Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Revisiting Shortbread Bars

Those of you who have been around a while (hey mom!) might remember this recipe. It was delicious and rich and satisfying. And I swore I would never make it again.
Without a food processor that is. Hi again!
That's because the secret behind this recipe is to freeze the dough and then grate it into the pan before baking. It makes it light and fluffy and oh-so yummy. But at my first attempt, there was no lovely food processor present, and, well, it was messy and exhausting.

But I tried again! And this time, since I know my raspberry addiction isn't necessarily contagious...with blackberry!

Look at all the little dough pieces. And the lack of effort. The combination is exhilarating.
The results were good. And much easier. This is really a pretty simple recipe (not too many ingredients) but it does call for some thinking ahead with the dough freezing.

Mmm that's alot of butter. I feel like Paula Deen. More butter y'all.
The only secret here was to make sure to freeze the pieces in sizes that will fit inside the tube of your food processor. Though the original recipe (here) calls for you to freeze it in two pieces - half for the top of the bars and half for the bottom - I did it in four instead.
Overall these are a great bar and I'd recommend them to anyone - anyone with a food processor that is.

Side note: this recipe calls for four egg yolks, which leaves me with, of course, four egg whites.
Hmmmmm what to do, what to do? Stay tuned to find out!

Recipe: (from Recipezaar)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup blackberry or raspberry jam

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add in egg yolks and beat until well mixed.
Pour in the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.
Turn the dough out onto a surface and form into two balls.
Wrap in saran wrap and freeze for two hours or overnight.
(Here is where you would make sure your pieces are food-processor sized).
Grate one of the balls and lightly press into a greased 8 inch square pan.
Spread the jam on top until 1/2 inch from side.
Top with remaining grated dough.
Bake on 350 F for 30 to 40 minutes or until light golden brown.
Cool in pan.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chewy Brown Sugar Bars

I don't like nuts. Peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios. I don't like 'em. Peanut butter -now that's another story. Can't get enough of it - creamy of course. It's just something about the texture of nuts - it's weird, not like anything else - that I can't take. Which may sound weird, considering I've been known to enjoy a piece of tofu now and that, but it is what it is. That said, I'm constantly coming across recipes with chopped nuts - and finding ways to innovate.

These were originally called Brown Sugar and Honey Pecan Bars (recipe here), but of course I lost the pecans. So they became Chewy Brown Sugar Bars. With rice krispies!

For this recipe, I used something I rarely bring out for baked goods. This baby:

For the base of this cookie, I pulsed together the flour, sugar and salt, and then added the butter to create a very crumbly mix. It could probably be done without the food processor, but with alot more work.

Anyway, after I pressed the mixture into the bottom of a 9x13" pan, and baked it for 20 minutes. While that was baking, I made the top part, by melting butter and adding in salt, brown sugar and honey, and let it simmer for one minute. After removing it from the heat, I added cream, vanilla, and where I should have mixed in pecans, rice krispies.

(Here is normally where I would show you pictures of those steps. But I was actually on the phone when they occurred, and while I can manage to multitask enough to bake and talk at the same time, I can't quite bake, talk and photograph.)
After you spread the mixture on top of the base, it bakes for another 18 minutes. Then let it cool to room temperature, and stick it in the fridge to firm up.

After I left it in the fridge for a while, I pulled it out to cut into bars.

I even had to take a break it the middle it was tough. I used a big chef's knife to cut through it easily. And of course I had to taste the corner. It was good - like nothing really I've made before. The top was chewy and had a nutty-brown sugar/honey taste. I liked the two different layers - the cookie bottom and the chewy top. I think that they actually got chewier as time went by - there was definitely a noticeable change in the texture after a day.

Tip of the Day: Brown sugar is always measured as a "packed" cup - which means you press the sugar down into the cup with your fingers to make sure it's as full as possible.

Recipe: (from Cookie Madness)

1 cup flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsps cold butter, diced

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tbsps honey
1 tbsp whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup rice krispies (or coarsely chopped pecans)


Mix flour, brown sugar and salt.

Add butter and mix until coarse crumbs.

Press into the bottom of an 8 inch foil lined pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.


In a saucepan, melt the butter, and stir in the sugar, salt and honey. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and cream. Stir in rice krispies or pecans.

Pour over crust and bake for another 18 minutes. Remove and let cool for an hour on a rack before refrigerating until firm. Cut into bars.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Raspberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

I'm not really one for creating my own recipes - I prefer to follow the instructions of others, tweaking things here and there - usually if I've run out of the proper ingredients, but still.
But I thought I would make an attempt at creating my own raspberry cupcakes.
Well, creating might be a strong word, since I really just took a basic cupcake recipe, and mixed in some melted seedless raspberry jam (recipe at the end of the post).
I mixed up the cupcake batter in my mixer (yes, I finally used it since the move!), and stuck the jam in the microwave until it was pourable.
Best part of this recipe? Pink batter! I'm not such a pink girl myself, but seeing it in the bowl of my mixer was pretty exciting. I don't usually bake with food colorings, but maybe now I should reconsider.
After the jam was completely incorporated into the batter, I used a cookie scoop to fill the cupcake liners. I put about two scoops into every cup. Not that they were each even.
It made 24 cupcakes, which unfortunately I had to bake them separately in my teeny oven. And lengthways. But I'm not complaining.
They baked up decidedly less pink, but still cute. And almost all even. Score one for the cookie scoop.
After this, I didn't quite have the time to make my own frosting, so I went with the store-bought stuff from a can. Not great, but not bad either. Plus I like having it around afterward to eat with honey-wheat pretzels.

But wait. Why did I pick cupcakes to make, this auspicious evening?
Because of this:
That's right, I am now the proud owner of a Chefmate 24-count cupcake carrier. Heaven.

The bottom layer is an actual muffin pan, and on top is balanced a plastic tray that is locked into place when you snap the dome lid on top.

Here are the last two cupcakes in my new favorite toy. I see alot more cupcakes and muffins in my future.
Anyway, back to the cupcakes. When they initially came out, I thought the texture was a bit strange - a little sticky - but the taste was good. After my second cupcake though, it was growing on me and by my last, I was a big fan.

They were a little heavier than normal cupcakes, but the taste was sweet and satisfying.

Tip of the Day: Make sure to purchase large, not small, medium or jumbo eggs for baking. Most recipes, unless otherwise specified, are calibrated for that size.


2 cups flour
1.5 cups sugar
2.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening, softened
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups raspberry jam

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Beat in shortening, milk, vanilla and eggs.
Heat the jam in the microwave until it is pourable.
Gradually mix into the batter until it is imperceptible.
Pour batter evenly into 24 muffins cups.
Bake at 350 F for 22 to 24 minutes.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cinnamon Bun Muffins

I've been reading Joy the Baker's website for a few months, and she has some great-looking recipes. I made her low-fat oatmeal muffins once, and when I saw this recipe for cinnamon bun muffins, I immediately wanted to try them.

But, well, if you came here looking for me to crash and burn once again...you're in the right place. This recipe is basically a cinnamon bun - yeast included - with a little less waiting and dough working. And baked in muffin tins. Sounds good so far, no?

I rarely work with yeast, since what little experience I have with it, has proven that yeast dough products deteriorate quickly. While they're good the first day, by the second day the drop off is significantly noticeable.

Anyway, I didn't let that stop me, and I set out to create these muffins. I was a little concerned working with the yeast, and mixing it with warm milk to "activate it." Since I really haven't worked with it much, I had no idea if it was doing the right thing, but I went ahead anyway.
Here's the dough, waiting patiently to expand.

At this point, you're probably assuming that something with the yeast went horribly wrong, and they either blew up to three time their size or sat in the muffin tin as hard little balls - but that simply isn't the case.

Instead it was the streusel, the innocent little mixture of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, that turned my muffins into disasters.
I patiently followed the directions that said to press the streusel mixture down into the batter...
But, when I snuck a peak about halfway through the baking process the mixture had melted and spread all over the muffin tin, and was barely inside them at all.

Not easily discouraged, I let them finish anyway, and when they were cool I mixed up the icing and drizzled it on top. Since the tin was already such a mess I figured I might as well ice them in there anyway.

And yes, I ate one first.

Of course we ate every muffin, and they weren't bad, but something definitely went wrong. The next day, they were a lot drier, but after a quick zap in the microwave, they are certainly improved.
Moral of the story? Who knows. Sometimes with my disasters, it is clear what went wrong, but there are also times like these, where I'm just not sure what I didn't do.
One thing is for sure - in my house - even the mistakes get eaten.

Tip of the Day: Your yeast is working if it starts to bubble in the warm water after a couple minutes. Be patient!

Recipe: (from Joy the Baker)

1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp active dry or rapid rise yeast
2/3 cup warm milk
3 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg


2 tbsp butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cardamom


1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp milk or cream

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Combine yeast and warm milk, in a cup.

Pour the milk, oil, vanilla and egg into the flour mixture and stir until smooth.

Divide batter into 12 greased cupcake tins.

Mix together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a small bowl.

Sprinkle over the muffin tins and press down in to the dough.

Place the pan in a cold oven, turn it to 350F, and bake for twenty minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool before topping with the icing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

If you've been reading my blog for more than a few days, you'll notice a disproportional amount of bar cookies. I love bar cookies. They're easy, they bake in one batch, and they still have that adorable individual feel. When you bake in a tiny little oven like I do, sitting there while three different batches of cookies come in and out can get tiring.So, when I spotted this recipe for cookie brittle, I knew I had to try it. You get a chocolate chip cookie without the scooping, waiting and multiple batches. Plus, you get to break stuff. What could be wrong?
The recipe is simple, just the usual chocolate chip cookie ingredients, with slightly different proportions. I used mini chocolate chips in this, partly because I'm obsessed with them, and partly because I think they work better in a recipe like this. You then press the dough into a pan (I use my small cookie sheet - don't ask me the exact size) and bake it for 20 to 25 minutes.
Anyway, I liked this recipe, it was simple and easy and the cookie was nice. Not great, and I think that's really because I fudged a little with the ingredients. Though the recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter, I had 1 stick, and 6 tablespoons in my fridge. So I used that, and a drop of vegetable oil to make up for it. I'd definitely like to try it again with the right amounts.

Tip of the Day: Using room temperature eggs in your recipe will help them better incorporate into the rest of the ingredients.

Recipe: (from recipezaar)
1 cup ( 2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix together the butter, vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour and sugar until well mixed.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Spread dough in to a greased 15x10 jelly roll pan.
Bake on 375F for 20 to 25 minutes.
Let cool completely, then break in to pieces.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ice Cream Cupcake Cones

Remember my friend Sarah? Whose departure from this country prompted the legendary cow cake? (Long story, don't ask). And who was not appeased by my recent no-bake recipe for her limited kitchen? Well she's baaaaaaaaaack - and how to celebrate? With baked goods, of course.
And since maturity isn't what we're known for - what better way to celebrate than with every five-year-old birthday boy's dream: ice cream cone cupcakes!

They make a great impression (not for a sophisticated crowd), but they're really so simple to do: you just bake the batter right inside the cupcakes, and then frost and decorate - and you're good to go!

I went with a very basic vanilla cupcake (recipe at the end of the post) and used a store-bought frosting and sprinkles - simple, quick and delicious!

I carefully laid the cones out in a muffin pan. Though the back of the cone box said I should wrap the bases in foil to keep them upright, I was far too impatient to actually do that. Instead I relied on a steady hand and a little prayer.

I filled the cups up about half-way, using an ice cream scoop to make some attempt at them coming out even. Of course, they still weren't. I also had a little extra batter, so I made another 4 cupcakes in a pan (you can see them in the back here).After baking, I let them cool for a while in the muffin pan (because taking them out would have made it difficult to balance on the cooling tray). You can see the slight differences in height here - but the good thing about frosting, is it covers up your flaws!I gave each cupcake a layer of vanilla frosting, and a handful of sprinkles - voila - Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes, no freezer required. These were very cute, and really not more time consuming than regular cupcakes. However I did make these the day before they were eaten - and the difference in the crispness of the cone was huge. By the second day the cones were soft and chewy - and tasted a little stale. This is definitely a 'morning-of' recipe, but luckily, they don't take up too much time.

Tip of the Day: Try as hard as possible to keep your cupcakes the same height - not just for uniformity - but because you need them to finish baking at the same time as well!

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes:
12 flat bottomed cones
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
Store-bought or homemade vanilla frosting

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a mixer.
Add in shortening, milk, vanilla and egg. Beat until well mixed.
Fill cones half-way up - allow to settle before baking.
Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cool completely before frosting.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chocolate Ganache Bars

Remember the Raspberry Chocolate Cookie Bars I made a couple weeks ago? That were absolutely delicious? Well you can refresh your memory here if not.

Anyway, I was such a big fan of them, that when my friends Ariel and Alana came over wanting to bake something together, I thought I would try and use the cookie dough recipe from them to make a different bar - this one filled with a chocolate ganache.

For those of you who don't know, ganache is a basic mix of chocolate and cream, that can be used as a filling, icing, spread - the opportunities are limitless. I wish I could tell you the amounts I used here - but I basically made it up. I started with a 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips, and poured about 2/3 of it into a metal bowl. Ta da!
Then, I heated up (maybe?) a pint of heavy cream in a saucepan and brought it just to a boil. Then, I poured the hot cream over the chocolate chips and mixed thoroughly. Ganache!

I stuck it in the fridge to firm up a little, and went about making the cookie dough base. Once it was mixed, Alana helped me pat it into the bottom of a pan - reserving about a cup of it for the topping. After that, we baked the base for 15 minutes. Once it came out, we poured on about 2/3 of the ganache mixture, topped it with the remaining crumbs, and baked it for another 20 minutes. Chocolate ganache bars, here we come!I know, I know - look away from the glare. That's what comes from having no overhead lighting in your New York apartment and having to rely on lamps. Oh well.

The bars were delicious and everyone enjoyed them - but there was definitely too much ganache to cookie. As you can see, the crumb topping sank right into the chocolate and was barely seen.

Right after we baked this I was in a rush to leave and so I stuck it in the fridge so the ganache would firm up a little. When I came home that night I took it out and ate a small piece, left it on the table - then later remembered I wanted to take a nice picture for here.

At that point, it looked like this...
....but somehow I got distracted, and when I came back it looked like this.
I suppose that's a testament to its deliciousness.

Tip of the Day: When heating on the stove, always use a wooden spoon: they don't conduct heat, and you can leave them in the pot, reducing the need for a spoon rest.

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened

The chocolate frosting or spread of your choice
Chocolate Ganache:
10 ounces of chocolate
1/2 cup whipping cream.

Heat cream until just boiling, pour over chocolate and mix well.

Whisk together flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter with a fork until large crumbs are formed. Remove about 1 cup of the mixture and press the rest into the bottom of a greased 9x13" pan.
Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.
Pour chocolate over base - using your judgement for the amount - and top with remaining crumbs. Bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chocolate Chip Streusel Muffins

While I certainly need to bypass my reluctance to break out the stand mixer since I moved, I still enjoy making muffins and other one bowl, no mixer desserts. Like these Toll House Streusel Muffins.After the previous chocolate chip muffins I made, I was searching for something else, and found this recipe online that adds a nice crunchy streusel topping. I left out the nuts, because I'm not really a fan, and the muffins were still good.Everyone at work said they were great because they had such a high density of chocolate chips. So if you'd rather a little less, use 2/3 or 3/4 of the bag.
I always use Trader Joe's semi-sweet chocolate chips in my recipes - they're really big and very good!
There they are!

Tip of the Day: While its not usually a good idea to change the amounts of key ingredients like flour or eggs in your recipes - add ins are a place to be creative. Nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, dried blueberries, peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips - I'm sure you could name ten more - can be substituted in recipes like this. Find a mix that works!

Recipe: (from Toll House)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
12 ounces (2 cups) chocolate chips

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter or margarine, melted

Stir together flour, sugars, baking powder and salt. Mix in butter, milk and egg until just combined.
Stir in chocolate chips, and divide batter among 12 lined muffin cups.

Combine brown sugar, flour and butter in a small bowl.
Sprinkle over muffin batter, press down lightly.
Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes.