Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Seriously Delicious Double Chocolate Cookies

I think I have done it followers...I outdid my personal bests and came up with a perfectly fudgey, perfectly chocolaty, double chocolate cookie. Not to toot my own horn too terribly much, but if you guys don't give this recipe a try, you are totally missing out friends!

Enough of my excitement, let me hand you the keys so you can test-drive this one on your own!

What you will need:

1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp of veg oil (you might need to bump it up to 2 tbsp depending on the dryness of your dough)
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg and 1 egg white
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sour cream
a pinch of salt
5 or 6 chopped white truffles (I used Lindt brand)
5 or 6 chopped peanut butter cups

First thing's first, you gotta pre-heat that oven. 350 degrees F should do the trick.

As always, and for the goodness of your cookies, make SURE that your butter is completely room temperature. When it is, cream the butter, veg oil and sugars until light and fluffy. When you achieve this, incorporate your eggs and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Set your wet mix aside and combine the dry ingredients. You can always sift these to make sure there are no lumps, but when I must admit that even I do not do this every single time.

Next, combine the wet and the dry. I recommend doing this slowly to make your life a little easier and your kitchen a little less messy. Your dough should be pretty dense when everything is incorporated and at this point you will add the sour cream, once again mixing until it is well incorporated.

Finally, you will chop your chocolate and mix it in!

If you are not the owner of non-stick baking sheets, you will want to grease a sheet or two or put some parchment paper down. I used a medium sized melon baller to measure out my cook dough balls. This made pretty big cookies as you can see in the picture, which I prefer, but feel free to play around and make whatever sized cookies you would like. Make sure to adjust baking times to fit the size of your cookies however. I let mine bake for about 13-15 minutes and that was perfect for their size. Any smaller and I wouldn't bake them past 12.

I can preach all day long about how wonderful these cookies really are, but now it's time for you to go into your kitchens and try them for yourselves!

I would love to know what you guys think about the recipe so feel free to leave comments or questions.

As always, Happy Baking my friends!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SIN-a-Bon Frosting

Ok ok, so I knowww that title might be a little cheesy, but I just couldn't help myself :) This post is dedicated to a copy cat frosting recipe I created through much experimentation and relentless taste tests.

Have you ever had something so delicious that you would kill for the recipe? Well that is what I felt the first time I ever had that sweet signature Cinnabon frosting. This stuff is seriously sweet enough to make every single one of your teeth ache if you eat too much, but too good to say no to at the same time.

Getting down to the oh so sweet point! The recipe that I finally settled on for this look-a-like frosting is so simple, you could make it in your sleep. Start with 1 block of cream cheese, any brand you would like, and 1 stick of butter. Make sure your butter is unsalted. Leave the butter and cream cheese on the counter for AT LEAST five to six hours, but preferably overnight to make absolute certain they are at room temperature.

When ingredients are at room temperature, put them into a medium mixing bowl and combine until smooth. This should be really easy if you let them sit long enough. When butter and cream cheese are mixed smooth, pour in one tbsp vanilla and 1/2 a cup of powder sugar. Mix well and you are ready to spread on cinnamon rolls, use as a fruit dip or eat right out of the bowl with your finger, my personal favorite ;)

AND THAT'S IT!! It truly is that simple but trust me...Wellllll worth the effort.

If any of you do try this recipe, I would love to know what you used it for and how you liked it?? I am always interested in my followers and their feedback.

As always... Happy Baking beautiful people!

Peace and love

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fig Frenzy!

I really do promise to start updating this more often! I have been baking a lot lately, but the treats always seem to disappear before I can snap a quick photo to share with you guys. After receiving some good news about the possibility of getting a job with a bakery across the street from me, I was so excited that I ran straight to my tiny little kitchen and started experimenting with some dried figs that I had recently purchased.

The results from my experimenting were much MUCH more than I had ever hoped for and I highly recommend that anyone who likes to bake, test them out for yourself. I promise you will not be let down. Unless of course you just don't like figs...if this is the case then you must have not tried the right figgy treat! So give these a shot :)

My first creation is a fig pie. I modeled this after a traditional pecan pie but used absolutely no nuts and instead a mixture of figs. I must admit, I am having a hard time keeping my hands off of this one, it is seriously good if I do say so myself. Here is how I made it!

