars, vanilla extract, and eggs as instructed. I then separated out the wet dough into even batches, one part for each bowl of dry ingredients. One section of wet dough was kept in the mixer and had another 1/4 cup of granulated sugar added to it before moving on. (too much sugar)
Slowly add one bowl of dry ingredients to one bowl of wet ingredients. Once the two bowls are combined, mix in the chocolate chips and, if using them, nuts.
Section your cookie sheet(s) and be sure to label them so you can track which recipe baked up in which way. Scoop your dough onto the cookie sheet. Try to keep the size of the dough balls as similar in size as possible for a better comparison of how they baked up.
Science notebook: record what you notice during the experiment
Do your dry ingredients look different from each other once combined?
Do your wet ingredients look different from each other once mixed?
When your wet and dry ingredients are combined, do your doughs look different? What is the texture of each dough?
When you scooped out the dough, did your dough change texture?
What did each cookie look like before it was baked?
What did each cookie look like after it was baked? (please wait for cookies to cool to room temperature before examining with touch and taste)
Mouth-feel (how it feels in your mouth while eating)
Why other experiments can you try based on your results? What do you think will happen based on what you saw in these trials?
Why did the changes happen? Investigate the chemistry of how ingredients combine and react to different conditions.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon (I use a 1 ½ Tbsp sized ice cream scoop) onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes (start at 9 mins and then increase time if needed in small increments) or until golden brown (the golden-brown color may not be achieved depending on the trial you’re running. Be sure to run all trials at the same temperature and time). Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
The combination of COVID-19 and pregnancy has kept me out of the bakery since March 2020. Now that the baby is here, it’s time to pivot to keep this baking train going while we work together to get some control over the spread of COVID-19.
This morning, Casual Confections’s channel went live on YouTube! The videos will evolve as time goes on and I play with style and approach. The first four videos are part of a series titled Nibbles of Knowledge. These are very short videos providing tidbits for baking. The channel will also include videos of baking experiments whose recipes will later be posted to the blog, some longer form videos that expand on the Nibbles, and more!
Be sure to subscribe and set notifications so you don’t miss a video. I look forward to you baking along with me!
When a neighbor extends an offer to you to grab some fruit off of their tree before they start pruning it back, you do not hesitate and say “Thank you!” I don’t eat peaches (or any kind of baked fruit) myself, but how could I say no to an offering of fresh free goodness and a new challenge?
What was the new challenge? Learning how to prep and peel peaches. I had no idea there was a processes due to the fruit being so soft.
Seeing as only one of us in the house was going to be eating whatever I made with these fresh peaches, I opted for bars instead of a cobbler or pie. They’re more versatile for snacks and desserts instead of just a large dessert. I was not surprised to find myself leaning toward a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, as her recipes have turned out great in my experiments before. This time was no different.
Let’s dive in.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Preparing Peaches Score a small X at the bottom of each peach. Don’t cut too deep. Prepare a pot of boiling water and a separate bowl with an ice bath (ice cubes and water). Once the water is boiling, lower each peach into the water using a slotted spoon. Turn the peaches occasionally. Let sit in the water for 30 secs – 1 min until skin loosens (time will vary by ripeness). Using the slotted spoon, move each peach into the ice water bath and let sit for 1 min to stop the cooking process. Take a peach out of the path one at a time. Starting at the X, begin peeling the skin off in strips, pulling up toward the top of the peach. Toss out skin strips. Cut or slice peach as desired.
Peaches and Cream Bars from Sally’s Baking Addiction Crust/Topping 1 cup (125 g) All purpose flour 1/2 cup (42 g) Old Fashion or quick cook oats 1/3 cup (67 g) packed brown sugar (light or brown, your choice) 1 tsp ground cinnamon 10 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cubed 1/2 cup (70 g) chopped pecans (optional)
Prepare an 8″ or 9″ square pan by lining it with parchment paper with overhangs on all sides (for easy pull out after baking). Spray parchment paper with non-stick spray.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or two forks, until coarse, pea-sized crumbs form (see Sally’s Baking Addiction post for reference photo). Remove 3/4 cup of the mixture and put it into a small bowl. Add the pecans. Set aside as the topping. Evenly press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 mins.
Filling 1 large egg 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar 1 Tbsp (8g) All purpose flour 2 medium peaches, pealed and chopped (about 1.5 cups)
Whisk the egg and the sugar together until smooth and creamy. Add flour. Whisk until combined. Fold in the peaches. Remove the crust from the oven after 15 mins and pour filling over the hot crust. Sprinkle the topping mixture on top. Bake for 30-32 mins or until golden brown on top. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 mins. Move to fridge and chill for 2 hrs. Once chilled, life out of the pan and cut into squares.
Chocolate, hazelnut, more chocolate…sounds like a yummy treat! Earlier this year, I tried this double chocolate hazelnut cookies with sea salt recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod. I enjoyed it so much that a version of these were included in February’s cookie care packages and were sold at Muggles Market Too.
These cookies are easy to make and come together in no time. Give the recipe a go and treat yourself to a special treat.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies with Sea Salt from Two Peas & Their Pod
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt (optional. I always make recipes without salt)
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa*
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
sea salt for sprinkling on cookies
(*Dutch cocoa replacement: use the same amount of regular baking cocoa, like Hershey’s, as the recipe calls for (3/4 cup) and add and extra 1/2 tsp for baking soda. So, for this recipe, instead of 1 tsp baking soda and 3/4 cups Dutch cocoa, use 1 1/2 tsp baking soda and 3/4 cups baking cocoa.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time. Next, add in vanilla extract and mix until combined.
Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts. Scoop the dough into rounded tablespoons (or use a scoop) and place on the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle each cookie with sea salt.
Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are set, but are still soft in the center. Don’t over-bake. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 3 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely.