12/02/2012 3:33 pm
As the weather cools off, nothing is as enticing as the scent of warm, melting chocolate. While we will be turning our attention to Christmas cookies and other treats… any day now… as soon as I get over my denial that it is already December, meanwhile think about enjoying some baking with a treat that needs no holiday!
These brownies have just the right ratio of fudginess without being overly sticky or gooey. Adapted from a brownie recipe by John Scharffen berger (of the amazing chocolate company), they are easy to make and even easier to eat. This makes a very generous pan full!
Perfect Brownie Recipe
- 12 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate
- 1 1/2 cups butter
- 3 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 13 x 9 baking pan liberally with pan baking spray, or coat it with shortening.
- Place the butter and chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl and microwave on 50% heat until it is melted and you can stir it smooth. It will probably take about 2 minutes. (Don’t overheat the chocolate!)
- Blend the sugar into the melted chocolate and butter.
- Gradually add the eggs and vanilla, beating well after each addition.
- Add the flour and stir until it is blended in to the mixture. Then, spread the batter in your pan.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is dry and a little cracked and a toothpick inserted in center comes up with crumbs and not goo. Cool for a few minutes in the pan and then cut.
Serve plain, with icing or a sprinkle of powder sugar. Can’t resist getting in the holiday spirit? Sprinkle with some crushed candy canes before baking.
10/31/2012 10:20 am
Looking for some last minute ideas for sweets to take to that Halloween party? Here are just a few quick ideas to help you channel those Halloween spirits into your desserts.
Decorate a batch of cupcakes with some simple striping to turn them into mummy cupcakes. Don’t even have time for that? Frost cupcakes and place a set of vampire fangs atop each one!
Turn basic cut out gingerbread or sugar cookies into spooky skeletons with some quick frosting bones. You can make your own or start with refrigerator cookie dough to save time!
A spooky gingerdead man for Halloween
Turn a regular cat cookie into a skelekitty
Whatever you make, have a happy Halloween and enjoy your treats!!
10/23/2012 10:01 pm
My daughter is a huge fan of pumpkin muffins. They are one of her favorite fall breakfasts. A couple years ago, I started making them regularly… but in true play with your food fashion, found myself modifying the recipe to make it not only a little healthier with the addition of whole grains, but also more scrumptious with the addition of a cream cheese swirl. I know, I know… it is like ordering a diet coke to go with chocolate layer cake, but…
Anyway, what we ended up with is super yummy pumpkin cream cheese swirl muffins. Suitable for breakfast, snacks and bribes. We think they are marvelous, but try them out and let us know what you think!
Super Yummy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins
Makes 24 muffins
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup oat flour (you can substitute white flour for this if you prefer)
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 eggs
- 1 (15 or 16 ounce) can of pumpkin
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon flour
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put liners in muffin tins, or use baking pan spray to liberally grease them.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients (the first 9) together with a fork or whisk until blended.
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then blend thoroughly with the pumpkin and oil. Gradually add the dry mixture in, stirring until it is all moistened.
4. Place all of the swirl ingredients in another medium bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat them together until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
5. Fill each muffin cup approximately half full with pumpkin mixture. Then, use a teaspoon to place a dollop of cream cheese mixture in each cup. Top each muffin with more pumpkin mixture.
6. Use a table knife to gently draw through the batter in each muffin cup, to swirl the cream cheese into the pumpkin. You don’t want it well blended, just distributed a little.
7. Bake the muffins for 33-37 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean (or with a couple crumbs, but no “goo”)
If you want to make just regular pumpkin muffins, this recipe is great for that, too. Just omit the “swirl” entirely and reduce the baking time by a couple minutes.
If you prefer to make this in 2 loaf pans, bake each loaf for about an hour and 15 minutes.
If you want to make these a little “healthier” or lower calorie, I’ve tried it with all of the following substitutions and they work just fine:
* Replace ¼ cup of the vegetable oil with ¼ cup applesauce
* Replace 2 tablespoons of the flour with 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
* Replace up to ½ cup of sugar in the pumpkin mixture with the same amount of an artificial sugar replacement (such as Splenda for Baking or Stevia in the Raw)
* Use “light” or low fat cream cheese instead of regular
10/21/2012 6:27 pm
Jack o lantern Oreo pop for Halloween food fun!
Making homemade Oreos got us thinking about some of our favorite things to do with the real ones and before we knew it… we were making Halloween Oreo Pops. Even if you are not a cook or baker, these are a super easy treat and fun for the kids to do, too! Of course, you can do other colors, styles and variations for other holidays, but since we’re in the mode for Halloween, we dipped our Oreos in orange-colored white chocolate. We used the Wilton vanilla flavored candy melts, available at most craft and baking stores (both Michael’s and Joann’s stock them here in south county).
Here’s how to make these fun, simple treats:
- Double Stuff Oreos
- Lollipop Sticks (recommend the 4 inch ones, the 6″ are a little thick)
- 1 package of orange white chocolate candy melts (covers about 15 Oreos generously)
- 1 package of black candy melts
- Parchment paper
- a microwave safe bowl
- Piping bag (or you can use a heavy ziplock bag)
Cover a baking sheet or tray with parchment paper
Stick a lollipop stick into the filling of each Oreo
Place your orange candy melts in a heat safe bowl and microwave on 50% heat for a 30 seconds to a minute at a time, stirring in between minutes. Depending on your microwave, it will take around three minutes to melt the chocolate so it is smooth and creamy, with no lumps. Make sure not to overheat it.
Gently dip each oreo pop into the chocolate, swirling it around until the oreo is covered.
Lay it gently on the parchment to cool. The candy coating will harden as it reaches room temperature, but you can chill them in the refrigerator if you want to hurry the process along. (Of course, that depends on whether you can make space in your fridge, which usually is nearly impossible around here!)
Once they are cool and hardened, they are ready to turn into jack-o-lanterns with the black candy melts.
Follow the same melting procedures for the black chocolate, melting it until it is smooth. Spoon some into a pastry piping bag with a tiny writing tip or cut a tiny bit off the end of a disposable piping bag or the corner of a heavy ziplock bag.
Use the dark chocolate to create fun jack-o-lantern faces on your pumpkins.
Finished Oreo pops
You can store these up to a couple weeks nicely in a sealed storage container.
10/08/2012 5:04 pm
Sandwich cookies, you ask? Is that just a euphemism for Oreos? Well… sort of. Recently, we made some cookies touted as homemade Oreos, but honestly they weren’t that authentic. Then, why am I telling you about them? Because they were better!!
Better than Oreos? Really? Yes!
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good Oreo – especially with double stuff! But, for me the real star of an Oreo is the filling and the “cookie” part is sort of dry and not chocolatey enough. However, these cookies take care of that problem with a chewy , brownie-like cookie, filled with a generous layer of delicious icing.
Adapted from a recipe on the smitten kitchen blog these homemade Oreos were beloved by our whole family. Of course, we keep thinking of great variations to try. Imagine them dipped in chocolate. Or, add some peppermint extract and crushed candy canes to the filling for a really amazing holiday treat. They are wonderful in their purest form however, so go ahead and make yourself some.
Chocolate Cookie Ingredients
- 1 ¼ cups flour
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
- Blend all dry ingredients together thoroughly.
- On low speed of electric mixer (or food processor), add the softened butter and egg and blend until the dough is forming a ball.
- Spread parchment on a baking sheet. Then, several inches apart, place teaspoon sized balls of dough. Press them down slightly to start the flattening process. They will spread and flatten much more when you bake them.
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes; then bake in the preheated oven for 7-8 minutes. The tops will be crackled.
- After they have cooled on the sheet for a couple minutes transfer them to a wire cooling rack to finish.
- While they are cooling, make your filling.
- Cream together the butter and shortening, then add the sugar and vanilla and beat on high until fluffy. If your icing is too soft, you can add more powdered sugar; if it is too firm, try adding a little milk, just a teaspoon at a time.
- Put your icing in a pastry bag (or a ziplock bag will do in a pinch) with about ½ inch opening from snipping off the end. Pipe swirls of icing onto the flat side of a cookie, then sandwich the filling by placing another cookie on top, flat side in, gently pressing it down. Fill all the cookie pairs this way. Make sure to eat any broken or unpaired cookies.
09/19/2012 9:35 pm
Nothing is as kid friendly (allergies notwithstanding) as peanut butter and there are few ways to use this beloved substance as awesome as peanut butter cookies.
Of course, peanut butter cookies are a classic, but recipes for them vary dramatically. While some people like their cookies crispy or crunch, my family prefers soft, chewy peanut butter cookies. And, of course, only ones made with the “creamy” variety!
The best thing about these cookies is their flavorful, chewy goodness – but the next best thing is their versatility. You can add all kinds of extras to them. Have a chocolate lover in your house? Either poke a few chocolate chips into your cookie before you bake it or blend ¾ cup of chips into the dough. Or dip half of each baked and cooled cookie into melted chocolate for true decadence. Feeling traditional and whimsical at the same time? Make a thumbprint in the center of your unbaked cookie and place a dollop of seedless berry preserves in the center before you bake normally. Some other mix-ins to try include white chocolate chips, chopped candy bars and m&ms.
Start with this basic recipe and have fun discovering your own variations.
Best Ever Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe
Ingredients for Peanut Butter Cookies
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 cup peanut butter (most people prefer creamy)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- Extra flour
Instructions for Making Easy Peanut Butter Cookies
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit
- Place the shortening and peanut butter into a large mixing bowl.
- Cream the sugars into the shortening and peanut butter until well blended.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and beat thoroughly.
- Form small balls (approximately walnut sized) and place them on a baking sheet. Use a fork, dipped in flour (this is where you use the extra flour) to smash them down slightly, creating a criss-cross pattern.
- Bake for 8- 10 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden brown.
… or some jam!
Add some chocolate chips
08/05/2012 2:42 pm
Summer’s heat inevitably brings barbecues, beach days and… the fair! While the fair offers rides, concerts, displays and exhibits, the thing everyone seems to talk about is the food. Just this week I’ve seen several posts about the foot-long corn dogs and a variety of fried treats. My favorite fair food is funnel cake.
Did you know you can actually make funnel cakes at home? Whether you can’t make it to the fairgrounds this year, or just didn’t get enough fried decadence while you were there, you can experience fried funnel deliciousness in the comfort of your very own home.
One note – while funnel cakes are not hard to make, the process is rather messy. Also, they don’t really “keep” so plan on making them right when you want to eat them! We recently made these for dessert and YUM!
Homemade Funnel Cake Recipe
- 3 cups flour
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Vegetable oil for frying
1. Fill a large saucepan about halfway up with vegetable oil. You will need a thermometer, as you want to heat the oil to about 375 degrees F for ideal frying
2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs.
3. Blend the milk and sugar into the eggs
4. In another medium bowl, use a whisk to blend the flour, baking powder and salt.
5. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, blending thoroughly.
6. The batter should be smooth (not too lumpy) and not too thick, similar to pancake batter in consistency.
7. The batter needs to be drizzled into the hot oil, either in a swirl or squiggle pattern. Funnel cakes get their name from the batter being added to the oil through a large funnel (with a bottom opening of at least half an inch across). However, if you do not have one handy, you can use a pastry bag, a ladle or a liquid measuring cup to pour your batter into the oil. If your drizzle is too thin, you will just end up with little “whiskers” of fried dough – too thick and you’ll have a donut with a soggy center, so aim for a little less than half an inch in width.
8. As soon as the edges of the funnel cake start to get golden brown, use tongs to flip it so that both sides get evenly fried. When the underside is also golden, remove the funnel cake.
9. Place complete funnel cakes onto a wire rack or a plate that has been covered with a couple paper towels.
10. Serve while they are still warm. You can serve them with any (or all) of the following: ice cream, fresh fruit, fruit sauce, whipped cream, powdered sugar, chocolate sauce, or caramel sauce.
This recipe will make 8-10 funnel cakes.
07/27/2012 9:17 pm
Summer in Orange County always seems to mean water fun of some sort for our family. It also means great, fresh food finished by an amazing dessert, which I am usually charged with creating.
Recently, we got to have some good friends over for swim fun and a barbecue; it is hard to squeeze that kind of lazy, all-day fun into the school year. Of course, with kids (young and old) involved, we wanted the perfect treat to serve at the end of a day of splashing and grilling. Our “Pool Party Cupcakes” were the perfect finish to our gathering.
These vanilla cupcakes are topped with buttercream icing and adorable graham bears escaping the heat in their very own pool floaties. They are so easy that even young children can do the decorating, but even the elder family members cracked a smile at the icing antics.
We baked the cupcakes from scratch using our favorite vanilla cupcake recipe:
Our Favorite Vanilla Cupcakes
(Makes 12-14 cupcakes, can be easily doubled)
1 ¼ cups cake flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup canola or corn oil
½ cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a muffin tin/ cupcake pan with paper cupcake liners OR grease it well with shortening, then coat it with flour.
In a medium mixing bowl, place the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use a fork or whisk to blend the dry ingredients together and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs on low-medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat until blended (about a minute).
Add the vanilla and oil and continue to mix on low medium until the mixture is well blended.
Turn the mixer off and add a scoop of the flour. Mix on low, adding more flour until slightly more than half the flour has been incorporated.
Add the milk and beat on low, then add the rest of the flour, mixing until it is well combined, scraping bowl.
Fill each cupcake cup about 3/4 full with the batter.
Bake them in a pre-heated oven for approximately 20 minutes, until they are lightly golden on top and a toothpick stuck in the middle of one comes out clean or with a couple crumbs instead of goo.
Allow them to cool completely before frosting!
This recipe is quite easy to make, but if you are not a confident baker, feel free to use a boxed mix and prepared icing and spend your time with the fun decorations. Of course, you can use any flavor cake or favorite recipe for this as well.
Once your cupcakes are cool, it is time to make your frosting. We use a classic vanilla buttercream recipe.
Lick Your Fingers Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter (softened to room temperature)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
1/4 cup milk
In a large bowl, cream the butter and shortening until they are light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and blend, then alternate adding powdered sugar and milk, beating well. Depending on humidity and how soft you want your icing, you may want to either add a little more sugar or more milk to get the right consistency.
For our pool party cupcakes, we also added “Sky Blue” food coloring!.
Now you’re ready to frost your cupcakes. You can always take a knife or metal spatula and give each cupcake a nice smooth coat of frosting. However, I love to use an oversized star tip on a pastry bag to give cupcake icing that “swirled” look.
Note you can use all butter instead of shortening, but the shortening really helps the icing hold its shape, especially in hot weather.
Decorating the Pool Party Cupcakes
Once your cupcakes are frosted, all you need is:
- Teddy grahams (the “full size” ones, not the super mini ones)
- Gummy life savers
Place a teddy graham inside a “floatie” life saver, gently stretching the saver over his body, so his torso and arms stick out. Then, just stick his legs into the cupcake.
You can get creative and have bears floating on their backs on the rings (add a dab of frosting to help them stick), floating with friends or even swimming in the “water” with no ring.