December 6, 2012

Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

Not that I need another reason, but the holiday season provides a great opportunity to bake up tasty bits of cheer. This recipe is not one of mine, but a fabulous concoction from Liz Prueitt of Tartine and I am so happy to have found it. I have never been a big fan of gingerbread, but if I’d known from the start it can taste so spicy, so warm, and just plain delicious, I would have been making these long ago.

Don’t be discouraged by the list of ingredients, each and every one of them plays an integral part in the dynamic flavor of the dough. Also, don’t let the lack of instant gratification put you off of making these, as the dough does need to rest overnight before baking. If you like soft gingerbread, apply the glaze while the cookies are still warm from the oven. If you prefer a crisp gingerbread, leave off the glaze. Either way, your tastebuds and anyone you share these with will thank you.

Gingerbread Cookies
3-3/4 C all-purpose flour
4 tsp ground ginger
1 T cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ground cloves
1-1/4 tsp fine black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 C + 2 T sugar
1 large egg
1/2 C blackstrap or other dark molasses
2 T light corn syrup

1 C confectioners sugar
2 T water

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Turn mixer to low speed, slowly add the sugar, and then mix on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Add the egg and mix well, then add the molasses and corn syrup, beating until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and add the flour mixture, then beat on low speed until the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Securely cover the dough with the wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a floured work surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/3-inch thick. Before you roll out the dough, it may be easier to set aside half of the dough in the refrigerator. (I securely wrapped half of the dough and froze for baking later in December.) You can cut rectangles, use cookie cutters, cookie stamps, or patterned rolling pins for your cookies.

Once shaped, place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about one inch apart. The dough can be gathered and rolled again until all of the dough has been used up.

Bake until lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the centers. Baking can take anywhere from 7-15 minutes, depending on the size of cookies. I recommend checking after 8 minutes of baking, especially if using a convection oven. Once done, allow the cookies to cool on the pans for about 5 minutes then move to a wire rack for complete cooling and glazing.

If using the glaze, you want to apply it while the cookies are still warm. To prepare the glaze, whisk confectioners sugar and water together until smooth. Evenly brush a light coat of glaze on the top of each cookie.

Will make about 48 cutout cookies, more or less depending on size.

August 23, 2012

Breakfast Strata

Since it’s been so hot this summer, I thought that a nice indoor brunch with friends would be a welcome change of pace. The menu I selected was ideal for an early day meal because just about everything was prepared the evening before. All that needed to be done in the morning was to make mini quiche filling and then pop all of the dishes in the oven. It took a little bit of coordination to bake the various goodies because the temperature needed was not the same for everything. All worked out well and the table was surrounded with great friends, laughs, and food.

I made a variety of dishes to suit everyone’s tastes and to make sure no one went hungry. Plates were loaded up with this breakfast strata, hashbrown casserole, mini quiche, cinnamon rolls, and fresh sliced strawberries. A strata is a great way to feed many people with little work involved. Another positive is that you can get creative by adding the goodness of green chilis, jalepenos, mushrooms, bacon, or whatever else you prefer.

Breakfast Strata
1 lb sausage, cooked and drained of oil
7-8 slices of white bread, torn or cubed into small pieces
3 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C onion, diced
8 eggs
1-1/3 C water
5 oz milk
1 pkg Mccormick country gravy mix

Lightly spray a 9-inch x 13-inch casserole dish.

Lay the bread pieces in the bottom of the prepared dish. Crumble the cooled sausage over the bread and then evenly sprinkle the onions and shredded cheese on top.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, water, milk, and gravy mix. Gently pour the egg mixture evenly throughout the casserole dish.

Cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350ºF and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes, then serve.

Serves 6-8

August 14, 2012

Oatmeal and Peanut Butter Cookies Revamped

I recently made two normally very basic cookie recipes, and kicked them into high gear by adding even more sweet goodness into them. Both of the revamped results were even better than I could have imagined. The array of flavors made each bite unique, while never overpowering the base of the cookie.

My oatmeal cookie is a favorite to many people and when I started making them, I only wanted oats filling it up. My sister, who loves these and came up with the name, has always insisted on nuts. While she was out here for a visit, I made her a batch before she headed back home. Half the batch was just oats and the other half I added chocolate chips, coconut, and pecans.

O-O-Oatmeal Cookies
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 C old-fashioned rolled oats (use 3 C if omitting all other mix-ins)
1/2 C chocolate chips
1/2 C sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 C pecans or walnuts, chopped

Heat oven to 350º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine.

Add the flour mixture and mix just until dough has formed. Add oats and additional mix-ins and mix just until incorporated.

Place spoonfuls of batter about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet and slightly flatten.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and set in the middle. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until all of the dough has been used, allowing cookie sheets to cool before placing the next batch on sheets to bake.

makes 36 3-inch round cookies

If you know me, you’ve probably received baked goods as a gift, a thank you, or just because. As much as I like peanut butter, I’ve never been a huge fan of peanut butter cookies and so didn’t have a recipe on hand. This is the first time using one from Smitten Kitchen and they really hit the spot. They baked up perfectly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I did make one little change by using butterscotch chips instead of peanut butter ones. The mix-ins made a huge impact, providing an additional hint of sweet from the chocolate and a tang from the butterscotch chips.

Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies
1-1/4 C all-purpose flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C peanut butter
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 T milk
1 t vanilla
1/2 C chocolate chips
1/2 C butterscotch chips
1 T sugar, for rolling the cookies in

Heat the oven to 350ºF. Set aside 2 baking sheets.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, blend together the butter and peanut butter. Add both of the sugars and beat until fluffy. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Gently mix in the chocolate and butterscotch chips.

Form the cookie dough into small balls and roll in the sugar. Place on baking sheets, about 2 inches apart and slightly flatten with the tines of a fork or the back of a spatula. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until all of the dough has been used, allowing cookie sheets to cool before placing the next batch on sheets to bake.

Makes 34 3-inch round cookies that I highly recommend enjoying with a cold glass of milk!

August 10, 2012

Flaky Pineapple Squares

My mom recently leant me a cookbook that she and some ladies put together in 1979. I was after one particular recipe, but as I flipped through the typewritten pages, I stumbled across a recipe that I had forgotten all about. As soon as I saw the words flaky pineapple squares with my mom’s name next to it, my mouth started to water. How could I have forgotten about these bars?! Slightly sweetened pineapple sandwiched between a flaky crust that gets a subtle nutty taste from all of the butter baked in. I had to make these and I had the perfect opportunity to share them because I really could and would have eaten them all. By myself. Happily.

Since making these bars was unscheduled, I only made a half batch. I ended up putting myself in a bind with time, but it all worked out and I was actually 15 minutes early with all of my baked goods. Whew! Had I been thinking, I would have rolled out the entire piece of dough and then folded it in half to complete the assembly.

Flaky Pineapple Squares
4 C all-purpose flour
1 lb unsalted butter
1 C sour cream
1 t vanilla
2 - 20oz cans crushed pineapple, drained
1 C sugar
3 T corn starch
confectioners sugar, for dusting

Using a food processor, pastry blender, or two knives, cut the butter into the flour. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until combined and dough forms. (I did it quickly by hand so as to not allow the butter to be warmed by me) Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

In a large saucepan, cook the pineapple, sugar, and corn starch over medium heat. Gently stir the mixture until it thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Once ready to assemble the bars, heat the oven to 325º F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough and place it on an ungreased jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Gently spread the pineapple filling evenly over the dough almost up to the edges. Roll out the remaining half of dough and gently lay on top of the pineapple.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut into desired sizes and dust with confectioners sugar. Can yield up to 70 bite size pieces.

August 7, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

My gf B, that I have known for 14 years, is getting married later this year. (hooray!) Among the preparations for her bridal shower, making the dessert was one of my tasks. Since she means so much to me, I couldn’t refuse to make her favorite cupcake for one of her many special occasions this year. I can’t think of a better reason to finally succumb to the pressure of never making red velvet before.

I used my chocolate cake recipe as a jumping off point, and after some trial and error came up with a light and fluffy red velvet cupcake that was my compromise to the overly dyed versions out there. It is a luxuriously deep, rich red that while not photogenic, looks and tastes great. I paired it with my cream cheese frosting that mirrors the creamiest of cheesecakes. Yeah, I licked the spatula and everything else it was on clean.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 C all-purpose flour
heaping 3/4 C sugar
2 T cocoa powder*
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 C buttermilk
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 egg
1 t vinegar
1/2 t vanilla
0.5 oz red gel good color (I use Wilton’s no-taste red gel)

Heat oven to 350º F. Line one standard 12-cup muffin pan with liners.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg, vinegar, vanilla, and red food color.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. You can mix the batter by hand or with a mixer, just be mindful not to overmix. Fill the cupcake liners 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Recipe can be doubled.

*I use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa, which is a blend of natural and Dutch-processed cocoas and possibly why the color turns out so deep. If you make these with regular cocoa, please let me know how the color turns out!

Cream Cheese Frosting
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature       
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature   
1 C confectioners sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla

Using a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the butter and beat until well combined. Add the confectioners sugar in two additions, beating well after each one. Add in the vanilla and mix until well combined. If the consistency is a little soft for your decorating needs, pop it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Decorate away!

August 3, 2012

Classic Spritz Cookies

I love cookies. A lot. Cookies, potato chips, and donuts are huge weaknesses of mine. We recently had a party and I felt it was the perfect opportunity to make a big batch of spritz cookies and try out some things I’d seen around the interwebs. I amended my go-to recipe but had mixed feelings about the results, though thankfully they were almost as tasty.

The dough was stickier and so not great for using with a cookie press and I was surprised at how much the dough spread while baking. For piping the dough, which was one of the things I wanted to try, it worked well, but required a bit of strength to push it through the 1M decorator tip. I will continue to use the best recipe I've tried as it has never failed me with the cookie press. I also feel it’ll take the same amount of upper body strength to pipe the dough.

The other thing that I wanted to try out was making my own colored sugar for decorating. I mixed Wilton icing color with a T of sugar in a plastic bag. Once I felt that all of the sugar was sufficiently coated, I placed in on a piece of aluminum foil to allow it to dry. Now I have plenty of orange and hot pink sugar without having to spend money on jars that would take me too long to get through.

Spritz Cookies (from Joy of Baking)
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 t vanilla
2-1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt

Heat oven to 350º F. Set aside two cookie sheets.

Using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. On low speed, add the flour and salt and mix just until incorporated and dough has come together.

Place dough in cookie press or pastry bag fitted with desired tip. Form cookies onto baking sheets spaced about one inch apart. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool on pans for a few minutes. Remove cookies from pans and place on wire racks to cool completely. Repeat until all dough has been used, allowing the cookie sheets to cool completely between batches.

makes 3-4 dozen, depending on size

July 31, 2012

Anything Goes Broccoli Salad

I don’t know why, but I can still remember the first time that I had broccoli salad. I think because it was a new concept from the typical summer salads like potato and pasta. Or maybe because it had bacon in it. Whatever the reason, I enjoy this salad and love the way it has evolved over the years. You can add as many ingredients as you want or leave out items that you don’t care for. I don’t usually like raisins, but in this salad, they just work. Though, if I’d thought of it sooner, I would have bought dates instead.

Feel free to amend this recipe to suit your tastes and style. Work with what’s listed in the recipe or try out other goodies like green grapes, celery, cauliflower, or pine nuts. I made it with and without red onions and prefer to leave them out, but you don't have to.

1 lb broccoli, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 C sunflower seeds
1/2 C raisins, purple or golden
1/2 C cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed
1 C mayonnaise
2 T white vinegar
2 T sugar
1/8 t black pepper

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the broccoli, red onion, bacon crumbles, sunflower seeds, raisins, and cheddar cheese.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, white vinegar, sugar, and black pepper. Pour dressing over broccoli mixture and stir to coat all ingredients with dressing.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving but best if made one day ahead.

July 27, 2012

Homemade Crackers

It’s the 27th of the month and that means unveiling July’s challenge from The Daring Bakers! Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged us to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love. The only requirements this month were that we needed to make two crackers using two different methods. That meant we could hand roll our dough, run it through pasta rollers, or the icebox method.

Since I don’t have pasta rollers, the decision of methods was made for me. That left me with the fun task of choosing what crackers I would be making. Growing up, we always had goldfish crackers on hand and seeing the numerous recipes out there, again made my life easier. For my second choice I wanted to make a cracker that was packed with the savory flavors of rosemary and Parmesan.

This has been a hectic month for the man and me and so I went the route of selecting recipes from the interwebs. I was not let down by either of the sources and wound up with two very tasty and very different crackers.

Goodlife Eats is where I found my icebox cracker recipe. It happened that the particular recipe was a guest post from Carrie of La Pomme de Portland. Not only was her post charming to read, the recipe was divine. Even though I used dried rosemary and shredded mozzarella, the smell coming from the oven had me anxiously awaiting the results.

The goldfish crackers were also made using a food processor and then hand rolled and cut out. The recipe came from the sweet site, Cupcake Project. Since there are no little ones running around, I decided to make large fish adjusting a whale cookie cutter that we’d picked up from Sur La Table. If I make these guys again, I will use a sharp cheddar and maybe increase the amount, as they were just a teensy bit bland.

I tend to have a lot of fresh baked goods on hand and not wanting anything to go to waste, I only made half batches of the two crackers. Neither were adversely affected by the reduction and everything had time to be eaten while they remained fresh and crisp.

July 23, 2012

Salted Caramel Bondies

One of my dearest friends LOVES these bars. She is not a huge fan of sweets, but these have a special place in her heart. It was recently her birthday and of course these were one her of gifts.

This recipe was inspired years ago after I had my first salted caramel hot chocolate from Starbucks. I was so confused by the combination that at first I wasn’t sure I even liked it. After my tastebuds had a chance to calm down, I found myself craving the sweet and salty duo. As much as I enjoy a brownie, especially the corner pieces, I don’t feel like blondies get their fair share of representation. Seriously, how can you not like a rich, cakelike version of a chocolate chip cookie?

Salted Caramel Blondies
1/2 C unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 C light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1-1/2 t vanilla
1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
3/4 C caramel bits, divided
3/4 C semisweet chocolate chips
coarse salt, for sprinkling

Heat oven to 350º F. Spray and line a 9-inch x 9-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two opposing sides.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, set aside to cool.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl by hand, stir together melted butter and brown sugar until well combined. Add in eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips and 1/2 the caramel bits. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining caramel bits and coarse salt.

Bake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack, and let cool completely. Using parchment overhang, lift blondie from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into desired sizes and enjoy!

July 20, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Years ago my inspiration for this recipe was those who love chocolate, no matter what time of day. I wanted an alternative to the same ol' muffin that could be enjoyed with your morning beverage and still be packed with good things. These are light, ultra moist, chocolatey muffins that you would never believe have about 2 cups of shredded zucchini in the batter.

I love the earthy smell that comes from the zucchini as it is grated and the cinnamon really comes through in the final product. I have been using Vietnamese cinnamon for several years and love the bold, spicy flavor. If you’re not a fan of cinnamon, you can skip it and no one will be the wiser. Also, be sure you squeeze out all of the water from the zucchini or you’ll end up with waterlogged muffins that will sink in the middle due to not being able to bake thoroughly.

Chocozini Muffins
1-1/2 to 2 C grated zucchini, drained (1 large zucchini)
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C Dutch process cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda           
1/4 t salt                   
3/4 t cinnamon                               
1 C light brown sugar           
4 T unsalted butter, room temperature       
2 large eggs               
1/2 t vanilla               
1/3 C semi-sweet chocolate chips       

Heat the oven to 375º F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with liners.

Wash the zucchini thoroughly under running water with a vegetable scrub brush. Grate the zucchini, squeeze all excess water from it, and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

Using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips.

Fill the liners 3/4 full with batter and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

July 17, 2012

Mini Meatloaves

I don’t enjoy cooking like I enjoy baking, but I push myself because the man and I love food and it’s a nice feeling to provide a tasty meal for us. One reason I don’t is that things have a tendency to go wrong. Not so horribly wrong that the food is inedible, but enough that I suffer moments of panic and uncertainty at the fate of our dinner.

When I decided that I wanted to make meatloaf for us I knew I would be ok. I have made a couple in the past, but they didn’t taste all that great, so back to the drawing board I went. I knew what flavors I wanted in the meatloaf and working with ingredients that I had on hand, came up with 6 tasty mini meatloaves that we will definitely have again. The meatloaves were not super moist, probably because my ground beef was very lean. For sides we enjoyed mashed potatoes and some thrown together glazed carrots. Certainly a dinner I could feel good about!

Mini Meatloaf
1-1/2 lb ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C bread crumbs
2 T minced onion
1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
1/2 C chili sauce
1/4 C brown sugar
1-1/2 T yellow mustard

Heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly spray a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine together the ground beef, egg, cheese, bread crumbs, minced onion, salt, and pepper. Take small handfuls of the meat mixture and form into six small loaves. Place the meatloaves in the prepared dish.

In the same mixing bowl, stir together the chili sauce, brown sugar, and mustard. Spread the sauce evenly over top of all the meatloaves.

Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 160ºF. Enjoy with additional comfort foods, and any leftovers can be turned into meatloaf sandwiches!

July 13, 2012

Indoor S'mores

When I knew I was going to be making homemade marshmallows, I looked into what more I could do with the soft, fluffy bites of goodness. That kind of thinking led me straight to s’mores. I found two recipes that were almost identical, one for s’mores bars and one for s'mores cookies. I meshed the recipes together, changed a couple of items, and then split the dough so that I could make both treats.

I have a couple of notes for anyone that wants to make either of these goodies. For the cookies, use only dehydrated mini marshmallows, such as Jet-Puffed Mallow Bits because they can handle being baked. Homemade marshmallows are a sugar syrup whipped with gelatin, and were reduced back to that causing the dough to spread into a runny caramelized mess. Most of the cookies were salvageable and still quite tasty, but the marshmallows were lost. For the bars, there was no issue, even though they were in the oven for about the same amount of time.

Overall, the dough is a great base for either s’mores bars or s’mores cookies, depending on your preference. The crushed graham crackers in the dough smelled wonderful while the goods baked. The man and I enjoyed the bars more as they so closely resembled over-the-campfire s’mores. Even the next day the marshmallow was gooey and sticky and the chocolate was just slightly softened, both held perfectly in between the graham cracker baked crust.

S’mores Bars or S'mores Cookies
1-1/3 C all-purpose flour

1 pack (8 full rectangles) graham crackers, crushed (about 3/4 C graham cracker crumbs)

1 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t salt

1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 C sugar

1/4 C brown sugar

1 egg

1 t vanilla

for bars
5 Hershey’s milk chocolate candy bars (1.55 oz)
3 C mini marshmallows (homemade or store bought)

for cookies
1 C chocolate chips

1 C Jet-Puffed Mallow Bits

Heat oven to 350º F. For bars, lightly spray an 8-inch by 8-inch glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. For cookies, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Finely crumble the graham crackers by using either a food processor or by placing them in a bag and gently smashing. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the graham crumbs, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.

Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together. For cookies, gently fold in the chocolate chips and mallow bits. Place spoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets and slightly flatten. Bake for 10-11 minutes, until lightly browned and set in the middle. Repeat until all dough has been used, making about 20, 3-inch cookies.

For bars, put half of the dough into the prepared baking dish and gently pat it down. Bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven. Place the chocolate bars on top of the crust so that it is covered as evenly as possible. Place the marshmallows on top, again covering it as evenly as possible. Take the remaining dough and crumble it over top of the marshmallows. Return to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the top has lightly browned. Let cool completely before cutting and enjoying!

July 9, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

I had big plans of sharing this tasty recipe for homemade marshmallows in time for fourth of July s’mores, but we were part of those affected by the crazy storm that hit the mid-Atlantic. Better late than never, as there are still plenty of cookout days ahead!

If it is my first time making something, I will scour the interwebs to see how much variance there is between recipes so that I can venture into my project armed with knowledge. Also, depending on what I am making, I will also see what more I can do with it so that I get the most out of the goodness.

In addition to making vanilla marshmallows, I really wanted to make strawberry ones as well. After my research, I took the risk that I could just add strawberry (or any flavor) jelly to the vanilla marshmallow. It was a success and now you know that you can flavor marshmallow with just a little bit of fruit jelly. Once it was ready, I poured about half of the marshmallow mixture into one prepared dish to leave as vanilla. I added jelly to the remainder, whipped it to incorporate, and poured it into another prepared dish. Since I used two dishes, my marshmallows were thinner, about 3/4-inch thick, and I got a lot of them. Being thinner made it super simple to use cookie cutters to cut shapes out.

The vanilla marshmallows were good, and like everyone else out there says, nothing like store bought. They have a fresher taste and are more creamy than sticky inside. Even though I didn’t think they were all that special, the overall act of making them and the rustic look they have adds so much to their charm. The strawberry ones to me were out of this world, but the vanilla ones were favored by a couple of others that tried them.

Making the marshmallow mixture wasn’t difficult and it wasn’t near as sticky as I had prepared myself for. I don’t have a candy thermometer, just a regular handheld one and it worked just fine. Clean up of any utensils, pans, and dishes was a breeze by letting sticky items soak in warm water for just a little bit.

Strawberry Marshmallows
6 T confectioners sugar
3 T corn starch
1 C cold water, divided
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 C sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1/4 t salt
1 T vanilla
1/3 C strawberry jelly, omit if you want plain vanilla

Lightly coat a 9-inch x 13-inch glass casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the confectioners sugar and corn starch and then sift into sprayed dish, covering the bottom and sides.

Empty the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer and then pour 1/2 C cold water onto the gelatin. Mix gently and then set aside for gelatin to soften, about 15 minutes.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1/2 C of water. Gently stir together the ingredients and then allow to come to a boil undisturbed. Any sugar that is stuck to the side of the pan can be brushed away with additional water with a pastry brush so that none of the sugar crystallizes. Let the syrup reach 240º F and then remove from heat.

With the stand mixer on low, slowly pour the syrup into the bowl. Get as much syrup out without scraping the pan clean. Gradually increase the speed of the stand mixer until it is on high and let it whip the mixture until it has become thick and fluffy, about 10 minutes.

Warm the strawberry jelly in the microwave for about 30 seconds to thin it. Add the vanilla and jelly to the marshmallow and whip until incorporated.

Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan and smooth top as much as possible. Sift more of the confectioners sugar mixture over top of the marshmallow to cover. Let sit uncovered for at least 6 hours or overnight.

When ready to remove the marshmallow, dust a cutting surface with more confectioners sugar mixture. Use a knife to gently separate the sides of the marshmallow from the dish if it is sticking and then place onto prepared surface. You can then cut squares with a knife or shapes with cookie cutters. Toss the cut marshmallows in the remaining confectioners sugar mixture and then shake off any excess.

July 5, 2012

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are wonderful in their simplicity, but more often than not, it doesn’t end there. Just like with cakes and cupcakes, it is the finishing touches that require more time. I’ve only ever used royal icing for my sugar cookies, and so this time around I decided to try glace icing.

I liked the consistency of the icing and it was very easy to apply to the cookies. At first I thought it was too liquid, but when I put it on the cookie, it stayed until I spread it to cover more area. I found it wasn’t necessary to pipe an outline and then flood the center making it less time consuming which is always a plus. Once it had dried, I don't think I would be able to taste a difference when compared to royal icing and so I now have another option for icing cookies!

Sugar Cookies
2 C all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
(1/2 t baking powder, omit if cutting in shapes and you don't want cookies to puff up at all)
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 C  sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla or almond

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until the dough is smooth.

Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.

Heat oven to 350º F.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll the chilled dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Use desired cookie cutters to cut the cookies and place on baking sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges have lightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy right away or decorate!

Makes about 20, 4-inch cookies

For chocolate sugar cookie dough, add by hand, 2 T cocoa powder. I only made half the batch of dough chocolate, so only used 1 T cocoa powder.

Glace Icing
1 C confectioners sugar
2 T milk
1 T light corn syrup
1 t vanilla or almond
coloring, if using

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk gently, until well combined and smooth. Apply as needed for decorating. Will make enough icing for the above cookie recipe.