Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chewy Toffee Blondies

These bars started with an impulse buy at the grocery store.  I was waiting in line to check out, and as I was standing there something caught my eye.  Heath candy bars were buy three, get two free!  If that's not a deal then I don't know what is.  Naturally, I grabbed five candy bars and tossed them into the shopping cart.  I decided that I needed to bake something with the candy bars, and these blondies seemed like the perfect vehicle for the job.  I chopped the candy quite coarsely, which paid off by leaving large in-tact chunks in the final product.  If you chop the candy too finely it may just melt into the bars and you will lose that classic toffee crunch.  Browning the butter imparts a rich, nutty flavor, but if you don't want to spend the time to do this, you can simply melt the butter and proceed.  These bars are sure to please any toffee lover!





CHEWY TOFFEE BLONDIES
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

INGREDIENTS
8 ounces (1 stick) butter, browned
1 cup (7 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (4 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped Heath Bars (about 4 - 1.4 ounce bars)

DIRECTIONS
1. Coat an 8 x 8 pan with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


2. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly and watching closely, until butter just begins to turn golden brown (about 6-8 minutes). Immediately remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl, mix browned butter and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in egg, then add vanilla extract. Stir in salt and flour until just combined. Add the chopped candy bars and stir until just incorporated.

4. Pour and spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until set in the middle, taking caution not to overbake. Cool on a rack before cutting into bars.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Mini muffins are undeniably cute, but I don't make them often because those mini muffin pans are such a pain to clean.  I had some old bananas lying around so I decided to give in to the lure of the mini muffin.  These are great warm from the oven, and they also freeze well.  You could definitely replace the mini chocolate chips with finely chopped walnuts or pecans if you prefer, and whole wheat flour may be substituted for up to half of the all-purpose flour.
MINI BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS
Adapted from Taste of Home

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 medium very ripe bananas
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS 
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat two mini muffin pans with non-stick spray, or grease the pans.

2. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, mash the bananas. Add egg, oil and vanilla; mix well. Stir the wet ingredeints into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill mini muffin cups 3/4 full. 

3. Bake muffins for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Salty Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are pretty great, and you can never really have too many chocolate chip cookie recipes.  While I have a couple of favorites, I am always up for trying something new.  These cookies have a nice chewy bite, courtesy of the ground oats, and a subtle salty finish.  My husband, and toughest critic, really enjoyed these.  I took the bulk of the batch to work and they were well liked by the masses, with many people commenting on how much they liked the touch of salt.
SALTY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Adapted from Grant

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for finishing)
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  • - See more at: http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/recipe/18100_grant_s_chocolate_chip_cookies/index.html#sthash.vzgG5aG4.dpuf
    1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
    3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for finishing)
    1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

    2. In a food processor, process oats until they become a coarse flour. In a bowl, whisk together the processed oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

    3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add eggs.  Increase speed and beat until eggs are fully incorporated into the batter.  Mix in vanilla.  Slowly add the dry ingredients in batches (to avoid making a mess), and beat just until the last of the dry ingredients are mixed in.  Stir in chocolate chips.

    4. Scoop cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for 11-13 minutes until just set around the edges.  Sprinkle warm cookies with a little extra salt and allow to cool on the cookie sheets for five minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Monday, May 26, 2014

    Chewy Chocolate Chip Brownies

    I knew I wanted to bake something today, but I wasn't sure what that should be.  This morning I poured over several cookbooks and some food blogs, and I decided it was as good a time as any to continue on my quest to find the perfect brownie.  I am one of those people who prefer the fudgy brownie to the cakey brownie.  I have to say, this one is pretty darn good.  The recipe calls for browned butter, but I really couldn't taste the nutty flavor imparted by browning in the final product.  I think if you wanted to cut down on prep time you could definitely make these with plain old melted butter.  The final product is chocolatey, chewy, and worth every single calorie.



    CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP BROWNIES
    Adapted from Cookie and Kate

    INGREDIENTS

    10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch chunks
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
    2 cold large eggs
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup chocolate chips

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with two criss-crossed pieces of parchment paper, making sure that the paper is long enough to go up the sides a couple of inches. Alternatively, line the pan with Reynolds pan-lining paper.

    2. Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter, while whisking constantly, until it’s a pale golden brown and the particles suspended in it are reddish brown. This usually takes about 10 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the butter!

    3. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, sea salt, baking powder and espresso powder. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes.

    4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula after each one. When the mixture looks thick, shiny and well blended, add the vanilla extract and the flour. Stir until you no longer see streaks of flour. Then beat vigorously for 50 strokes with the wooden spoon or spatula.

    5. At this point, the mixture should be no more than slightly warm (if not, let it cool for a few more minutes). Fold in the chocolate chunks or chips - if the batter is too warm you will melt your chips and that would be sad.

    6. Spread the batter evenly in the lined pan. Bake on the lower rack for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool the brownies in the pan on a baking rack.

    7. Once the brownies are completely cool, lift the edges of the parchment paper and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Use a sharp chef's knife to cut the brownies into 16 or 25 squares.

    Friday, May 2, 2014

    RumChata Cupcakes

    I was a little late to the party, but I have finally discovered RumChata.  I've heard it described as liquid Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and it is basically a creamy, sweet, cinnamon-flavored liqueur.  While RumChata is fabulous on its own, I really love the flavor it gives to both the cake and frosting.  The frosting is pretty sweet, but sometimes you just have to live a little bit!  Also, you may just want to add the sugar slowly and adjust the amount according to your tastes.  These cupcakes are for adults only and would be perfect for a girls night.

    RUMCHATA CUPCAKES
    Cake adapted from Annie's Eats 
    Frosting adapted from love.life. & creative things.

    YIELD - Approximately 30 cupcakes

    INGREDIENTS - CUPCAKES
    3 cups cake flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 cups sugar
    5 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 1/4 cups RumChata, at room temperature
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    INGREDIENTS - FROSTING
    12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
    8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    dash of salt
    5 tablespoons RumChata
    1 2-pound package powdered sugar

    DIRECTIONS
    1. For the cupcakes - Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color, occasionally scraping down the sides.

    2. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the RumChata and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.

    3. Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells).  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans for five minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.  Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired.

    4. For the frosting - In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add salt and vanilla extract and beat to combine.  Slowly add the powdered sugar and then begin to add the RumChata.  Depending on how think you like your frosting (or whether or not you use all of the powdered sugar) you may need to add more or less RumChata.  Once all the RumChata and powdered sugar have been added, continue mixing until light and fluffy.  Fill a piping bag or spread on the cooled cupcakes.

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

    Cinnamon Chip Scones

    I bought several bags of cinnamon chips this past holiday baking season, and these scones were definitely worth the use of some of my precious chips.  You can find cinnamon chips at some retailers during the non-holiday season if you are lucky, or you can always order them online.  These scones are delicious warm out of the oven, but they are also still tasty once cooled.  Don't skip the coarse sugar on top - it really adds something special.  Also don't let these terrible photos deter you.  The scones do not look like tumors in person!


    CINNAMON CHIP SCONES
    Adapted slightly from Taste of Home

    INGREDIENTS
    3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup sugar
    2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 package (10 ounces) cinnamon baking chips
    2 tablespoons butter, melted
    2 tablespoons coarse sugar

    DIRECTIONS 
    1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened. Fold in chips. 

    2. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently 10-12 times or until dough is no longer sticky. Divide in half; gently pat or roll each portion into a 7-in. circle. Brush with butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar. 

    3. Cut each circle into six wedges. Separate wedges and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 10-13 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

    Sunday, February 9, 2014

    Apple Pecan Bread

    After perusing all of the new cookbooks I got for Christmas, I am now starting to work my way through the list I made of must-try recipes.  This bread appeared in the Better Homes and Gardens newest book, "Baking."  I made a couple of minor changes (added cinnamon, omitted raisins) and was pleased with the results.  I don't make a lot of quick breads outside of variations on banana, so this was a fun way to step outside the box.  The shredded apples keep the bread really moist, and the pecans and streusel provide a nice contrasting crunch.


    Apple Pecan Bread
    Adapted slightly from Better Homes and Gardens

    INGREDIENTS - BREAD
    1/2 cup butter, softened
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup buttermilk
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 cups all-purpose flour 
    3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 cups shredded, peeled apple (about 4 medium)
    1 cup chopped pecans
     
    INGREDIENTS - STREUSEL TOPPING
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    2 tablespoons butter
    1/3 cup chopped pecans
     
    DIRECTIONS 
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside. 
     
    2. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in sugar until combined. Add buttermilk and baking powder; beat until combined. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour, cinnamon, and salt; beat until combined. Stir in shredded apple and nuts. 
     
    3. Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle streusel topping over batter. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. 
     
    4. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing. Makes 1 loaf (14 servings).

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

    Banana Bread Waffles

    This past weekend I decided it was time to restock my freezer waffle stash, but instead of making my usual whole wheat waffles I branched out and tried something new.  The addition of mashed banana and cinnamon really make for a fun twist on a breakfast standby.  These waffles are great served with maple syrup, but I think they are even better topped with some natural peanut butter and a little bit of honey.  This recipe made six and a half round waffles.  I froze the leftovers and they are still tasty when heated up in the toaster.  Next time you have a couple of old bananas sitting around I recommend giving this recipe a try.

    BANANA BREAD WAFFLES
    Adapted from Mother Thyme

    INGREDIENTS
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 cup milk
    2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 2/3 cup)
    2 large eggs
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

    DIRECTIONS
    1. In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

    2. In a medium bowl mix milk, bananas, eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla extract.

    3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until smooth and combined. Stir in nuts if using.

    4. Follow your waffle maker's manufacturer instructions to cook waffles. Serve as desired.

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

    Homemade Marshmallows

    Believe the hype. Homemade marshmallows are incredible! The internet is full of bloggers telling you how amazing homemade marshmallows are, how they are so much better than store-bought marshmallows, and how they really are worth the effort. I am here to tell you that these things are all true.  While I made a simple vanilla marshmallow, the candy can be flavored with any extract, making the flavor possibilities endless.  We enjoyed eating these plain, toasted (my favorite), and dipped in chocolate topped with crushed candy canes.  This recipe is easy to follow and yields great results.  I did end up making a little bit of a mess, but it was well worth the clean-up!

    HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS
    From Alton Brown

    INGREDIENTS
    3 packages unflavored gelatin
    1 cup ice cold water, divided
    12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
    1 cup light corn syrup
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
    1/4 cup cornstarch
    Nonstick spray

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
     
    2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
     
    3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.
     
    4. Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
     
    5. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
     
    6. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

    Sunday, November 24, 2013

    Lemon Coconut White Chocolate Chip Cookies

    We are in the midst of a winter storm, and sometimes when the weather is cold I really like baking something that reminds me of a nice, warm spring day.  The bright lemon flavor in this cookie will definitely bring you to a warm and sunny place.  My husband and I both really liked this cookie and I have officially added it to my repertoire.  Make sure you use real white chocolate chips as opposed to those strange white vanilla milk chips.
    LEMON COCONUT WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
    Adapted from The Naked Beet

    INGREDIENTS
    1 3/4 cup flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup white sugar
    1 egg
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 tablespoons lemon zest
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 1/2 cups toasted coconut flakes
    1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

    2. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda; set aside.

    3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Mix enough to incorporate. Slowly add the flour mixture until just incorporated into the batter. Fold in the coconut and white chocolate chunks.

    4. Form dough into heaping tablespoon sized balls and place two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are just set. Let cookies rest on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

    Sunday, October 27, 2013

    Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

    I was tired of making regular old banana bread with my overripe bananas so I decided to try something new. Peanut butter and banana go together famously, and chocolate chips make everything better, so this recipe was an easy selection. While the baked bread has a strong peanut butter aroma, the peanut butter flavor is actually fairly subtle but contributes to a dense, moist loaf. I took this bread to the office and my co-workers devoured it and showered me with compliments.
    PEANUT BUTTER BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP BREAD
    Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

    INGREDIENTS
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 medium bananas, mashed
    1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    1/3 cup buttermilk
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    2 eggs
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8x4-inch loaf pan.

    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

    3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the banana, peanut butter, sugars, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth.

    4. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula until completely combined and there are no spots with raw flour. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

    5. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top into an even layer. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. If your bread appears to be browning too quickly, place a tented piece of foil over it (I did this at the 45-minute mark).

    6. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. The cooled bread should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap; it can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013

    Lattice-Top Peach Pie

    My husband loves pie and I love baking new things, so this recipe was a win-win for both of us.  You can get pretty good peaches in Texas at this time of year (late summer and into the fall), and they really shined in this pie.  The filling is simple but somehow tastes just right.  This was my first attempt at a lattice top and it came out looking pretty good.  I used an all-butter pie crust dough, but you can use any recipe for a double crust.  This was a labor of love, as it took several hours to make the dough and blanch and peel the peaches, but I can assure you that it is well worth the work.  My husband and I loved this pie and it disappeared quickly!





    Lattice-Top Peach Pie
    From The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

    INGREDIENTS - FILLING
    1 recipe for double-crust pie dough (divided into two disks)
    2 1/2 pounds (5 to 7 ) peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced 1/3 inch thick
    1- 1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
    1 tablespoon corn starch
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    pinch salt
    1 egg white, lightly beaten

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Roll one disk of dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface, then fit it into a 9-inch pie plate, letting the excess dough hang over the edge; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    2. Roll the other disk of dough into a 13 1/2 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Trim the dough to a 13 by 10-inch rectangle with straight edges, then slice it lengthwise into eight 13-inch-long strips. Separate the strips slightly, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until very firm, about 30 minutes.

    3. Toss the peaches and 1 cup of the sugar together in a large bowl and let sit, tossing occasionally, until the peaches release their juice, about 1 hour. (Add up to 4 more tablespoons sugar if the peaches taste tart). Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 425-degrees.

    4. Drain the peaches thoroughly through a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. In a large bowl, toss the drained fruit, 1/4 cup reserved juice, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt together until well combined.

    5. Spread the peaches into the dough-lined pie plate and weave the chilled strips of dough over the top into a lattice. Let the strips soften for 5 to 10 minutes, then trim, fold, and crimp the edges. Lightly brush the lattice with the egg white and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.

    6. Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and bake until the top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate the baking sheet, and continue to bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is deep golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes longer. Let the pie cool on a wire rack until the filling has set, about 2 hours; serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

    Sunday, August 18, 2013

    Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies

    I went to New York City a few years ago and one of the items on my must-do list included a stop at Levain Bakery on the city's Upper West Side.  I had read about the famed chocolate chip cookies, I had seen them on TV, and I just knew I had to try them.  Well, the cookies did not disappoint.  They were huge, wonderful creations filled with nuts and chocolate chips, with a crisp exterior and a super thick, chewy interior.  Bloggers have been trying to recreate the recipe for years, and this one comes pretty close.  To get the proper texture and feel of a Levain cookie, you must make these into the very large size cookies indicated in the recipe.  They will be huge, but making them small will not yield a cookie that mimics Levain's, and the whole point of this recipe is to make a copycat.  You will definitely impress your friends with these wonderfully decadent treats.

    Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies
    From Brown Eyed Baker

    INGREDIENTS
    3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) bread flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
    3/4 cup + 4 teaspoons (6 ounces) light brown sugar
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    2 eggs, cold, lightly beaten in a separate bowl
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
    1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

    3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars on medium speed until it forms a cohesive mass. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla and continue beating on medium speed until mixed, scraping the sides of bowl once (the batter will appear lumpy). Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the flour mixture until just a little bit of flour still remains. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts with a rubber spatula.

    4. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces, just grabbing it by the handful and roughly shaping it into a ball (it should not be smooth). Place them (evenly spaced) on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, or until light golden brown on top. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

    My birthday was last month, and as usual, I made my own cake.  I love making my own birthday cake because I can get exactly what I want and I know it will be delicious.  I paired this icing with a  chocolate cake and added chopped Heath candy bars as a garnish.  I made a homemade caramel sauce, but you could also use a high quality jarred caramel sauce.  This recipe makes enough to frost about two dozen cupcakes or an 8- or 9-inch two-layer cake.  You may need to make extra if you want to pipe decorations onto the cake.  Also, it is critical that your caramel sauce is completely cooled (chilled is fine) to prevent melting the frosting.  Overall, I had another great birthday, and needless to say, this cake was amazing!

    SALTED CARAMEL CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
    From Brown Eyed Baker

    INGREDIENTS

    1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
    8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
    1/2 cup salted caramel sauce (cooled completely)
    4 cups powdered sugar

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until combined and fluffy. Pour in the salted caramel and beat until combined.

    2. Reduce the speed to medium-low and slowly add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until it has all been incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for an additional two to three minutes, until light and fluffy.

    Sunday, August 4, 2013

    Fudgy Brownies

    I am on a never ending quest to find delicious fudgy brownie recipes, and I will definitely be adding this one to my repertoire.  The brownie is fairly thin, with a crackled top and a delightfully chewy texture.  This brownie is somewhat reminiscent of a boxed mix brownie, so it would be an ideal recipe to try if you are trying to kick the boxed stuff.  The recipe is super easy to follow, and even my non-brownie loving husband thought these were good.  Ditch the box and give these a try!


    FUDGY BROWNIES
    Adapted slightly from Cookies and Cups

    INGREDIENTS

    1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
    1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
    6 tablespoons light brown sugar
    6 tablespoons granulated sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 cup flour
    1/4 tsp salt

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Preheat oven to 325°

    2. Line a 8x8 pan with parchment or mist generously with non-stick spray.

    3. Melt chocolate and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Remove from heat. Whisk both sugars into the chocolate mix. Add in eggs, one at a time and then add vanilla. Whisk until just combined, taking care not to whip too much air into the batter. Stir in flour and salt until evenly incorporated and pour batter into prepared pan.

    4. Bake 28-32 minutes until center is set and a toothpick inserted in the center has no more than a few moist crumbs. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into squares.

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Vanilla Sugar Cookies

    I had not baked in over a week so I was itching to get in the kitchen when I got home from work today. I have recently been perusing a wide variety of sugar cookie recipes on the internet and in cookbooks so I figured I better start trying some of these recipes to see what I like. I knew I wanted a drop-style sugar cookie - no chilling, rolling, and cutting for me this evening. I settled on this recipe, making a couple of small alterations.  Both my husband and I were pleased with the results. The cookie's edges crisp up slightly while the centers stay soft and chewy. The flavor is pretty typical for a vanilla sugar cookie. It doesn't hurt that they just look so visually appealing as well. These were quick and easy and could be dressed up with different colors of coarse sugar or slathered with your favorite icing.


    VANILLA SUGAR COOKIES
    Adapted slightly from allrecipes.com

    INGREDIENTS


    1 1/4 cups white sugar
    1 cup butter
    3 egg yolks
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup coarse sugar

    DIRECTIONS 
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 

    2. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. 

    3. Add flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Mix until just combined. Place coarse sugar in a separate small dish.

    4. Form dough into heaping tablespoon-sized balls, roll in coarse sugar, and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Do not flatten the dough balls. Bake 11 to 12 minutes, until tops are cracked and the edges are just set. Cool on cookie sheets for 3 to 4 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

    Sunday, May 12, 2013

    Oatmeal Carmelitas

    I've had a bag of Kraft caramel bits in my pantry forever and this recipe seemed like a perfect way to use them up.  I tend to impulse buy baking supplies so I end up with all kinds of products for which I had no intended purpose.  After scouring the internet and my cookbook collection for recipes with caramel, I settled on these bars.  I had to tweak the original recipe quite a bit, but I am officially declaring my version a success.  One of my co-workers proclaimed that he wanted "to bathe in them."  If that's not a ringing endorsement than I don't know what is!  These bars are easy to put together, and the combination of crunchy oats with creamy caramel and chocolate is sure to please.
    OATMEAL CARMELITAS

    INGREDIENTS

    1 bag (11 ounces) Kraft caramel bits
    1/3 cup heavy cream
    3/4 cup butter, melted
    1 cup brown sugar, packed
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 cups rolled oats
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

    DIRECTIONS

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    2. Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside.

    3. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8" x 8" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

    4. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

    Sunday, May 5, 2013

    Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

    On a recent Sunday morning my husband requested some lemon poppy seed muffins for breakfast.  He rarely asks for any baked goods (shocking, I know!), so I was happy to fulfill the request.  These muffins come together quickly so you won't have to wait too long to enjoy the fruits of your early morning breakfast labor.  I prefer to bake them in muffin tins without liners so I can enjoy the crisp texture that is lost when the muffin liners are used.  The glaze is optional, but my husband and I agreed that it added and enhanced the flavor of these little delights.
    LEMON POPPY SEED MUFFINS
    Adapted slightly from Brown Eyed Baker

    INGREDIENTS - MUFFINS
    2/3 cup sugar
    Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup sour cream
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    2 tablespoons poppy seeds

    INGREDIENTS - GLAZE
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    1-2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.

    2. In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lemon strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough - a few lumps are better than over mixing the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds. Divide the batter evenly among the muffins cups.

    3. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

    4. While the muffins are still warm, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl to make the glaze.  Drizzle a small amount of the glaze over each muffin.  Let the glaze set before serving.  Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

    Saturday, March 30, 2013

    Fudgy Brownie Cookies

    I love fudgy brownies.  I love cookies.  I love fudgy brownie cookies!  I was lucky enough to find this excellent fudgy brownie cookie recipe that can satisfy a fudgy brownie craving in a pinch.  These cookies are rich, sweet, and packed with gooey chocolate.  They taste amazing warm with a little bit of vanilla ice cream.  I like to take a cookie, zap it in the microwave for about 10 seconds, and then top it with a big spoonful of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.  Perfection!
    FUDGY BROWNIE COOKIES
    Adapted very slightly from Taste of Home

    INGREDIENTS 
    2 2/3 cups (16 ounces) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking chips 
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed 
    4 eggs 
    1 1/2 cups sugar 
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract  
    2 teaspoons instant espresso powder 
    2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
    1/4 teaspoon salt 
    1 package (11.5 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks

    DIRECTIONS
    1. In a large saucepan, melt chocolate chips and butter over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat; cool slightly.

    2. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and espresso powder until blended. Whisk into chocolate mixture.

    3. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt; add to chocolate mixture, mixing well. Fold in chocolate chunks. Chill batter in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    4. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are just set. Cool on pans for 1-2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    Shortbread Cookies

    I have been eying this recipe for years.  I have watched Ina Garten make these cookies on the Food Network numerous times, and I have looked at the recipe on the Food Network website on more than one occasion.  I don't know what held me back from giving them a try.  I made some sub-par shortbread many years ago, and I guess I just did not want another disappointment.  Well no need to fear - these turned out great!  I left some of the cookies plain and dipped some of the cookies in chocolate.  The only change I made to the recipe was to use a round cookie cutter because I did not have a finger-shaped cutter.  Overall, these cookies were all wonderful and I will definitely use this recipe again.

    SHORTBREAD COOKIES
    From Ina Garten

    INGREDIENTS
    3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

    DIRECTIONS
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
     
    2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
     
    3. Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
     
    4. When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
     
    5. Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

    French Silk Pie

    I am in the midst of a wonderful four-day weekend, thanks to a Friday off and the President's Day holiday.  I did all of my major errands on Friday and Saturday, so today I decided it was time to bake.  Of course I couldn't decide what I wanted to make so I asked my husband if he had any ideas.  My husband said he would like a pie.  Then he said he would like a chocolate pie.  We discussed different types of chocolate pies, settling on the light and airy French silk.  When looking through recipes, it appeared that many recipes for French silk pie contain raw eggs.  Yes, I sample raw cookie dough and cake batters when I'm baking, but for some reason the idea of eating a pie with three raw eggs in it bothers me.  Luckily, this recipe does not contain raw eggs.  Oh, and this pie turned out to be delicious.  It was light and airy in texture with a rich chocolatey taste.  My husband declared the pie a success, and I can almost guarantee that I will catch him eating pie for breakfast tomorrow morning.



    FRENCH SILK PIE
    Adapted from Taste of Home

    INGREDIENTS 
    1 baked 9-inch pie pastry
    1 cup sugar 
    3 eggs 
    3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted 
    1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
    1/2 cup butter, softened
    Pinch of salt
    1 cup heavy whipping cream 
    1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar 
    Whipped cream and chocolate curls, optional

    DIRECTIONS
    1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and eggs until well blended. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 160° and coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the heat. Stir in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Cool to lukewarm (90°), stirring occasionally.  

    2. In a small bowl, cream butter and salt until light and fluffy. Add cooled chocolate mixture; beat on high speed for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  

    3. In another large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners' sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture.  

    4. Pour filling into crust. Chill for at least 6 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

    Buche de Noel

    I had never made a Buche de Noel, nor eaten one, before this little adventure.  Several factors went into my need to make this delicious dessert, and I am going to share them with you.  First, I have a jelly roll cake pan, yet I had never made a rolled cake.  I really wanted to give it a try.  Second, a local gourmet grocery store was advertising and selling a Buche de Noel for $22.99 (on sale).  Surely I could make one that was just as tasty for less than that.  And finally, I was bringing dessert for our family Christmas dinner and I wanted something that was both festive and a show stopper.  This cake turned out to be fantastic and both kids and adults enjoyed it.  I don't know if there is a traditional flavor combination, but I went with a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate frosting.  It was a labor-intensive process, but it was definitely worth the effort.
    The long process started by separating the eggs.
    Whip the egg whites and add sugar.
    Beat until stiff peaks form.
    Set aside and whip the egg yolks, vanilla, and additional sugar.
    Stir together the dry ingredients.
    Add to the yolk mixture with the water.
    Add the chocolate mixture to the egg whites.
    Fold until completely incorporated.
    Pour batter into prepared pan and bake.
    Make sure your towel is ready.
    Turn the warm cake out onto the towel.
    Roll it up.
    When the cake is completely cool, unroll it.
    Spread with mousse, roll it back up, and refrigerate.
    After a few hours in the refrigerator, cut off a small piece on the diagonal to make a branch.
    Frost the cake.
    Use a fork to make a pretty tree bark-like pattern.
    Decorate the cake as desired.
    Admire the beauty.
    Enjoy!
    BUCHE DE NOEL
    Adapted from Hershey's Kitchens

    INGREDIENTS - MOUSSE
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
    1/2 cup milk
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup cold heavy whipping cream

    INGREDIENTS - CAKE
    1/4 cup powdered sugar
    4  eggs, separated
    1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar , divided
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup water
    Additional powdered sugar

    INGREDIENTS - FROSTING
    3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
    2 tablespoons light corn syrup
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1/3 cup milk

    DIRECTIONS
    1.  For the mousse - Stir together sugar and gelatin in small saucepan; stir in milk. Let stand 2 minutes to soften gelatin. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture just begins to boil. Remove from heat. Immediately add chocolate chips; stir until melted. Stir in vanilla; cool to room temperature. Beat whipping cream in small bowl until stiff. Gradually add chocolate mixture, folding gently just until blended. Cover; refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight.

    2. For the cake - Heat oven to 375°F. Line 15-1/2x10-1/2x1-inch jelly-roll pan with foil; generously grease foil. (I used Reynolds pan-lining paper). Sprinkle linen or thin cotton towel with 1/4 cup powdered sugar.

    3. Beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form; gradually add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat egg yolks and vanilla in medium bowl on medium speed of mixer 3 minutes. Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar; continue beating 2 additional minutes.

    4. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to egg yolk mixture alternately with water, beating on low speed just until batter is smooth. Gradually fold chocolate mixture into beaten egg whites until well blended. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

    5. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Immediately loosen cake from edges of pan; invert onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off foil. Immediately roll cake and towel together starting from narrow end; place on wire rack to cool completely.

    6. Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Gently stir filling until of spreading consistency. Spread cake with filling; reroll cake. Refrigerate several hours.

    7. For the frosting - Combine powdered sugar and cocoa. Beat butter, 1/2 cup cocoa mixture, corn syrup and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. Add remaining cocoa mixture alternately with milk, beating until smooth and of spreading consistency.

    8. Remove cake from refrigerator and cut a small piece of the roll on the diagonal to use as a branch. Place the small piece of cake about 1/3 of the way down the cake roll and use frosting to help it stick to the cake. Cover the entire cake roll and ends with frosting. Use a fork to make decorative lines in the cake to mimic the pattern of a log. Decorate as desired.

    This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday.