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Friday, December 19, 2014

Chocolate dipped toasted coconut shortbread cookies with salt

Remember those Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies I made recently?  The ones that B chose as one of his favorites when I forced him to taste test different kinds of shortbread cookies for my online cookie swap?  I decided that as delicious as they are, chocolate could maybe possible likely make them even better.  And a sprinkling of sea salt might just take them over the top.


So I defrosted that second log in the freezer that was just waiting to fill the void when I needed some last minute cookies, baked them up, and then dipped them in some semisweet chocolate and sprinkled them with sea salt.  Because really, when don't chocolate and sea salt make everything better?!


Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from this original recipe, also found on the blog here

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 - 1 cup toasted coconut

1 bag of semisweet chocolate chips, or chocolate of your choice
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

Toast the coconut on a baking sheet in an oven that has been preheated to 350F.
Watch the coconut closely as it tends to burn quite easily.
Stir often.
Mine took about 8 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow it to cool.
Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speech until fluffy.
Add milk and vanilla.
Beat to combine.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour and salt.
Continue beating until the dough forms.
Add the toasted coconut, crushing it slightly between your fingers as you add it.
Mix with a spatula to combine.

Divide the dough into 2 portions.
Shape each piece into a log.
Wrap logs in plastic wrap.
Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Then, move to the fridge for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Using a sharp knife, cut each log into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick.
Place cookies onto a ungreased cookie sheet (I used a parchment lined cookie sheet).
Bake until edges are just starting to turn brown, about 12 minutes (mine took about 10 minutes).

Remove from the oven.
Place cookies on a wire rack to cool.

Once cookies are cool, melt half of the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments until melted and smooth.
Place a sheet of wax paper on the counter or a baking sheet.
Dip cookies half way into chocolate.
Shake off excess chocolate.
Place cookie on wax paper.
Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on the chocolate while it's still wet.

Repeat with remaining cookies.

Melt more chocolate as needed.

Once all cookies are done and the chocolate has hardened, place cookies in an airtight container.
Cookies will last at least 3 days in the container (if they'll even last that long!!).

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Toasted coconut shortbread cookies

When I made the cookies for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I started off with four different flavors, and then employed B to do a taste test.  One of his two favorites were these toasted coconut shortbread cookies (his other favorite will make an appearance on the blog soon).  They're jam-packed with toasted coconut flavor and the buttery crispiness of a shortbread cookie.  They're absolutely delicious and insanely easy to make.  And like these - where I subbed the toasted coconut for the original chopped dried cranberries - you can add almost any kind of dried fruit (spoiler alert, I'll be making two more varieties of these for my doormen this holiday season), or even nonpareils like I did with these last month...


The nice thing about these is that you can also keep the logs in the freezer for last minute cookie baking, and then just thaw them in the fridge a little longer before slicing (take it from my experience -- if they're in the freezer for a long time, they're too hard to slice if you have to use your entire body weight on the knife and you don't even make a dent....).


Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from this original recipe, also found on the blog here

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 - 1 cup toasted coconut

Directions:

Toast the coconut on a baking sheet in an oven that has been preheated to 350F.
Watch the coconut closely as it tends to burn quite easily.
Stir often.
Mine took about 8 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow it to cool.
Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speech until fluffy.
Add milk and vanilla.
Beat to combine.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour and salt.
Continue beating until the dough forms.
Add the toasted coconut, crushing it slightly between your fingers as you add it.
Mix with a spatula to combine.

Divide the dough into 2 portions.
Shape each piece into a log.
Wrap logs in plastic wrap.
Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Then, move to the fridge for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Using a sharp knife, cut each log into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick.
Place cookies onto a ungreased cookie sheet (I used a parchment lined cookie sheet).
Bake until edges are just starting to turn brown, about 12 minutes (mine took about 10 minutes).

Remove from the oven.
Place cookies on a wire rack to cool.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cranberry shortbread cookies -- The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

This fall, I signed up for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  It's really a fantastical event -- a cookie swap of epic proportions, so to speak.  The premise is this: sign up.  Get 3 matches emailed to you.  Bake 3 dozen cookies.  Mail 1 dozen cookies to each match.  Receive 1 dozen cookies from 3 bloggers who received your name as their match.  Blog about your cookies. (Check out the logo on the top right side of my blog.)



And the best part (the other best part, the best part besides receiving 3 dozen cookies mailed.  to.  your.  door!)?  Your $4 admission fee goes to Cookies for Kids' Cancer -- which really helps combine two of my passions: baking and helping kids (I am a pediatric nurse practitioner, after all!).

So here's the thing....you have to mail your cookies.  I was so afraid of my cookies breaking that I went out and bought cute tins to put them in.  Then, I sorta padded the tins -- in the bottom at least.  Then, I layered my cookies in the tin, topped them with a little more padding, and then packaged them up.  I went to the post office and mailed the cookies to my matches, and then prayed that they survived their journeys to Utah and upstate New York.  Fingers were crossed!!  (As a side note, as of the time I wrote this blog post, I heard from two of the cookie recipients that they received -- and loved -- their cookies....and that they arrived intact!!)


Now that you know about this fantastic event and what it entails, I'm sure you're wondering what kind of cookies I baked!  The answer is....a variety.  Well, sorta. You know me -- I never make things easy for myself!  So I made a variety of shortbread cookies and then made my poor boyfriend taste test the four flavors to decide what kind to mail to my matches.  Sometimes I'm just the meanest girlfriend ever, making him taste four different kinds of cookies.  I mean, seriously!!

In the end, I went with my original flavor choice, dried cranberries, because cranberries are oh-so-holiday festive.



Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 - 1 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions:

Chop the cranberries by hand or in a food processor into smaller pieces.
Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speech until fluffy.
Add milk and vanilla.
Beat to combine.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour and salt.
Continue beating until the dough forms.
Add the chopped cranberries.
Mix with a spatula to combine.

Divide the dough into 2 portions.
Shape each piece into a log.
Wrap logs in plastic wrap.
Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Then, move to the fridge for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Using a sharp knife, cut each log into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick.
Place cookies onto a ungreased cookie sheet (I used a parchment lined cookie sheet).
Bake until edges are just starting to turn brown, about 12 minutes (mine took about 10 minutes).

Remove from the oven.
Place cookies on a wire rack to cool.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Samoa Rice Krispie treats

It's fairly common for me to have all the ingredients on hand for a new recipe.  Chocolate chips, flour, butter, sugar, salt...those usually grace my fridge and cabinets day in and day out.  Other ingredients are less common, but still make a regular appearance: dried fruits, marshmallows, coconut, Rice Krispies.  But it's not all that common that I have homemade caramel sauce just chilling in my fridge.  So when I came across this recipe earlier today, I knew it was fate that I make them tonight!


I made a few modifications -- first, I toasted the coconut.  Samoas are ubiquitous with toasted coconut in my book.  Then, I also added some of the toasted coconut to the Rice Krispie treats, because I thought that would elevate the coconuttiness of the Samoa Rice Krispie Treat (and they were delicious and I may, or may not, have eaten at least 3 4 of them while I was prepping the rest of the stuff for the Samoa treats)!  I actually didn't have as many Rice Krispies as I thought I had, so I halved the recipe and used a 9x9 inch pan, so my Rice Krispie Treats are a little thinner than I had hoped, but they're still delicious!





Samoa Rice Krispie Treats
Based on (but adapted a lot by me) this recipe (makes a 9 x 13 inch pan)

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
40 large marshmallows, about 1 bag
6 cups Rice Krispies
1 1/2 cup PLUS 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes, cooled
3/4 cup caramel sauce, preferable homemade (I used the caramel from the salted caramel apple pie, which I know I still owe you the recipe for, and will link to this as soon as the pie is up!!)
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray.

Toast the coconut.
Place coconut on a foil-lined baking sheet and toast at 350F for a few minutes.
Mix/stir often.
Watch coconut very closely as it burns quickly.
Allow coconut to cool.

Measure out the Rice Krispies and add in 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes.
Toss to mix.

Melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl (be sure to use a bowl a lot bigger than you think you'll need....the marshmallows enlarge....a lot!).
Toss marshmallows in butter to coat.
Microwave marshmallows for about 45 seconds.
Stir the mixture.
Microwave for another 45 seconds or until marshmallows are completely melted and the mixture is well blended.

Add the Rice Krispie-Coconut mixture to the marshmallows and stir well.
Pour into the pan.
Press firmly into the pan (a piece of wax paper lightly sprayed with cooking spray works well).
Allow Rice Krispie Treats to cool.

Once cool, cut into 24 bars (I made mine a little smaller)

Melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, stirring frequently so that they don't burn.
When completely melted, dip the bottom 1/3 of each Rice Krispie Treat into the chocolate (I skipped this part because my treats were a little thin, but look down below for the * and I'll tell you what I ended up doing myself).
Let them dry, upside down, on a piece of wax paper.
Mix together the caramel sauce and coconut in a small bowl.
Place a small spoonful (I used my small scooper, and then flattened it out with a fork) of the coconut-caramel mixture on top of each Rice Krispie Treat.
Drizzle with melted chocolate.
Let the Rice Krispie Treats set.

Try not to eat all of them at once!

* Because my treats were a little thin, I did the following:
I mixed together the caramel and coconut as above, and placed a small spoonful (scoopful) of the mixture on top of each Rice Krispie Treat, and the flattened it with a fork.
Then, I put them on a cooling rack with a piece of wax paper beneath.
I spooned 1-1.5 tsp of the melted chocolate over the caramel-coconut mixture.
I debated -- but ended up not actually -- sprinkling some additional toasted coconut on them, which I might do the next time I make them

Allow them to harden.

Piña colada cupcakes

I'm not generally a complainer. But if I'm going to be honest with you, the past few weeks have been a little rough. The shortest possible way to give you the rundown is this: I started having thumb pain about 5 weeks ago....when it wasn't feeling better, I bought myself a brace.....then, about a week and a half to two weeks ago, I noticed that my thumb was swollen and went to see my colleague at our adult office....I was diagnosed with synovitis and tendonitis, prescribed some meds, was told to keep wearing the brace, and told to get an X-ray if it wasn't getting better... so fast forward to this past Friday, my day off, where I went to the orthopedist, was diagnosed with tendonitis and a ligament injury (that thank g-d does not require surgery), and ended up getting a cortisone shot in my thumb. Before going home to bake these cupcakes. Did I mention that the cortisone shot was unpleasant, at best, and it didn't make my finger feel any better right away? Oh, and the added lidocaine? Numbed up my thumb completely. Yeah, so you might imagine I wasn't in the best condition to actually be baking and decorating 2.5 dozen cupcakes...but they were for our annual party that my friends host on Long Island and I wasn't going to let them down! So I made the cupcakes. Piña Colada cupcakes, to be exact, since the theme of this years party is summer!!



So these cupcakes had been on my "to bake" list for a while.  I wanted to throw a luau this summer just so that I could make them.  The luau didn't happen, but these cupcakes remained high on my list.  So when the theme for our annual fall/winter bash was decided, and it was "summer," I was so excited to have an event to make these cupcakes for!  I have to say that these cupcakes were delicious, partly because they were really well flavored and not too sweet.  But the standout was the coconut cream cheese icing, of which I am currently regretting dumping out the leftovers instead of freezing, because there's a good chance I would've eaten it with a spoon for dessert!


From Glorious Treats

For the cupcakes:

2.5 cups flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola, since that's what I had on hand)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1.5 cups canned crushed pineapple (drained slightly)

For the icing:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cool
8 oz cream cheese (directly from fridge)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
4 cups powdered sugar (I'm pretty sure that, as i'm typing this up, I only used half of the powdered sugar, since I doubled the recipe but only remember using 1 box of powdered sugar....which might explain my previous "not too sweet comment."  But either way, the icing was AMAZING and I'd add the powdered sugar to taste)
1 Tbsp heavy cream, heavy whipping cream, or milk OR 1 Tbsp dark rum

For the garnish:

Maraschino cherries, with stems if you can find them
Toasted coconut
Cocktail umbrellas
Paper straws, cut into thirds
Pineapple wedges, I actually debated using crispy dried pineapple pieces, but opted not last minute

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a 12-cup cupcake tin with cupcake liners (I used cups, which I thought were adorable and very "summery").

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer, until slightly thickened and a light cream color.
On low speed, add in oil and vanilla.
Add the pineapple and sour cream (don't worry if it looks too liquidy....it'll be fine!).
Mix until completely incorporated.

Add the flour mixture.
Blend until just combined and smooth.

Fill each of the cups about 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes for about 22 minutes (mine took 18 minutes, so keep an eye on them towards the end).
Remove cupcakes from the pan and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

While cooling, make the icing.
If using toasted coconut, this is a good time to toast it.  Keep an eye on it as coconut tends to go from toasted to burnt VERY.  QUICKLY.

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and blend until smooth.
Add cream cheese and blend until well combined.
Add the vanilla and coconut extracts.
Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, blending at low speed until combined.  I add the last cup in 1/4 cup increments to make sure it doesn't get too sweet.
Once all sugar is added, increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
Slowly add the heavy cream or rum (I used cream)
Beat again, until fluffy.

Frost the cupcakes.  I used a piping bag with a star tip.
Top cupcakes with the garnishes of your choice.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cherry cranberry bliss bars

I am a firm believer in the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Even it's broken English makes me want to change it from ain't broke to isn't broken, but the saying works so well that even I know not to mess with it.  Which brings me to these Cherry-Cranberry Bliss Bars.  I made the cranberry version a few years ago and they were fantastic.  I mean awesomely, perfectly, utterly fantastic.  So why change them?  They ain't broke.  So why try to fix them?


Truth be told, I didn't have to.  They're soooo good in their original form.  But I thought that maybe if I added some dried cherries, I might change up the flavor a little and get another sweet, slightly tart flavor mixed in.  They didn't disappoint!


Now, I'm going to be totally honest with you.  These are good, too.  Really good.  But they are as good as -- not better than -- than the original.  That doesn't mean that they aren't delicious, but is just saying that the original ones are absolutely delicious, and you don't have to change them if you don't want to.  Either version is delicious!  I personally loved the juice cherry flavor from the dried cherries.

Cherry-Cranberry "Bliss" Bars
Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

For the Blondie Layer:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4-1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/4-1/3 cup dried cherries
6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the Frosting:

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 ounces white baking chocolate, melted, divided
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Prepare the blondie layer:

Melt the butter in the microwave in a medium bowl .
Stir in the brown sugar
Pour into a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
Mix in the eggs and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Gradually add the dry mixture to the butter mixture.

Stir in the cranberries, cherries, and chopped chocolate (I used white chocolate chips since I didn't feel like chopping the chocolate for the blondies).
Spread the blondie batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake).
Cool completely on a wire rack.

Prepare the frosting:

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until well-blended.
Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate.
Beat until blended.

Frost the blondies.
Sprinkle with chopped cranberries and cherries.
Drizzle with the remaining melted white chocolate.
Cut into bars (squares, rectangles, or triangles....I also think circles would be cute, but probably too messy).

Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Blueberry crumb pie

My aunt has hosted Thanksgiving every year for as long as I can remember.  Since I bake as often as I can, I offered to bake pies or any other dessert that she wanted.  Her requests were simple enough: blueberry crumb pie and apple pie.  I decided to spice up the apple pie a little bit this year (check back soon for that post), but decided that blueberry crumb pie didn't really need any tweaking.  So I went in search of a good blueberry crumb pie.


The winning recipe, from what I found, was one from Bon Appetit (which happens to be one of my favorite magazines.....ever!).  I only made one major change from the original recipe -- I used some frozen blueberries and some fresh blueberries.

Oh, and the most amazing part of this pie?  There is literally almost as much crumb topping as there are blueberries filling the pie!!  And everyone knows that the best part of any crumb pie is the crumb topping!

It even looks good BEFORE it was baked!!

So if you are in the need of a good blueberry crumb pie, run to the store now and buy the ingredients for this pie!!

From Bon Appetit, who calls it a Crumble -- not Crumb -- Pie

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into half inch cubes
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Ice water

For the Filling and Crumb Topping:

2/3 cup PLUS 3 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch (I used 3 Tbsp, since I felt that the frozen blueberries were a bit more watery and I wanted a little extra thickening agent)
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 cups (1 pound 10 oz) fresh blueberries (I used 3 cups frozen and 2 cups fresh)
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, and cooled slightly

Directions:

Pulse 1 1/4 cups flour, the butter, and 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor until it resembles coarse meal with some pea sized pieces remaining.
Drizzle 3 Tbsp ice water over mixture.
Pulse until moist clumps form.
Add more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface.
Divide into 4 equal pieces.

Working with 1 pieces at a time, use the heel of your hand to smear each piece of dough twice, in a forward motion, to distribute butter.
Gather all 4 dough pieces into a ball.
Flatten into a disk.
Wrap the disk in plastic wrap.
Chill dough until firm, at least 1 hour.
*dough can be made up to 2 days ahead.  If doing so, be sure to keep dough chilled.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13" round.
Transfer to the pie dish.
Gently press dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the dish.
Fold overhand under and crimp edges decoratively.
Pierce the bottom of the crust in several places with a fork.
Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. 

Line a large baking sheet with foil and place it on the middle rack in the oven (don't skip this part....I missed the part about lining the pan with foil and my blueberry filling bubbled over and all over my pan).
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Line crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights (or dried beans).
Bake until the crust is set, about 20 minutes.
Carefully remove parchment paper and pie weights.
Bake until crust is pale golden, about 12 minutes longer.
Transfer crust to a wire rack.
Let cool.

Make the filling.
Whisk together 2/3 cups sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
Add blueberries and lemon juice.
Toss gently to coat and evenly distribute.
Let filling stand, tossing occasionally, until berries release their juices, 20-30 minutes.

Make the crumb topping.
Whisk flour, remaining 3 Tbsp sugar, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.
Add melted butter.
Mix topping with fingertips to blend.

Assemble the pie.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Spoon blueberry filling into the crust.
Sprinkle the topping over the blueberry filling.
Bake pie until filling is bubbling and the topping is golden, about 1 hour and 15 minutes (Mine took just over an hour).
Cover with foil after 30 minutes if browning too fast.

Let pie cool on a wire rack.

*You can make this pie up to 8 hours ahead (I made mine closer to 20 hours ahead).  Let stand at room temperature.