Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Making a move...

I've been thinking this one over for a while. My sweet sista-in-law Annie started this blog as a way for us sistas to share what we've been baking. We bake more than we post, that's for sure. Life is just busy. I still plan on making occasional appearances here at Sweet Sista, but I'd like to invite you to my very own, fresh out of the oven, baking blog:

In the coming weeks I'll be moving some of the content from this blog over to Double Batch so you'll see a few duplicates. But, you'll definitely be seeing some new creations as well. Stop by as often as you'd like, bookmark the blog or add it to your Reader. You're always welcome!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Hello Fall,

I baked a little something in honor of your arrival this week. I've been waiting for you and your entourage of colorful leaves, abundant harvests and decor...and, most of all, your recipes. But it's getting a little crowded around here, because your dear friend, Summer has not packed up and left yet. Frankly I think she's overstaying her welcome. 100 degrees and Fall just don't go together. She's had her turn, and if you'd politely ask her to hit the road I'd appreciate it. You are a season of comfort and breaking a sweat as soon as I walk outside just isn't comfort to me.

But, I'll tell you what is: spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Apples, pears and pumpkin. Curling up on the coach with a blanket, a mug full of steaming cider and sweatshirts. That's comfort. So anyway, I'm glad you're here, even if it's a little crowded with Summer still vying for some attention. Stay tuned Fall, I have some great posts coming in your honor.

Grateful you've arrived,

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
This recipe makes 3 large loaves or a bunch of small ones. I love that because it means more deliveries to friends or just more for the freezer to be saved for later! But, if the quantity is more than you'd like, just half the recipe and use one of the small, 15 oz. cans of pumpkin instead of a large one. It's that easy!

1 cup vegetable oil
4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 large can of pumpkin (I love you Libby's)
3 teaspoons vanilla

5 cups flour
4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
4 heaping teaspoons cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves

12 oz. (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips (or more, of course!)

Heat oven to 350. Grease 3 large loaf pans or approximately 8 small pans. Whisk or sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves together.
Mix together oil and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and then vanilla. Stir in pumpkin. Add dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips.
Divide batter evenly among greased pans. Bake for 60-70 minutes for large loaves, 40-45 for small loaves.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

there's a cookie IN my cookie!

Yum. That's what these are. Just yum. I was a bit doubtful that mixing Oreos into a cookie could result in something to rave and blog about. I just didn't know how those precious Oreos, so good on their own, would hold up in the oven. Uh, they did great.

This is a really good recipe and it's got me thinking of a few variations already. I wonder how the Halloween Oreos would do. Would the whole cookie dough turn orange? I'm also thinking about a Nutter Butter variety with peanut butter chips. Maybe ANY cookie would do. If anybody is brave enough to try it with those darn cute Circus Animal cookies (and maybe some white chocolate chips?) I'd love to hear about the result. Warning, you'll have to chop those little creatures to bits though. :-) So many possibilities!

Oreo Cookie Cookies
adapted from Nosh and Tell

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
18 oreos, crushed

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. (Or don't...I didn't and there wasn't cookie that got stuck!)

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Add in the crushed oreos. Beat on low speed for just a few seconds to break up the oreos in the dough. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.

Drop cookie dough a rounded tbsp at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

that's a BIG cookie!

LinkO.k. so it's not a cookie. It's a blondie. And, it must be a 'keeper' because I've made it twice in the past two weeks when treats were needed. I like the simplicity of this one. Sometimes I don't have time or just don't feel like dropping cookie dough onto pans. It's got basic ingredients that I typically have in the pantry, and you can substitute ingredients in or out like crazy if you want to. Have some M&M's on hand? Sprinkle them on top for some color. Change it up and add dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks instead of the chocolatey version you see here. See...LOTS of possibilities! Even if you're not too much of a coconut fan (which I don't understand...maybe we can't be friends then) just give it a try. It adds a little something 'extra' that I think you'll like.

Chewy Chunky Blondies

(from Baking: From My Home to Yours)

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips or toffee bits *
1 cup chopped pecans **
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated to add the next, then beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the flour mixture, stirring only until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in the chips, nuts and coconut by hand.
Spread batter into prepared pan, using a lightly greased spatula to even it out.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.
Cool blondies in the pan. I actually put these in the refrigerator for a while so that when I pulled them out with the foil they were SUPER easy to cut.

* I'm not a big fan of butterscotch chips and I didn't have any toffee ones on hand so I chopped up a king sized Hershey's bar for a little milk chocolate addition. Use whatever you have. Peanut butter chips would probably be yummy too!

** No pecans on hand so I used toasted walnuts instead.

Friday, August 28, 2009

THESE are a keeper!

I try a lot of recipes (no surprise there, right?), but I don't repeat a lot of them. For one, there's just too many new ones to try, and often I like the finished product, but I'm content to leave it in the past and search for the next great thing. It happens with dinner and dessert recipes alike. Thank goodness for an in house taste tester (i.e. that very easy-to-please husband of mine) who doesn't mind trying new things for dinner on a very regular basis.
When I find a recipe that is just too good to eat once, well, than it's a keeper. It becomes part of what's in the back of my mind when it comes to making dinner or a sweet treat.
Well, my friends, I share with you here my most recent keeper. These peanut butter cookies have a great texture and they're doubly peanut buttery with the peanut butter and peanut butter chips. You could even make it a triple by using crunchy peanut butter. That's my plan for the next time I make them.
These are just a little bit crisp on the outside, and almost cakey on the inside. I'm a pretty tough, discriminating judge of new cookie recipes. It's not just about taste. The texture and appearance have to win me over too.
Just one thing: plan on a purpose for these little wonders. Save yourself a few (or freeze for later!) but I can guarantee that you'll just keep going back for one more (or two, or three...) if they're around.
Oh, and that taste tester I was telling you about...the same one who doesn't get excited at ALL when peanut butter and chocolate come together to make a treat...well, he loved them. They're that good.

Rolled in sugar and baked to perfection!

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth or chunky, it's up to you!)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern (I used the back of a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top), but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Garlic (or Not) Knots

I say 'or Not' because I was bringing these to a fabulous dinner my mom made, and, while I'll never understand it, she's not a huge fan of garlic. So for her, no garlic. For the rest of us -- plenty. That's one of the great pieces of kitchen creativity. You can make adjustments to fit what works for you.
I have done rolls before using a number of recipes and 'styles' : Parker House, as croissants, and rounds, but never in knots. And I have to say that, along with Annie's awesome rolls, these are another favorite and definitely will be made again. I was so glad that there were plenty so I could throw the leftovers in the freezer and pull them out later for an occasional sandwich or to go with dinner.
One thing's for sure -- these will 'knot' disappoint!
Garlic Knots
adapted from

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

To the yeast mixture, add the oil, salt, and 2 cups flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 12-14 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a four to six-inch rope and form into a knot, tucking the loose ends into the center of the knot. Place on lightly greased baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth (or greased saran wrap), and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for 12-13 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

For the garlic butter:

4-6 garlic cloves finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix butter and garlic together in a small bowl and let sit while making the rolls. Rewarm butter if needed or just keep on stove top after melting.

Immediately after the rolls come out of the oven brush the butter/garlic mixture (or just butter if you're baking for my mom) over the rolls. These are best eaten warm!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Have S'more!

I just got back from seven days in paradise. No, not Hawaii, this heavenly little place called Sea Ranch. Pure heaven I tell you. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I packed up my KitchenAid and took it with me. More on that on the family page at some point, but for now a new recipe.
Did you know today is National S'mores Day? I for one think a declaration such as this is pretty silly, but I'm also willing to participate and commemorate a day set aside to honor one of my favorite foods -- the beloved s'more. If something like National Jicama Day comes along, don't expect me to be celebrating. I happen to think it's a totally pointless food.
Anyway, back to s'mores. It's interesting how so many products out there have a s'more take to them: cereals, granola, protein and candy bars, some of them even claiming to be healthy. Come on, we all know when we eat a s'more, our pants aren't getting any looser.
One of the most recent s'more products I've seen is s'more ice cream and even ice cream topping. Oh, and there are even s'more cocktails.
I used to get suckered into trying a lot of these products, but it always ended in disappointment. Can you really replicate the goodness of a s'more in another product? I think not. So maybe I'm going against my own beliefs with this latest recipe, but I did find a way to incorporate the components of a s'more into a fudgy brownie. I'm more realistic these days too, I guess. I didn't expect to pull them out of the oven and have brownies that tasted just like s'mores. I was just hoping they'd have the flavors and hints of this sweet camping treat. And you know what? I think it worked. Not a s'more in the shape of a brownie, but instead a brownie that takes on the flavors of a s'more while still holding it's own as a fudgy square of deliciousness.
All of the ingredients are there...chocolate, marshmallows, and even crushed up graham cracker to be folded into the batter!

So if you've got some extra marshmallows laying around, or just want to try a new brownie recipe, this might be a good one for you. It got great reviews when I made it, including a reaction from a friend who said, "I don't even like brownies and I LOVE these!" You be the judge!
Happy s'more-ing!
Before roasting...

Sure a campfire is ideal, but in this case, the oven took care of the roasting perfectly!

S'mores Brownies
adapted from Bon Appetit, October 1991
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup graham cracker, roughly crushed with your hands
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 big marshmallows (I also diced 6 additional marshmallows and stirred them into the batter. These marshmallows dissolve when baked, so you can leave them out, or throw them in. Up to you!)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9×13-inch baking pan with 2-inch-high sides. Combine first 3 ingredients in small bowl. Stir butter and chocolate in a medium sized bowl over a heavy saucepan of simmering water. Stir chocolate and butter in this double boiler until melted and smooth.

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Stir in warm chocolate mixture, then dry ingredients. Fold in graham crackers and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan. Dot with 12 large marshmallows. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 30- 40 minutes minutes.

Marshmallows will be browned and puffy but will deflate as the brownies cool. Cool for at least 20 minutes than slice with a sharp knife, cleaning the knife with hot water if it gets too messy and sticky. Serve or wrap individually in wax paper for storing.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mom's Picnic Brownies

This is one of my mom's classics. Growing up whenever we'd have a picnic, camping trip or day at the beach she made these brownies. The smell of opening up the tupperware container of brownies is definitely one of my favorites. Oh, and these are good if you need something for a crowd. You could make them in a 9 x 13 pan, but my mom has always done it in a 10 x 15 pan. You can serve quite a few friends that way, and I promise everyone will enjoy!

I think these are best described as a cake-like brownie with delicious chocolatey frosting. I love that such simple ingredients like butter, powdered sugar, cocoa and a little milk can make such a finger licking frosting treat. On my mom's original recipe, she doesn't give any measurements for the frosting, so I'm giving you approximate amounts. It all depends on how much frosting you want on your brownies. But if you have extra, might I make a suggestion? Have some graham crackers on hand and spread some frosting on them to make little sandwiches. You can even put them in the freezer (you can do that with the brownies too!) to have as a sweet snack some other time!

Picnic Brownies
courtesy of my mom

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cubes butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
6 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional, of course -- but I say add them in!)

Heat oven to 350. Grease a 10 x 15 pan. Cream sugar, butter and shortening. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla. Mix in flour cocoa and salt. Fold in the nuts.
Pour into greased pan and bake for 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

16 oz. (1 box) powdered sugar
1/2 cube butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Mix together the powdered sugar, butter and vanilla. Add in cocoa powder and start with 2-3 tablespoons of milk. Add in more milk 1 tablespoon at a time until frosting has reached desired consistency. You can also add in a little more cocoa if you want your frosting to be more chocolately. Mix all ingredients completely. (One thing my mom taught me is the longer you beat the frosting the lighter and more whipped it will be. I usually let it mix in the Kitchenaid for about 5 minutes.) Once the frosting is finished, spread onto cooled brownies.
Don't discard the extra frosting! Get out those graham crackers and make some dessert sandwiches!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adding a little flavor...

It's pretty warm around here. What am I saying? It's ridiculously hot. No baking for me the past few days, but our grill is getting some use. It would be so nice if the contents ON the grill would cook, turn over and deliver themselves to my kitchen so I didn't have to go out IN the heat at all to check up on the stuff. No luck there.

If you're wanting to use your oven a little less, your grill a little more and want to flavor up the meat you're throwing on there, I've got a few suggestions:

Rosemary Balsamic Marinade for chicken or pork
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. (or more if you like it) Dijon mustard
3-4 Tbsp. brown sugar or honey
1-2 cloves minced garlic
Fresh or dried rosemary, about 1 Tablespoon

Mix the vinegar, mustard, sugar, garlic, and herbs in a bowl or large ziploc bag. Add the chicken or pork. Refrigerate 30 minutes, a few hours, or my personal favorite -- overnight.

No fancy name for this one, I just use it with chicken or pork. Hmmm....might be good with shrimp too.

1/2 cup lime juice
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper.

Stir ingredients together and pour over the meat or put in a ziploc bag. Marinade as long as you like, but not longer than overnight of course!

This one is a long time family favorite. It's my mom's marinade for beef kabobs. Try it with flank steak, tri-tip, London broil, a steak -- any cut of beef will do. It's got such a savory, distinct flavor.

1 cup oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients well. Use a food processor or blender to mix even more thoroughly, if desired.

So get grilling and if you've got any flavor tips of your own -- SHARE!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Checca Sauce

Despite what I may blog about, we really do eat real food -- not just dessert for every meal.

Here's proof:

I didn't really care much about tomatoes until a few years ago when I was in Zambia and one of our very talented volunteers made me a tomato sandwich. No turkey, no lettuce... just bread, a little mayo and lots of sliced tomatoes. Loving and devouring it probably had a little something to do with the three weeks of peanut butter sandwiches I'd had every day for lunch, but was SO good. Since then, I've been hooked. And when tomato season rolls around I always think of (and thank!) Pam for enlightening me.
(Picked, washed and cut in half. Delicious already!)

My mom picked the first tomatoes from her garden, and I couldn't wait to make up a little something with what she shared. I can't wait for ours to be ready. Just another week or so I think. Don't you love tomato season? It's brings with it fresh bruschetta and salsa, BLT's (with LOTS of T), and the best salads of the year.

(Love the colors! Ready to be pulsed in the food processor.)

This recipe is a winner from Giada who says that it's made all over Italy in the summer time, but only in Rome is it called 'alla Checca'. It did not disappoint. It's a great way to use those tomatoes, NOT use your oven and put a meal together pretty quickly. I added in three sliced chicken sausages but you could throw in any protein -- italian sausage, shrimp, or ground turkey are just a few ideas. Any pasta will work, but it sure looks good with a thin spaghetti -- probably about 12 ounces of it, maybe a little more. It's up to you. Mangia and enjoy!

(Ready to eat!)
Checca Sauce
adapted from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentis

16 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
3 green onions (white and green parts only), coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 ounce parmesan cheese
10-12 fresh basil leaves
2-3 tablespoons olive ooil
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cherry tomatoes, scallions, garlic, Parmesan, basil, and oil just until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Do not puree. Transfer the sauce to a large bowl. Stir in the mozzarella cheese and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. Toss the sauce immediately with your choice of freshly cooked pasta or serve over the top of pasta.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A little festive for the Fourth

I made this recipe a while back and thought I'd try it again for tonight's family barbecue. Again, not the fastest, but definitely worth the work. I'm no perfect star took a few tries, but I think as a finished product this little sweetie will make for a suitable decoration AND dessert. I made a few alterations to the recipe, mostly in the amount of ganache to use (and some ridiculous spelling errors!). Maybe tonight I'll actually get a picture of the inside layers this time. Hope you're having fun celebrating today too!
What did you make for the Fourth?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Can I make a suggestion?

So Fourth of July is just days away. Chances are your having a little barbecue with family or friends. If you're bringing dessert, might I recommend this easy, almost no-bake, tasty treat?

My mom has been making this for years -- long before I was born. The story goes that she and some friends once called it 'Better than Robert Redford,' but she decided once she had kids it needed a more kid-friendly name. Thus, I present to you Chocolate Cloud.

Every layer in this is simple, but makes for a delicious combination. The crust is three basic ingredients, but so full of flavor, especially with the layers of sweetness.

If you're a little tentative about baking or don't have a lot of time, this is a good one. Just don't try to make it an hour before you need it. It will need a little time to set up. Enjoy and hopefully this will become a favorite of your family as well!

Chocolate Cloud

1 cup flour
1 cube butter, chilled
1 cup finely chopped nuts (I use walnuts)

Preheat oven at 350. Combine ingredients like you are making a pie crust. I like to use my food processor and pulse the flour and butter until combined and then mix in the nuts and pulse a few more times.
Press into a 9x13 pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Mix together:
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1/2 of a large container of Cool Whip

Spread on cooled crust. (A large off-set spatula works great for this!)

Mix together:
1 large package instant vanilla pudding
1 large package instant chocolate pudding
3 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat until smooth. Spread on top of cream cheese/Cool Whip mixture. Top the pudding layer with remaining cool whip. Garnish with chocolate shavings (get out your vegetable peeler and a chocolate bar!) if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Peanut Butter Candy Bars - YUM!

Here's one you're going to like -- I promise. I made this for some good friends and it got great reviews. A few of them are antsy for the recipe, so here you go:

I think you could probably come up with all kinds of variations of this just by changing up the type of candy used. But the peanut theme going on in this recipe makes for a pretty great finished product.

Maybe bookmark this one and see what chocolate combination you can come up with when you've got all of that Halloween candy laying around in a few months!

Peanut Butter Candy Bars
adapted from Oxmoor House

  • 1 16-ounce package Nutter Butter cookies, crushed
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 7 & 1/2 ounces peanut butter cups (about 25 miniature cups), coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces Butterfinger candy bars (about 7 small candy bars), coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup honey-roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13″x 9″pan with aluminum foil, allowing it to extend over edges of pan. Grease/spray foil.

Combine crushed cookies and butter. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes.

Combine condensed milk, peanut butter, and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

Sprinkle chopped candy bars, chocolate morsels, and peanuts over crust. Drizzle condensed milk mixture over toppings.

Bake for 25-27 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan on wire rack. Using foil, lift out of pan. Peel foil away, and cut into bars.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chipster Topped Brownies

There's a BIG group of baking bloggers out there who are part of a group called 'Tuesdays with Dorie'. One of them chooses a recipe and every Tuesday they post their own version of the recipe by well-known and very talented baker Dorie Greenspan. Maybe one day I'll be a Dorie devotee, but committing to doing it every week is tricky these days. But, I have definitely gotten some great recipes from these Tuesday postings. This one is no exception.
Do you like chocolate chip cookies? Do you like brownies? Perfect. Not only can we be friends, you'll love this because it's BOTH. A rich chocolatey brownie topped with cookie dough and then baked to perfection. Rich and delicious. Yum...Chipster-Topped Brownies
Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From my Home to Yours

For the Brownie Layer:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 2/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

For the Cookie Layer:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 1 cup store bought chocolate chip

Getting Ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan, line it with wax paper or parchment paper and butter the paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

To Make the Brownie Batter:
Put both chocolates and the butter in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stirring occasionally, heat just until the ingredients are melted, shiny and smooth. If the mixture get too hot, the butter will separate from the chocolates. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until pale, thick and creamy. Beat in the salt and vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate and butter, mixing only until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then, still on low speed, add flour, mixing only until it disappears into the batter. Using the spatula, fold in the walnuts, and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Set aside.

To Make the Cookie Dough:
Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Working with the stand mixer in the cleaned bowl or with the hand mixer in another large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. One at a time, add the egg and the yolk, beating for 1 minutes after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Still on low, mix in the chopped chocolate. Drop the cookie dough by spoonfuls over the brownie batter and, using a spatula and a light touch, spread it evenly over the batter.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cookie top is deep gold brown and firm and a thin knife inserted into the brownie layer comes out with only faint streaks of moist chocolate. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature.

When the brownies are completely cook, carefully run a knife between the sides of the pan and the brownies, then invert them onto another rack, remove the paper and turn the right side up onto a cutting board. Cut into bars about 2 inches x 1 inch. (You can cut larger bars if you're serving cookie lovers with Texas-size appetites.)

Makes 24 servings.

Serving: Ice cream, whipped cream and creme fraiche are all great accompaniments, as is a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Storing: Wrapped well or packed in an airtight container, the bars can be kept at room temperature for 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Playing Around: The cookie top can be varied easily be swapping peanut butter, butterscotch or white chocolate chips for the chopped chocolate. You could even use all of them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

If you're looking for a quick bread, something that doesn't take a lot of time and is so reminiscent of coffee cake, and a little bit of cinnamon roll too, give this a try. I love to make it in little loaves. They make such great gifts for friends!

* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 egg
* 1 cup milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/3 cup cooking oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 loaf pan (or little loaf pans -- my favorite!) Combine 1/3 cup of sugar, pecans, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Combine 1 cup of sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat egg. Then, stir in milk, vanilla and oil. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the egg mixture. Stir just until mixed. Do not over mix.

Pour half of the batter into loaf pan. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon mixture. Repeat. With a wide rubber scraper or spatula, swirl mixtures together with a down and up circular motion.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until done, less time if you have little loaves. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Then, cool completely on a wire rack.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet

A kitchen confession: Our ice cream maker is not being used to it's potential. Every time I use it I think, "Why don't I do this more often?" The answer usually has something do with lack of planning because I haven't frozen the inner canister ahead of time. But I'm hoping to change that. That silly canister is in the freezer right now, because next time I want to be ready. In fact, did you know you can use your ice cream maker just to make Slurpee-type drinks? Just pour in some soda or juice or whatever you'd like and get it spinning. Who doesn't love a cool little something (that's EASY to make) in the hot summer? Get out your ice cream maker. I know you don't use it as much as you should.

I'm sticking with strawberries for another post or two and sharing a truly yummy one with you.

This recipe is very similar to one I did last year with blackberries. It's good, really good, and a lot lighter than ice cream, which usually uses cream and whole milk. Give it a try. And, let me know if you've got any other suggestions for my ice cream maker!Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet
adapted from Southern Living Magazine

2 cups fresh strawberries*
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (or more!) chopped strawberries (optional)

Process strawberries in a food processor or blender 30 seconds or until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Pour strawberry puree through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing with back of a spoon. Discard solids.

Add buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla to puree; stir until well blended. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Pour strawberry mixture into freezer container of a 1 1/2-qt. electric ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. (Instructions and times may vary.) Fold in the half cup of strawberries if desired.

*You could also use 1 (16-oz.) package frozen strawberries, thawed if you can't get to some fresh picked, local berries.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

'Tis the season!

No, not the Christmas's berry season! Strawberries first and before too long I'll be off picking blackberries...I just love it. The sweet treat possibilities are practically endless. I've been stopping at the little berry farm sandwiched in a little field near my parent's house every few days for strawberries. Cheap, perfectly ripe and so delicious!
Break from the berries for just a second -- sorry it's been a while. I was doing so good at keeping my goal of one post a week. If you know me, you understand why. I do have 3 other Sista's out there, but they're really busy too!

Enough about that. Back to berries.

Yesterday for my sister's birthday I got some of her favorite girlfriends together for lunch and, of course, we needed a sweet birthday treat. I knew I couldn't go wrong as long as this birthday dessert lacked bananas, hazelnuts or pine nuts -- three of my sister's least favorites. But I knew strawberries would be a sure success.
I'm actually pretty proud of this one because I took ideas from a couple of different recipes (here and here) and added in a few things of my own. (Those are noted in red.)
I didn't have a 9-inch tart pan (although I do now...thank you Sur La Table) so I gambled and used my 9-inch springform instead. I'm sure a pie plate would work well too if you're in a pinch. The springform didn't have those cute scalloped edges like the tart pan, but still looked pretty good and worked fine.
ANYWAY, the end result was really delicious and a success. It was my first tart, but definitely not the last!
Sweet Cookie Crust
Adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible

Don't panic if you don't have a food processor! Just make the crust however you'd traditionally make a pie crust.
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 scant cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Place butter and sugar in a food processor. Pulse about 15 times until sugar disappears. Add flour and salt and pulse again about 15 times until butter is no larger than small peas.

Stir together egg yolk, almond extract and cream. Add to the food processor and pulse about 8 times, or until ingredients are incorporated.

Transfer dough to a large piece of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap, knead the dough a few times until it becomes one smooth piece. Flatten into a 6-inch disc. Wrap well and refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes until firm enough to put into the tart pan.

Roll dough between sheets of plastic wrap into an 1/8-inch-thick circle. Work quickly so that dough does not soften. If it becomes too soft, place it (in the plastic wrap) on a baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

Remove top sheet of plastic wrap. For a 9 & 1/2- by 1-inch tart pan, cut dough to an 11-inch circle. Lift the dough using the plastic wrap. Invert the dough and drape it evenly into the tart pan. Remove plastic wrap and press dough into the sides of the pan. The dough should come about 1/8 inch above the rim of the pan because it will fall during baking.

Bake at 425° for 5 minutes. When the dough starts to puff, prick it lightly with a fork. Then bake at 375° for 10-15 minutes.

Baked crust will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Pastry Cream

1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 moist, plump vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used a vanilla bean -- for the first time.)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Bring the milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and set aside for 10 minutes. Or, if you are using vanilla extract, just bring the mil to a boil and proceed with the recipe, adding the extract before you add the butter to the hot pastry cream.

Working in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together until thick and pale. Whisking all the while, very slowly drizzle a quarter of the hot milk onto the yolks. Then, still whisking, pour the rest of the liquid in a steady stream over the tempered yolks. Remove and discard the vanilla pod.

Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously and without stopping, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep the mixture at the boil, whisking energetically, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and scrape the pastry cream into a clean bowl. Allow the pastry cream to cool on the counter for about 3 minutes.

Cut the into chunks and stir the chunks into the hot pastry cream, continuing to stir until the butter is melted and incorporated. At this point, the cream needs to be thoroughly chilled. You can either set the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and, to ensure even cooling, stir the cream from time to time, or refrigerate the cream, in which case you should press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal.

(The cream can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or packed airtight and frozen for 1 month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and whip before using to return it to its smooth consistency.)

Now for the assembly!

1 fully baked 9-inch (24-cm) tart shell made from Sweet Cookie Crust
Pastry cream
3 to 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled

This was my addition:
1/8 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan bring whipping cream to a boil. Remove pot from heat and add chocolate chips. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and then stir. It should be pretty thick. Add in vanilla. Spread a layer of chocolate on the bottom of the crust. A small off-set spatula works great for this! Refrigerate (or if you're in a hurry like me put it in the freezer!) until slightly set.

Shortly before you are ready to serve the tart, spread the pastry cream on top of the chocolate and arrange the strawberries over the top.

I PROMISE this is NOT a lot of work. I did the crust 2 days before and put it in the freezer and I did the pastry cream the day before. When it was finally time, the assembly was a piece of cake...I mean tart!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

This was my first attempt at cinnamon rolls. Sure they take a while from start to finish, but that's just because of two rise times. The actual work is really nothing. On a Saturday when I'm home cleaning and being otherwise domestic, it's easy to get these made. I just have to stop what I'm doing and move on to the next step when it's time.

Of course, if you're just dying to have warm rolls for breakfast and don't want to wake up at 5 a.m. then you can do everything up until the baking the night before. After the rolls are shaped and cut, put the pan in the refrigerator. In the morning, the rolls will need to warm up and they may need a bit more time to rise. You can speed this up by doing it in a warm oven. Heat your oven to its “warm” setting, then turn it off and put the rolls in the oven. They should be warm and ready to bake in half and hour or so. With minimal waiting time and almost no work at all, you can have a fantastic treat for breakfast!

I liked this recipe because it was pretty straightforward. Not to gooey or buttery, not slathered with a ton of frosting or icing. It was just a basic recipe, which is what I needed for my first try!

Cinnamon Rolls

½ cup milk
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons yeast)
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoons salt
4-4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

1. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until the mixture is lukewarm (about 100 degrees).

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the water, yeast, sugar, egg, and yolks at low speed until well mixed. Add the salt, warm milk mixture, and 2 cups of the flour and mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Switch to the dough hook, add another 2 cups of the flour, and knead at medium speed (adding up to ¼ cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary) until the dough is smooth and freely clears the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a round, place it in a very lightly oiled large bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

3. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

4. After the dough has doubled in bulk, press it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle, with a long side facing you. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the far edges. Roll the dough, beginning with the long edge closest to you and using both hands to pinch the dough with your fingertips as you roll. Moisten the top border with water and seal the roll. Lightly dust the roll with flour and press on it ends if necessary to make a uniform 16-inch cylinder. Cut the roll in 12 equal pieces and place the rolls cut-side up in the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

5. When the rolls are almost fully risen, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of one reads 185 to 188 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Glaze the rolls and serve.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars

I enjoy a baking challenge, but I'm also a huge fan of some of the most simple sweets, one of those being rice krispy treats. Is there anything better you can make with four basic ingredients? (I'd love some feedback on that, by the way!) I say four instead of three, because as with pretty much everything else I make, adding in a little vanilla makes them even better! I think it's also a bit nostalgic. My mom didn't make them regularly when I was a kid, but they're just kind of a kid food, right?
While I do LOVE the traditional treat, I'm always interested in seeing ways that the rice krispy treat has been enhanced or combined with other ingredients The well- known scotcharoo is a variation lots of us have enjoyed. Although, when I make them I leave out the butterscotch chips and only use chocolate. Delicious, but highly addictive, so they're rarely made by me.
But aside from the scotcharoo, there are so many other alterations out there! So, I was excited when I came across this recipe. A combination of rich brownie, marshmallow, peanut butter and rice krispies...well, I just had to try it. Sure it's got more than your basic four ingredients, but it's worth the extra time and work. Look out scotcharoos, I think these beat you by a mile. They were awesome.
Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars

Brownie Ingredients:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients:
7 ounces mini marshmallows
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter (I love Jif)
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 ½ cups Rice Krispies

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan OR cover your pan with foil first and then spray with cooking spray. It makes cutting the bars a million times easier (and more even, at least for me!) because you just pull the whole thing out of the pan and then cut. And the clean up is almost nothing too!

In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate, butter, and ¾ cup of the semisweet chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir occasionally while melting. Set aside and cool for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, place the eggs and whisk thoroughly. Add in the sugar and vanilla. Stir the melted ingredients into the egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in the dry sifted ingredients and mix well. Fold in the remaining ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and even with a spatula. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the corner of the pan comes out with moist crumbs.
Remove the brownies from the oven, and immediately sprinkle the marshmallows over them. Return the pan to the oven for 3 more minutes.

While the brownies are baking, place the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat, add the cereal,and mix well. Allow this to cool for 3 minutes or so.

Spread the mixture evenly over the marshmallow layer. Refrigerate until chilled before cutting. These are pretty rich, so you can actually cut them pretty small...or not, it's up to you!

One more thing: Do you hate it when recipes give ingredients in weight instead of cups like the 7 ounces of marshmallow in this recipe? I did, but then I bought a food scale and I LOVE IT! I use it a lot more than I thought. When a recipe calls for 1 pound of chicken, I can actually use that amount instead of guessing. I was making rolls for Easter and knew that I was supposed to get 16 rolls out of the dough, so I weighed the dough, divided the amount by 16 and made sure my garlic knots (recipe coming soon for that one) each weighed the same amount. I know, a little bit OCD, but I loved that they all turned out the same size.
For this recipe if you don't have a scale, just use enough marshmallows to cover the brownie layer. Or a few more. You can't go wrong with extra marshmallows, I promise!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Aloha Chip Cookies!

A few nights ago my long-time friend Terra knocked on the door. Since she lives in frigid North Dakota I was pretty surprised to see her. And, I was even MORE surprised with the treats she was delivering: a perfectly ripe Dole pineapple (YUM!) and chocolate covered macadamia nuts. In North Dakota???

No, you see a few days earlier Terra and her Air Force pilot husband caught a plane to Hawaii and, on the way home, got dropped of at the base nearest to our town. Her delivery was coming straight from the Islands. I did hold back my covetous feelings about being on a beach in Hawaii, but it wasn't easy. It was really fun visiting with her AND the treats were an added bonus.

I started thinking that Nate and I probably wouldn't (um, and shouldn't) eat all of those chocolate covered macadamia nuts. So, when I was making chocolate chip cookies the next evening with a recipe I don't use all that often, but I really SHOULD, (it's a good one!) I decided to get a little creative with the help of Terra's Hawaiian treats.

And, so, instead of plain old chocolate chip cookies, here's a great recipe for Aloha Chip Cookies. (But if you're not in the 'Aloha spirit' or just don't have your own box of Mauna Loa's laying around, leave out the coconut and replace the nuts/chocolate combination with chocolate chips!)

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup angel flake coconut
1 cup chocolate covered macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the coconut and chopped nuts and chocolate. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 12-14 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Bunnies

I love having a week off of work. In addition to getting our house cleaned, laundry done and groceries bought (and NOT being stressed out about getting it all done) I really got to do some fun things. Our house is accessorized with a few new things AND I had a chance to make these.

Oh, I LOVE spring break! Instead of all of those "must do's" that usually fill my Saturday, after some major hedge trimming this morning I came inside and made Easter bunnies. I'm still learning about making good royal icing and my hand control with piping could use some practice, but I'm pretty happy with how they turned out, especially on the first try.

This sugar cookie recipe is one I found online, but it's definitely a keeper. I think it's going to be our 'permanent' sugar cookie recipe, at least for now! One hint, if you use salted butter, cut back on the salt to 1/2 or 3/4 teaspoon. It's up to you!

My new favorite Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
2 ½ c. sifted flour

Cream butter. Add powdered sugar. Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla, salt and flour. Chill dough until firm. Roll to ¼” thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. Frost and decorate when cool.

Royal Icing

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container.

This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating. Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. If you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick. Add a little more liquid and try again.

Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.

Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again. Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. Allow to set.

Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired. Gel icing color is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid. Liquid food coloring can be used as well - add powdered sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Easter Basket Cupcakes

Every year I get excited to make Easter Basket Cupcakes ALMOST like we did as a kid. Back then there weren't giant muffin tins and the only egg shaped candies besides a Cadbury Creme Egg were jelly beans. Times sure have changed. The Easter candy section at Target alone is out of control with WAY too many choices, which made it hard to decide just how to top this year's cupcakes. In the end, I settled for a variety.

Easter Basket Cupcakes

Start with a white cake mix and follow the recipe...well mostly. Here are a few cake mix secrets:
1. Replace the water in the recipe for milk, especially whole milk.
2. Add in at least 1 teaspoon of GOOD quality vanilla. And an extra splash (or teaspoon) will only make it better!

Bake the cupcakes according to the directions on the package. If you're using a large cupcake tin like I did, the baking time is about 20 minutes. I do large cupcakes for my 'grown up' friends and the regular sized ones for their kids and other littler folks.
After the cupcakes have cooled completely, make your frosting. (It's not THAT much work and WAY better than Betty Crocker!)

Here's the recipe:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
2 1/2 - 3 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk (again, whole milk is best!)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
green food coloring

Combine butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and almond extract. Add powdered sugar in 1 cup increments until combined. Then add milk and food coloring, mix until smooth and spreading consistency. I like to beat frosting for at least 5 minutes so it's light and fluffy.Frost the cupcakes with a generous layer. It's one of the best parts of the treat, after all!

As a kid my mom always put the sweetened coconut in a jar for me to shake. I loved that job! After you put the coconut in a container of your choosing, add a few drops of green food coloring, place the lid on tightly and give it a good shake.
Sorry no exact measurements here about how much coconut or food coloring. But if you don't make enough or your 'grass' just isn't green enough add a little more! And, if you're grass is way too green, just add some more coconut and shake, shake, shake.
Now it's time to add the eggs. Jelly beans seemed to stick a little better when I was a kid. Maybe it's because they weren't as heavy as the chocolate ones. Anyway, I like to put just a little frosting on the bottom side of each egg to 'glue' the eggs in place. After that, add a white pipe cleaner and you're done! I've also seen these made with the thin ropes of red vines for the handle, but I'm sticking with Hall Family tradition, AND I think I prefer the white handle.
So, if you've got kids who need something to do this week, or need a cute little place card for your Easter dinner, this might just be for you. Give it a try and maybe you'll have a new Easter tradition too!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

I know a thing or two about cheesecakes and cookies. I've definitely given myself a lot of experience and, truth be told, made some pretty tasty versions of both. So why not put them together and create an over the top, rich chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake bars?
I typically like my cookies, alone (um, sometimes even frozen!), dunked a time or two in milk, but nothing else. Cookie dough ice cream is never my first (or second or third) choice and that cookie dough candy that I see at the movie theaters would be my absolute last pick. I'd even choose Raisinets first.

So, I kind of went against my own 'cookie principles' in making this combination, but I definitely don't regret it. These do not fall into the 'one bowl' section of a cookbook, and they do require some time, but it's well worth it.

My advice though...make them for someone or some occasion. Having the whole pan around for too long could be calorically very dangerous!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from Bake or Break


  • 1 & 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons graulated sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan. Line pan with parchment paper, leaving enough to extend over the sides. Butter the parchment paper.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter until crumbs are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips.

Press crust mixture into bottom of pan and 1 inch up sides. Bake for 6 minutes. Set pan on wire rack to cool

Cookie Dough

  • 5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Using an electric mixer , mix butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract at medium speed until smooth. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.


  • 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar just until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating just until blended.

Pour batter into baked crust. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls over the top of the filling. (I pressed the cookie dough into a teaspoon and then dropped it onto the filling...worked great!)

Bake about 30 minutes, or until set. Transfer to wire rack

For chocolate topping, melt 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave. Add about 1/2 tablespoon of butter if necessary to make chocolate smooth. Drizzle over top of bars. Cool bars in pan completely, about an hour.

Using the edges of the parchment paper, remove bars from pan. Cut into bars and serve.