Facebook 1

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dried cherry shortbread cookies

Christmas came and went with nary a blog post by me.  It's a shame, really.  But work was insane (I mean INSANE!!!), and I was spending most of my time at work or charting for work, and spending some time with B, and I wasn't really able to blog much.  But that doesn't mean that I didn't sneak in a few cookies for the holidays.  Namely some (more) fruity shortbread cookies.


These dried cherry shortbread cookies were B's other favorite from the shortbread taste test from about a month ago (along with these toasted coconut ones).  I decided to make these with a combination of dried sweet and tart cherries, to give them a delicious intense cherry flavor, and it worked!   And I love the bright red flecks that the cherries lend to the cookies -- very festive for the holidays!


Sweet & Tart Dried Cherry Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from this recipe

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 cherries (sweet, tart, or a combination of both -- I used half of each), chopped

Directions:

Chop the cherries 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 cherries.
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.

Vanilla bean fudge

I didn't really grow up eating fudge. So as a result, it's really something that I simply don't crave.  But it always looks so good and rich and delicious when I see it -- as well as when I see the thousands (literally!) of fudge recipes posted around the holidays.  I made some fudge last year (it was super duper loaded with tons of  things including potato chips!), and there were white chocolate-Oreo and cookie dough varieties before that, but given how long I've been baking and how long this blog has been around, that's not a whole lot of fudge!


So I set out to make some fudge again this holiday season.  It was such a hit last year, and I wanted something I could make ahead.  So I went searching through the multitude of fudge recipes populating Pinterest and this one particular recipe caught my eye.  It was fudge....but it wasn't chocolate (I always equate fudge with either chocolate or peanut butter (or both!), but this one was neither)!  Also, seeing as I was planning on making a double batch, I was glad it was vanilla, since B loves vanilla (ie. I had someone to give fudge to to get it out of my kitchen, and therefore not on my hips)!



Vanilla Bean Fudge
From Chocolate Moosey

I doubled the recipe, since I wanted thicker but smaller pieces of fudge (so I used a 9x9 inch pan).  The ingredients listed below are for a single batch.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut in 1 Tbsp pieces
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped

Directions:

Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper.

In a large heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, and milk.
Bring to a rolling boil, stirring until everything is smooth.
Boil for 5 minutes, stirring often (make sure you don't shorten this time, or the fudge may not firm up).

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds until melted and smooth (it will be thick!).
Spread into the pan (if the fudge thickens too much, put it back over the heat until it's easy to stir again).
Let cool until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Cut into pieces.
If not serving all at once, cut off what you want and leave the remaining slab of fudge, wrapped in a plastic bag, in the fridge.

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 juicy 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.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Extra marshmallow-y Rice Krispie Treats

I've been on a mission to make a super marshmallow-y Rice Krispie Treat.  A few months ago, I attempted some, and they were good and marshmallow-y, but not as marshmallow-y as I had wanted.  I had heard about these super delicious Rice Krispie treats from this place called the Crispery, and when I saw a picture, I knew that that was what I wanted my super marshmallow-y Rice Krispie Treats to be like.  So I went back to the drawing board.


What I ended up doing might be considered a bit weird, but it's what I thought would make the most perfect super-duper extra marshmallow-y but still crispy Rice Krispie Treats. I made homemade marshmallow, and then when it was just freshly beaten, I added Rice Krispies.  Lots of them (about 8 cups).  I folded them in by hand.  Then, I poured them into the pan, filled it to the tippy-top (not my intention, but who would complain if they were served a 3" high Rice Krispie Treat), and smoothed them out.  Then I waited....and waited....and waited (this is the one place where these Rice Krispie Treats do not trump the good old fashioned ones -- those are ready immediately for consumption) for them to set.  And then I waited a little more*...


But, let me tell you.  They were worth the wait!!

*why, you may ask, did I wait a little more?  Because the homemade marshmallow is more moist than melted marshmallows, the Rice Krispies were a little soggy as soon as they set up.  No worries, waiting a little longer for them to dry a little, made them TOTALLY worth the wait!!

Extra Marshamallow-y Rice Krispie Treats
I used my plain vanilla marshmallow recipe for these

Ingredients:

1 cup water, divided
3 Tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin (3 envelopes – envelope is 1/4 oz. each, for 3/4 oz. total)
2 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. fine salt
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla or vanilla bean paste -- I might cut this down a little bit, maybe 1.5 Tbsp, if eating them plain.  If you're coating them with the coconut, I'd do either 1.5 or 2 Tbsp.

8 cups Rice Krispies cereal (you might need a little more)

Directions:

Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with baking spray.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, pour in 1/2 cup of the water and sprinkle the gelatin over.
Let stand.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, salt and the remaining 1/2 cup of water.
Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.
Stop stirring and once mixture comes to a rolling boil, continue boiling for 1 minute.
Remove from the heat and pout into 2-cup glass measuring cup
The mixture is very, very, very hot.  Be extremely careful!

Turn the mixer to low and mix the gelatin a bit to loosen.
Very slowly and carefully add the hot sugar mixture by pouring it gently down the side of the bowl.
Continue to mix on low until all the sugar mixture is added.

Turn the mixer to high and whip the mixture for 10 to 12 minutes until the marshmallow batter almost triples in size and becomes very thick.
If you have a smaller mixer bowl, you may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently to avoid the batter overflowing as it grows.
Stop the mixer, add the vanilla, and then whip briefly to combine.  When I added the vanilla, mine thinned out a bit.  Just an FYI.

Working quickly, fold in the Rice Krispies into the marshmallow mixture, 1-2 cups at a time.
Be sure that you get all the marshmallow at the bottom of the bowl.
If your mixer bowl is small, you may have to remove some of the coated Rice Krispies and put them in the pan, then add some more Rice Krispies in batches to the remaining (mostly marshmallow but some remaining Rice Krispie) mixture.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan (a silicone bowl scraper works like a charm for this) and use a spatula or bench scraper to spread the marshmallow evenly in the pan, pushing it down into the corners.
Mine literally came to the tippy top of the pan!
Work quickly, as the marshmallow becomes more difficult to manipulate as it begins to set.

Spray a sheet of plastic wrap liberally with cooking spray and lay it across the top of the marshmallow, sprayed side down.
Using you fingers, smooth the plastic wrap on top of the marshmallows a bit to seal it smoothly and tightly against the mixture.

Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature for at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight.
The marshmallow will be too sticky and soft to cut if you try too soon.

When they are set, cut the Rice Krispie Treats.
Taste them, they're yummy....but the Rice Krispies themselves may be a little soft and not too crunchy.  But don't worry, they're still tasty, and we will remedy the slightly soggy Rice Krispies.

Put them on a baking sheet to dry slightly, rotating them so that the bottom side doesn't remain soggy.  It took about 3-4 hours for mine to be as crispy as I like.  I know it seems like a lot of time, but these are SO worth it!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pumpkin spice marshmallows

OK, I'm going to stop right now -- before I even get started -- and toot my own horn for just a second.  I know, I know, it's something I rarely (if ever) do.  But I had this idea for a delicious holiday marshmallow and I came up with a recipe and I just made them and they're awesome (yes, that was a run-on sentence, and yes, I'm sure my 3rd grade teacher would reprimand me for it, but it's just my overexcited way of "saying" it to you).


Back to the marshmallows.  I wanted to make a festive flavored marshmallow for the holiday season.  Pumpkin is, in my opinion, synonymous to everyone with Thanksgiving.  These pack a mild hint of pumpkininess with the perfect blend of spices -- hint of pumpkin pie flavor without being overpowering!  (I will spare you my normal diatribe about how I hate pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices because frankly it just works so darn well in these!)


And if you are a fan of the seasonal pumpkin spice latte from my favorite coffee chain, I suggest you try these in a cup of coffee and let me know how it tastes (I have yet to try this, I'm just saying I think it'll be good)...



So, let me just cut to the chase and share with recipe with you:

(FYI, I always have issues with cutting my marshmallows, since I end up with 20-25 super huge marshmallows.  Somehow this time I managed to do it just right....they're the perfect size!  And, I got 42 marshmallows!)

Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

Ingredients:

For the marshmallows

1/2 cup water, plus more if needed (I used 1 Tbsp)
1/2 cup canned PURE pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 Tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin (3 envelopes – envelope is 1/4 oz. each, for 3/4 oz. total)
2 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. fine salt
1 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves (more to your taste, I'm personally not a huge fan)

For the coating

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

Spray a 9x9 or 7x11 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper (Recommendation: cut to fit flat on the bottom, with the edges of the paper over-hanging the sides. The ends are fine just sprayed.)

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, pour the 1/2 cup of pumpkin and 1 Tbsp of water (add more if you need).
Mix a few times to allow them to mix.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the pumpkin and water mixture.
Let stand.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, salt and the 1/2 cup of water.
Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.
Stop stirring and once mixture comes to a rolling boil, continue boiling for 1 minute.
Remove from the heat.
Pour the mixture into a 2-cup glass measuring cup, to make it easier to pour into the mixer.  *The mixture is very, very, very hot.  Be extremely careful!*

Turn the mixer to low and mix the gelatin a bit to loosen.
Very slowly and carefully add the hot sugar mixture by pouring it gently down the side of the bowl.
Continue to mix on low until all the sugar mixture is added.

Turn the mixer to high and whip the mixture for 10 to 12 minutes until the marshmallow batter almost triples in size and becomes very thick and opaque.

While the mixer is going, mix the spices and vanilla in a small bowl into a paste.
Stop the mixer, add the vanilla and spice mixture, and then whip briefly to combine.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan (a silicone bowl scraper works like a charm for this) and use a spatula or bench scraper to spread the marshmallow evenly in the pan, pushing it down into the corners.
Work quickly, as the marshmallow becomes more difficult to work with as it begins to set.

Spray a sheet of plastic wrap really well with cooking spray and lay it across the top of the marshmallow, sprayed side down.
Smooth the plastic wrap on top of the marshmallows a bit to seal it smoothly and tightly against the mixture.

Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature for at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight.
The marshmallow will be too sticky and soft to cut if you try too soon.

Meanwhile, mix the coating ingredients in a bowl.

When marshmallows are ready, grab the edges of the parchment and lift the marshmallows from the pan.
Remove the plastic wrap from the top and fold down the parchment on the sides.
Using a pizza cutter or a large knife, cut the slab into 1x1 inch squares.
Roll each of the freshly cut marshmallow squares in the coating mixture.
Put them on a baking sheet to dry slightly before packaging them up (about 30 – 45 minutes).

Shortbread sprinkle bites

Confession #1: I have been wanting to make this recipe since I pinned it on Pinterest over a year ago.  They just looked so cute and festive and fun.  Which brings me to confession #2...

Confession 2: I'm getting into the holiday spirit early.  I know, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving yet and I'm talking about a holiday cookie.  But truth be told, these cookies could be made for any holiday -- just change the color of the sprinkles.  It just to happens to be that earlier today when I was at the craft store, I bought red, white, and green nonpareils (and hence I had easy access to them.  So maybe I'm not getting into the holiday spirit as much as I had originally stated....).


But let's get back to these cookies themselves.  They're teeny, tiny, bite-sized 1/2-inch squares of pure buttery shortbread deliciousness, with a little extra crunch from the nonpareils!  The recipe makes at least 140 cookie bites...The only problem is that when they're this tiny and poppable, they likely won't last long!!




Shortbread Sprinkle Bites
Original recipe found here

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold, and cut into pieces
1 Tbsp nonpareils or sprinkles or baking bits, I used a little extra for good measure

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325F.

In a food processor (using the knife blade), pulse flour and sugar until combined.
Add in butter and pulse until dough becomes together.
Place dough in a medium bowl.
Using your hands, gently knead in the nonpareils (or sprinkles or baking bits) until evenly blended and the dough forms a ball.

On a lightly floured piece of wax paper, pat the dough into an 8" x 5" rectangle.
Freeze for 15 minutes.
Cut the dough into 1/2-inch squares.

Place the squares on an ungreased large cookie sheet (I used parchment paper) 1/2 inch apart.  You might need two cookie sheets...

Bake the cookies 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom (mine baked for 15 minutes and were a little more than lightly brown).
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

The recipe says to then repeat with remaining dough.  I think using two cookie sheets would negate the need to bake them twice.  But thats's just me and my practicality.

Store the cookies in a tightly covered container at room temperature up to one week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Triple peanut butter chewy dark chocolate cookies

The majority of my life is spent making rationale, logical, evidence-based decisions.  I do it in my work life, for sure.  And mostly in my personal life, too (there are a few -- a very, very few -- times when I throw caution to the wind and just "do" [which is usually followed by buyer's remorse, but nice new shoes....but I digress]).  Tonight, however, was not one of those nights.


I got out of work at a decent hour.  Met my sisters for dinner, and we were even able to move our plans earlier.  Took some food to go for B, ran an errand, and dropped the food off at his place (he's working on a huge project now, but I knew he needed to eat!).  Then I got home, a little after 9 p.m., and did I stop for a second and relax?  Nope.  Did I hop in the shower?  Nope (that was later on).  I made some cookie dough and baked some cookies!  Which normally wouldn't have been too insane, but I do have to be at work at 8 a.m. tomorrow and that does mean that I have to leave my apartment a little before 6:30 a.m.  But again, here I am going off on a tangent...



Let me tell you about these cookies.  I used the chewy dark chocolate cookie base from one of the most amazing cookies ever, these Chewy Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate Chips.  But then I didn't stop there, I decided to mix things up a bit.  And thus the Triple Peanut Butter Chewy Dark Chocolate Cookies were born!  I added 3 different kinds of peanut butter goodness to these cookies: Reese's Pieces, Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, AND Peanut Butter Chips!  They were AMAZING!!

Triple Peanut Butter Chewy Dark Chocolate Cookies
Based on these amazing cookies

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder (I used Hershey's)
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup Reese's Pieces
1/2 cup mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (they come unwrapped in a bag)
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper).

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.
Add the salt and vanilla.

In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, and baking soda.
Gradually add to the butter mixture.
Fold in the peanut butter cups, pieces, and chips.
Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until fluffy but still soft.
Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mint chocolate chip buttercream (on dark chocolate cupcakes)

Let's face it, I like to bake.  Sometimes, I bake things just to bake them, with no actual event to attend or people to serve it to.  Other times I find a reason to bake...and yet sometimes there's an event scheduled and a reason to bake and so I bake.  This was one of those times!


My parent's neighbor wrote a book and she threw a party for the book's launch (I was one of the fortunate people to have read it before it was released).  Naturally, I offered to bake.  Originally, I was going to go with a theme -- nail polish bottle cookies (the book is called "Mani-Pedi STAT") -- but then I found out that one of her friends had beat me to it and had already offered to make those.  So instead I went with mini cupcakes.  A variety of mini cupcakes, to be exact.

I had grand plans.  It's the overachiever in me.  I was going to make 5 different kinds of mini cupcakes -- seriously, have I mentioned how overzealous I am sometimes? -- but that fell by the wayside.  Instead, I simply went with dark chocolate mini cupcakes.  Then, I mixed them up with the icings.....Mint chocolate chip buttercream and Oreo icing.  For the Oreo cupcakes, click here for a link to the cupcakes, and here for a link to the icing.  But the new recipe was this heavenly mint chocolate chip buttercream!!  And it went oh-so-well with the dark chocolate cupcakes (same as the ones above for the Oreo cupcakes) I've been making a lot lately...they were simply amazing!!

Mint Chocolate Chip Buttercream
Icing is slightly adapted from this recipe
They go great on these dark chocolate cupcakes...

Ingredients:

3/4  cup butter, partially softened (preferable half salted and half unsalted -- I didn't have salted butter, so I just added a little pinch of salt)
1/2 tsp mint extract (I used peppermint, even though the original recipe said not too, so I just used less)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
Green food coloring (I used about 5 drops) -- color to your liking
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (The original recipe said to used finely chopped chocolate, which I might try next time, since it made the icing look more chocolate chippy [totally a real baking term, OK?])

Mini ice cream cones, for decoration.  I made mini cupcakes and the mini cones were just the right size, although I think I'd stick with mini cones even on full-sized cupcakes...

Directions:

In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, whip the butter on medium speed until it's light and fluffy.
Scrape down the sides and bottom often.
Blend in the extracts.
Add in the powdered sugar, first on low until it's incorporated.
Add the food coloring.
Increase mixer speed and beat until very light and fluffy; again continuing to scrape the bottom and the sides of the bowl.
Fold in chocolate chips.

Using a mini ice cream scooper or a cookie scoop (for mini cupcakes), scoop icing onto cupcakes.
(This got quite tiresome for me, so after a while, I piped it on with a large round piping tip, being sure to pile it on a little high, so that it still looked like a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream!)
Top each frosting scoop with an upside down mini ice cream cone.