Thursday, August 2, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last Thursday was poker night, and I was super excited to go because I've ha to miss it for the past 4 or 5 months for various reasons. I was also excited because I wanted to try out a new recipe from my book, Baking with the Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro.

The book is fairly new to me and I decided to try a recipe I didn't think was simple, but that I thought was familiar enough that I would be able to execute it without screwing up too bad.So I chose his Double Chocolate Chip Cookies (page 45). Valastro has set up his book almost as an apprenticeship through print; he gives information on setting up a kitchen, the right type of tools and how to make sure everything you are going to use is in the proper condition to make sure whatever you bake turns out delicious.

Cookies are the starting point for his book and so I decided I would start with cookies. I mean, I've done a bit of baking and even worked in a pretty good bakery, but I don't have my own show, so who am I to argue with him?

Simply put, Valastro's Double Chocolate Chip Cookies are chocolate chip cookies with cocoa added to the batter to make the cookie chocolate as well. While this sounds a bit tame for a book coming from a successful chef with his own TV show, they were amazing! I made them a little smaller than he recommended in his book (I made about 32 while said to make 24), but I figured it would be better to have a bunch of smaller cookies for the guys at the poker table. I showed up and the container was snatched up as soon as they knew what was inside and proceded to pass it around the table for the rest of the night.

The night turned out to be a success for me as I walked away with an extra $30 in my pocket and a few cookies left in my container. Now I have a few weeks to think about what I should make next time. Maybe some cupcakes??

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Here We Go

Hi everybody, my name is Ben Hoskins and I love to bake. Now, while I may not seem like your typical baker, as a 6'3", 280-lb weightlifting and sports-playing personal trainer, I certainly love making delicious baked goods whenever I get the chance.

Growing up, I loved baking cookies. Of course, I did little other than follow the recipe on the back of the Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip wrapper, but I was happy doing it. Later, I began experimenting a little bit with putting different flavors/ingredients into the cookies and then trying them out on the guys at poker each month. I mean, who doesn't think of freshly baked cookies and a glass of red wine every time they think of poker?

After a couple years of satisfying my baking urge with these cookie endeavors each month, I was let go from my job at Coca-Cola. Of course, this was not the best thing to ever happen to me, financially speaking, but it presented me with a rare opportunity. After two months of not working, I began emailing my resume to every bakery in the Atlanta-area; at the suggestion of my lovely wife, Trish. Despite having no experience other than my cookie experiments in the kitchen at home, I was given an opportunity to work and learn at The Highland Bakery. I would like to say that my winning personality and desire to learn is why I was hired, but I think showing up 5 days before Valentine's Day as cheap labor was what sold me. I spent two months at The Highland Bakery, before making my back into fitness, and I am thankful for every day I spent there; as tired and sore as my body was.

The techniques and skills that I learned have helped me enormously with my baking. The techniques described in cookbooks no longer read like a foreign language, but like a note from a friend you wished you spoke to more often. Baking is exciting to me. I love taking flavors and desserts and trying to put them together in a different way; like trying to make a cakeball flavored like key lime pie or a cupcake from bananas foster. The most exciting part of baking for me is having someone tell me what flavor combinations or desserts they love and then trying to come up with a new dessert from my head made specifically for them.

Perhaps, the day will come when I have my own bakery/bakeshop. Until that day, I will be happy making delicious desserts for all of the people important to me in my life.