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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Whipped shortbread cookies

For the holiday pajama party that B and I went to this weekend, the theme of the drink-making contest was "night cap."  B and I decided on a White Russian.  One of our favorite bars in our neighborhood -- which we haven't been to in quite some time --  serves their heavenly White Russian with a cookie on the side.  I thought it was a biscotti, but B reminded me that it was more of a shortbread cookie (he was, in fact right).


So with all of the ingredients for our cocktail packed away to bring out to Long Island, I set about trying to find the perfect shortbread cookie recipe.  I literally had to look no further than Instagram to find a recipe posted this morning!  The recipe was for whipped shortbread cookies, which sounded delicious to me.  And seeing as I had the forethought to take some butter out of the fridge before we left to run errands this morning, I was ready to go when I got home.

It also happened to be that today was the first snow in NYC.  There's nothing that I love more than baking on a snowy day, with the warmth of the oven keeping the apartment toasty, and having cookies to sample warm out of the oven.


This dough is meant to be piped out onto the baking sheet with a piping tip and bag.  You can use a variety of tips.  Since I had the intent of serving these cookies on the side of our drink tonight, I used an Ateco 898 tip, which some people use to ice cakes.  I used the ridged side up for a little detail.  I think they came out adorable, and that they'd be perfect to rest on the top of the glass for a classy presentation!

P.S. I halved the recipe and I got over 5 dozen cookies

Whipped Shortbread Cookies
Recipe from SprinkleBakes

Makes 6 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or you can substitute 2 tsp vanilla extract)

Optional decorations:
Assorted holiday sprinkles and candies
4 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, melted

Directions:

Combine butter and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Mix on high speed until mixture turns pale, about 2 minutes.

Add flour to butter mixture in 3 additions, mixing well on medium speed after each addition.
When flour is incorporated, add salt and vanilla seeds.
Beat on high speed for 5 minutes -- the dough should be pale and thick.
Transfer dough to piping bags fitted with decorating tips.  You can also used a small cookie scoop.

Line two or more cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Pipe or place mounds of cookie dough on prepared pans, spacing then a least 1 inch apart.
Add sprinkles, if using.
Transfer cookies on baking sheets to refrigerator o chill for 10 minutes or until cookies are firm to touch.

While the cookies are chilling, preheat the oven to 275F.
Bake cookies 30-35 minutes, or until cookies are lightly golden around the edges and still pale in the center.  Since I piped my cookies thinner than the cookies on the original blog post, I started watching my cookies after 20 minutes.  They ended up taking 21-22 minutes to achieve desired doneness.
Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Drizzle with chocolate if using.
Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lemon bars

I've been baking for a long time.  I estimate I've been baking from scratch for at least two and a half decades.  I started baking on my own before that for friends in high school, with boxed mixes, even before that.  I've made countless brownies, cupcakes, cakes, fudges, and enough cookies to feed a small army.  One thing I've never made, until today?  Lemon bars!


I honestly don't know why it's taken me this long to bake them.  I think the actual idea got planted in my head when I was shopping at Trader Joe's recently, and they had candied lemon slices. I (obviously) bought them without thinking about it, and then was trying to figure out what I could use them for.  Originally I thought about using them as a garnish on a lemon cupcake, but then the thought came to me: lemon bars!


I have to say that these lemon bars are super easy to make.  Make the shortbread dough, and while it's baking in the oven, prepare the lemon filling.  Then, pour the filling over the hot shortbread crust and pop them back in the oven.  That's it!  The hardest part wasn't actually hard, it was more time consuming -- I had tiny lemons and had to juice them all by hand.  The real hardest part is waiting over 2 hours before being able to cut into them!  (Don't worry, I cheated to taste them -- they're delicious!).


I made these for a baby shower that my friend L and I hosted for our friend E, who is expecting a baby girl at the beginning of February.  The ladies at the shower loved and devoured them!  I had a few leftover at the end of the shower that went to the soon-to-be-daddy, my dad, and B.


I really recommend these lemon bars -- the super thick lemony layer is the real proverbial icing on the cake (or rather filling on the bar ;-))

Thick Lemon Bars
from Little Sweet Baker

Ingredients:

Crust

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

Filling

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large/regular sized lemons)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Decorations

Powdered sugar for dusting
Lemon slices or dried lemon slices

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Line an 8x8" square baking pan with parchment paper (I don't have an 8x8" pan so I used my trusty 9x9" pan).

Toss flour, powdered sugar, and cornstarch together.
Cut in the softened butter using a fork or pastry cutter until mixture is crumbly.  You can also pulse with a food processor.
Press into the prepared baking pan.
Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together he eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
Slowly add the flour, whisking to prevent lumps.
Pour the mixture over the hot crust.
Bake for another 25 minutes or until the lemon filling is set.

Let stand at room temperature to cool.
Chill in the fridge for 2 hours.

Dust with powdered sugar and top with lemon slices.

Note: Lemon bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Almond, tahini, and honey cookies

The fall is upon us, and while the fall may be synonymous with everything pumpkin spice for most, to me it means that the Jewish holidays are coming.  Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) starts on Wednesday, September 20th this year, and so I've started in on my holiday baking today.


First up were these almond, tehini, and honey cookies.  Honey is used in a lot of Rosh Hasahanah treats since it symbolizes a sweet new year.  Apples and honey, to be exact.  And while these cookies lack apples, they're full of sweet honey.  Another thing they're missing?  Gluten (so if you're looking for a gluten-free recipe on this blog, this may just be the first one -- or at least the first one labeled gluten-free). 


This dough comes together in literally a manner of seconds.  Whisk together the dry ingredients in own bowl, the wet in another.  Then, add the dry to the wet and mix together -- I did this with a whisk and some upper arm strength (thanks to my barre workout this morning).  Seriously, it took seconds!  They also bake up in no time!

Honey Almond Tahini Cookies
By The Gush Gourmet
Makes about 28 cookies

1.5 cups almond flour (finely ground almonds)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp tapioca starch OR 1 Tbsp corn starch (I used corn starch)
1/2 cup well-mixed tahini
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/3 cup sliced almonds (The recipe called for slivered almonds but I think she actually meant sliced almonds, but I bought slivered.  I actually went out and bought sliced almonds since I thought they looked pretty on her cookies.  Go with sliced almonds.)

Directions:

Whisk together the almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and starch in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: tahini, honey, egg, and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.  I added mine in 3 additions.

Place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Place small scoops of the cookie dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Make sure there is plenty of space between each one (they spread a lot!).
Sprinkle a little bit of sliced almonds over each cookie, pressing down slightly so they adhere.  Don't be shy with the sliced almonds -- since the cookies spread, they too will spread out as the cookies bake.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown.
Remove from the oven.
Cool completely before removing from the baking sheet.

Fruity rum bundt cake

I saw this recipe for this fruity rum cake almost a year ago.  I had wanted to make it for New Year's Eve last year, but with my work schedule and the fact that bundt cakes take a long time to bake, well, let's just say it wasn't in the cards.  I thought about it on and off since then, but never had an occasion to make it.  Until now.


Rosh Hashanah is upon us.  The season of apples and honey and all things sweet for a sweet New Year.  But wait?!  There aren't apples or honey in this cake!  Blasphemy!


I decided that golden raisins and dried apricots and dried (ok, these are tart) cherries are definitely sweet, and therefore totally appropriate for Rosh Hashanah!  The only adjustment I made to this recipe is that I used 1/2 tsp cinnamon instead of cloves, because I utterly hate them.  Since cloves are, in my opinion, stronger than cinnamon, I used a little more.  And I have to say, the flavor of this cake was Ah-maz-ing!  B and I were devouring the cupcakes I made with the extra batter!


When I served it at the holiday meal, it was met with a resounding round of approval.  My father, who doesn't like rum, said the cake flavor was great and there was just a hint of rum that was delicious.  My grandmother, who is (rightfully so) a critic of baked goods, said it was delicious, and even took home a piece to enjoy the following day!!!  This cake is a total winner!

Fruity Rum Bundt Cake
From Bon Appetit

This cake calls for a 12 cup bundt pan.  If you have a 10 cup bundt cake pan (like I do), the recipe recommends reserving 2 cups of batter and baking into 8 cupcakes.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp gold rum, divided
3 Tbsp plus 3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves -- I used 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon instead
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (believe it or not, they did not have vegetable oil at my Whole Foods.  I used Canola oil)
1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp (or more) sour cream -- I ran out of sour cream and ended up using 1 cup sour cream plus 1/4 cup applesauce....by the time I iced the cake, I was able to pick up more sour cream for the icing
2 cups raw sugar, plus more for serving
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
7 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 cup powdered sugar
Gold sugar, for a festive touch

Directions:

Combine apricots, cherries, raisins, and 1/2 cup rum in a small bowl.
Let sit for 30 minutes to allow fruit to rehydrate.
Drain, reserving the rum.
Sprinkle the fruit with 3 Tbsp flour and toss to coat.
Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Thoroughly butter the pan (don't skimp!), making sure to get into all the curves and grooves of your pan.
Dust with flour (do this even if your plan has a nonstick coating).
Whisk together the baking powder, salt, cloves (or in my case cinnamon), and 3 cups of flour in a medium bowl to combine.
Whisk reserved rum, oil, and 1 1/4 cups sour cream (in my case sour cream + applesauce) in another medium bowl to combine.

Using an electric mixer (I used my kitchenaid), beat 2 cups of raw sugar and 1 cup of butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Scrape in seeds of vanilla bean (reserve pod for another use.....vanilla sugar, anyone?!).
Add yolks and egg, 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition.
Beat until mixture is light and very fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Reduce speed to low.
Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream mixture in 2 additions, starting and ending with dry ingredients.
Fold in reserved dried fruit.

Scrape batter into prepared pan.
Smooth top of cake.
Tap pan firmly a few times on the counter to force batter into the edges of the pan.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tested inserted into the cake comes out clean, 60-70 minutes.
Transfer pan to a wire rack.
Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes.
Invert cake onto a serving plate and carefully remove the pan.
Brush the warm cake with the remaining 2 Tbsp of rum.
Let cool completely, about 3 hours.

(I froze my cake, since I was serving it a few days later.  I recommend freezing the cake wrapped in saran wrap and tin foil, uniced.  Thaw cake before serving and ice cake.)

Mix powdered sugar and remaining 2 tbsp sour cream in another small bowl.
Thin with more sour cream if desired, until smooth.
Drizzle glaze over cake, working along the center of the top of the cake for even coverage,
Sprinkle with raw and gold sugar.
Let sit 10 minutes for glaze to set before slicing with a serrated knife.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Yellow cupcakes

It's not every day that I get an American holiday off from work.  A day off where others have the day off, and make BBQs and have pool parties and general day-off fun shenanigans.  Sometimes I make it to the tail end of the festivities after my day of work.  But no, not this year!  This year the stars aligned, and not only did I get Labor Day off, I even got invited to B's friend's home and had a BBQ.


So what to do I do when I'm invited somewhere (just about anywhere?!)?  I bake.  And bake I did.  And it was exceptionally momentous because I christened my new Kitchen-Aid!!  It was sitting on the kitchen counter so lonely for over three months, since we got married, just begging to be used.  And today was it's lucky day!


I bought some super cute red, white, and blue star sprinkles for whatever treat I baked for our Labor Day BBQ, and I ultimately decided on cupcakes because, well, cupcakes are fun BBQ food, and I also haven't baked cupcakes in what seems like forever!  I was going to use my go-to yellow cake cupcake recipe but I couldn't, for the life of me, find my cake flour.  So I set off onto the internet to find a yellow cake recipe that didn't use cake flour.  I found it in the form of Brown Eyed Baker's yellow cake, which I turned into cupcakes.

One thing I'll say about these cupcakes is that they rise a lot, so filling them 2/3 of the way like I did with my first batch yielded cupcakes that overflowed a bit.  I filled them about 1/2 way for the second batch, and they didn't overflow.  I recommend filling them halfway -- with my first 18 cupcakes being filled 2/3 of the way and the rest being filled 1/2 way, I got 28 cupcakes.  My guess is you'll get closer to 33 to 3 dozen if you filled them all 1/2 way.

Yellow Cake Cupcakes
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, cupcake directions by me

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
Set aside

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

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition.
Beat in vanilla extract.

Add the dry ingredients all at once.
Beat on low speed until just combined.
Add the buttermilk and beat on low for 1 minute.
Increase speed to medium and beat for 3 additional minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between prepared pans.  I recommend filling them halfway....more than that and mine overflowed.  You may need to bake them in two batches.
If filled 1/2 way, as recommended, bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the came comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.
Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the pans.
Remove, and place on wire racks.

Cool completely before icing.

Use the icing of your choice.  I went with this vanilla icing.  

Pipe icing onto cupcakes.
Top with sprinkles of your choice, if desired.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sugar cookie bars with flower buttercream

I came across a sugar cookie bar I really wanted to make, but didn't have sour cream at home.  We won't talk about the fact that I was at Trader Joe's earlier today -- before I found this recipe -- and reminded myself I wanted to get sour cream in case I made chocolate cupcakes later.  Great reminder, since I left the store without it!


But I digress.

I couldn't make the original sugar cookie bars I wanted to make, but that didn't stop me.  A quick internet search yielded a few other bar recipes (one used cream cheese, which I also didn't have), and I ended up choosing one from Lauren's Latest (remember those recent to die for chocolate chip cookies?  Yeah, those were hers, too, so I knew these bars had to be good!).


I made one and a half times the recipe for the icing, though, because I bought myself a little birthday gift today.  Well, really a few.  I've been eyeing those Russian flower piping tips for a while, and today at the baking store I bought myself 2 sets of them!  I decided that these would be the perfect decoration for the sugar cookie bars, and after I made a HUGE amount of frosting, I divided it up and dyed it different colors, so that I could have a flower garden on top of my sugar cookie bars!  Now all I need to do is perfect my icing leaves!



Sugar Cookie Bars with Flower Buttercream
Recipe from Lauren's Latest, Icing decorations by me

Ingredients:

For the Cookie Bars:

1 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all purpose flour,
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the icing (remember, I 1.5 times'd the recipe, listed below is the original recipe):

1/2 cup softened butter
1 pound powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-4 Tablespoons milk
Sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchement paper.
Lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Stir in egg, vanilla, and almond extract.
Whip until fluffy.
Scrape the sides and stir again briefly.
Stir in remaining dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.
It won't come together as a dough initially, but if you can grab a handful, it should hold it's shape.
Spread dough into prepared pan and press down evenly.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool completely.

Make the frosting.

Stir all ingredients together until smooth and fluffy, except for milk.
Start by adding 3 tablespoons of milk and work up from there until frosting is the desired consistency.
If making bars as I did, continue below at the *.
If making the bars as intended, Spread icing over cooled cookie bars.
Add sprinkles if using (if you can believe it, I didn't use sprinkles this time).
Cut into bars and serve.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Funfetti muddy buddies

Birthday treats are continuing with these funfetti muddy buddies.  Interestingly, this is the 3rd installment of my birthday treats, and it's also the third sprinkle-laden treat of my birthday treats (and the 4th birthday treat, if you include B's birthday galaxy vanilla fudge!).  I guess #sprinkles(reallydo)makeeverythingbetter -- even more so when they're fancy sprinkle blends!


Just be warned: These muddy buddies are HIGHLY addictive.  Like insanely can't-get-my-hand-out-of-the-bag, walk-back-into-the-kitchen-even-though-I-walked-out-because-I-needed-to-stop-eating-them addictive.


Go ahead and make them.  Just don't say I didn't warn you....

Funfetti Muddy Buddies
A JulieBakes original!

Ingredients:

6 cups chex (I used all rice chex, but any plain chex flavor, or a combination, would work)
12 oz vanilla candiquik
4 Tbsp sprinkles/sprinkle medley
3 Tbsp nonpareils, divided
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

Place cereal in a large bowl.

Process the Oreos in a food processor until fine (my preferred method) or place in a sealed ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin.

Melt CandiQuik in it's tray (or a microwave safe bowl) and microwave in 30 second increments.
Stir.
Continue microwaving and stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.

Pour melted CandiQuik over cereal.
Stir carefully to coat it.

Immediately 4 tablespoons of sprinkles and 2 tablespoons of nonpareils.
Toss/Stir to coat.
Next, toss on the powdered sugar and mix until coated.
Toss last tablespoon of nonpareils.

I placed mine on a wax paper lined baking sheet so that the CandiQuik could dry.

If you feel that yours need a little more powdered sugar, add 1 tablespoon at a time until all of the muddy buddies are coated in powdered sugar.