For Pie Crust
*This is an all butter crust and is really easy to make. Once you master this, you can use it for anything.
-2 1/2 cups self rising flour
-1 pinch of salt
-1 pinch of white sugar
-2 sticks of unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
3 to 6 tbsp very cold water

To mix, combine flour, salt and sugar in a food pro. If you don't have a food pro you can certainly do this the ol fashion way but you will probably need at least a pastry cutter to make your life a little easier. After dry ingredients are together, cut in butter until the mixture looks like a lot of small peas, no bigger. Turn is out into a medium sized bowl and scatter the ice water over the mix by tablespoonfuls. Fold with a spatula or wooden spoon until the dough comes together and looks fairly smooth.

At this point in time you are going to divide the dough in half, form into discs and cover with plastic wrap. Cool dough in the fridge for at least an hour before using. See, it's easy!

While the crust is cooling, continue to make your filling.

For Filling
1 cup dried figs. I used a combo of Black Mission and Calimyrna, cutting them into small pieces. There is no reason why you can't use fresh figs when they are in season as well and I am all about using fresh when you can.
2 tbsp Amaretto liqueur
2 tbsp water
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (I made my own simple syrup by cooking one cup of sugar with one cup of water until the sugar dissolved).
3 large eggs
1/2 melted butter, make sure it is totally cooled before mixing with eggs.
1 tbsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

In a medium sauce pan, on medium-low heat, mix the
chopped figs with the water and Amaretto until the figs absorb all of the liquid. Once this has happened, take them off of the heat and let cool completely. While this is happening, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Stir until all eggs are incorporated completely and the mixture takes on a map
le syrup color. When the figs are cooled, mix them in as w

Once your pastry has chilled for an hour, take one disc ou
t and roll it on a floured surface so that it is 13 inches around. Really you just want to roll the crust out to fit whatever sized pie round you have, but for this recipe, a 13 inch is just large enough for a 9 inch pie pan and the filling. Get rid of the excess dough around the edges of the pie pan and crimp to make pretty. If you feel that crimping is too difficult for you, just leave it looking rough and rustic! It all tastes equally delicious :) Next, freeze your pie crust for at least 10 to 15 minutes before baking. This ensures that your butter gets cool enough to give you a really flaky and delicious crust.

After your oven pre heats to 375 degrees F, line your crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beans or some kind of baking weight. You will want to bake until the sides of the crust are set which takes about 10 minutes. At this
point, take the crust out of the oven and prick the bottom with a fork. Return the crust back to the oven and bake another 10 minutes until golden brown. When you take the pie crust out this time, reduce your oven temperature to 325 and spoon in your figgy filling.

When the oven reaches 325, place the pie back in and b
ake for about 40 minutes or until the edges of the pie are set and the middle is not completely jiggly. Let the pie cool and then place it into a refrigerator for abou
t an hour. The pie looks best if you let it cool in there overnight but I am warning you now, it is really hard to wait overnight to try this pie. It really is super yummy!!

This next recipe utilizes the second dough round left over from the pi
e crust recipe above but is even easier and more rustic looking, leaving room for error among those who may not feel the most comfortable in the kitchen.
For this fig tart recipe, you will need:
3 oz almond paste
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup. You can use honey if you do not have the syrup.
15 to 20 figs, fresh or dried.
*If you you dried figs, they will need to be plumped a little before hand. For this, just place your figs in a bowl with about 1/2 cup of Amaretto an
d 1/4 cup water. You don't have to use Amaretto, I just really love the flavor. Let figs sit for about 30 minutes, to soak up all the good liquid.

First pre heat the over to 400 degrees F

If you did not try to recipe above, simply follow the came directions for making crust. If you did, then take out the second round of crust from the fridge and roll it out into a 12 to 13 inch round. I suggest doing this on a piece of parchment paper so that it is easier to transfer to a baking sheet.

In a blender, combine the mascarpone, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. When it comes together and it is nice and smooth, put in your almond paste, making sure to cut it up into about 1/2 inch squares. With a spreading utensil, spread your cheese mixture onto the pastry round. Leave a 1/2 to 1 inch border around the outside so you can fold the crust over. After your sweet spread is down, slice the reconstituted figs and start to place them onto the spread however you see fit. I try to make a pretty pattern of some sort but you are more than welcome to just throw the figs on willy nilly.

When all of the figs are places, fold over the border of dough so that it is slightly covering the fig and mascarpone topping. You can see in the picture of m
y tart, just how it should look. At this point you are more than welcome to melt down any flavor of jam or jelly that you like and paint a glaze over your tart. This is mostly for aesthetics, and it really does make your tarts look extra beautiful. I however did not do this because I forgot to purchase some jam. I promise that your tart will still taste absolutely delicious even without this step. When the tart is finished and ready to bake, put the parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Bake the tart for about 40 minutes or until it is
beautifully gold brown. When done you can place it on a pretty platter for a show piece and dive right in with a fork. No matter how you decide to enjoy the tart, I suggest doing so while it is warm, that is when it is best.

This recipe is really versatile and can be made with just about any fruit. It is hard to go wrong with mascarpone and fruit in my opinion :)

I hope you decide to give these recipes a shot and enjoy them both. I actually got my boyfriend to try some of the fig pie and he hates pie! (I know...who hates pie??)

No matter what, cook with people you love and have fun while you do it, that's the most important thing >

As always Happy Baking friends!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Makin a Cake Comeback

My deepest apologies go out to the very few but very wonderful followers I have. I know I have been absent for some time now and I really have no good excuses for my slacking. However, after I finished the hardest semester of my life, I think I just needed a break from everything and a chance to let my brain turn to mush for a while.

Although I have not written, I did continue to bake my little heart out over the break. There were successes and there were failures, but there was one creation in particular that I am quite proud of and decided that it should be shared with the world.

A few weeks ago I was doing what I love to do most and rummaging around my collection of baking books for some inspiration. After flipping through numerous pages I came across a recipe for marble cake and had a lightbulb moment. In all of my baking adventures I have yet to try my hand at a marble cake, so I decided to take this recipe and make it my own! Turns out, I'm not too shabby at making some mean marble cake and here is the recipe I came up with:

- 1 vanilla bean
- 6 oz of unsalted, at room temperature, butter
- 1/2 cup of caster sugar
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 2 cups flour (self-raising)
- 3/4 cup vanilla soy milk
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp warm vanilla soy milk

1.) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and butter a traditional sized loaf pan.
2.) Split the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the seeds. If you don't have a vanilla bean, feel free to use extract, the flavor just won't shine through as much. If choosing to use extract, use 1 tsp. Put the vanilla in a mixing bowl with the butter and sugars. Cream the mixture until it is pale and fluffy.
3.) Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition.
4.) Sift your flour and then add it into the creamed mixture, alternating with milk until everything is combined. Divide the mixture in half and into separate bowls.
5.) Next combine the cocoa powder and the warm milk, stirring until the consistency is smooth. Add the mixture to one half of the cake batter and once again stir until well combined.
6.) Alternately pour spoonfuls of mixtures into your prepared loaf pan. This step doesn't have to be perfect, make the layers inconsistent so that the finished product looks even better.
7.) Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave in the loaf pan until cake is cooled then cut and serve!

I was so impressed with how this cake came out and can't wait for some of you to try it for yourselves. This has serious potential to be a real crowd pleaser so give it a go and if you feel like it, I would love to know how your cake turns out :)

A special thanks goes out to my wonderful boyfriend Grant who has taken my blog photography into his own hands with hope of making my blog even better :)

As always, Happy Baking!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls, NOT from a can!

I have really wonderful memories of waking up on the weekends to the smell of warm cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. Living with a single mother who worked very hard to make ends meet, it's safe to say that these cinnamon rolls most often always came from a can but were still delicious non-the-less!

I have been looking to try my hand at baking something from the dough up and something that would bring about the same good memories that I once had. Cinnamon rolls from scratch were the obvious choice :) October also represents my favorite baking month with its overabundance of canned pumpkin on the shelves. I LOVE pumpkin treats and because of the season, I decided to whip up a quick and easy maple pumpkin glaze too go on the top of these warm and delicious treats.

The recipe for the glaze was most definitely the easiest part of this new baking venture, including:

1 cup of canned pumpkin
3/4 cup of maple syrup
1/2 cup of milk (any brand of kind of your choice, I used vanilla soy)
1 cup of powdered sugar

Just combine the ingredients, whisk until smooth and set aside for later glazing! Soo easy

Next, I would like to preface this second step by mentioning that this is most likely a two day process, so start early!

First, in a saucepan, combine half a cup of whole milk with half a cup of water and bring to 100 degrees F over medium heat. When the mixture is up to temperature, take off the burner and sprinkle over one 1/4 packet of yeast with a pinch of sugar. Set aside for 5 minutes to let the little yeasties do their thing.

After five minutes, whisk in 1/4 cup unsalted, melted and cooled butter, 1 large egg yolk and a dash of vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1 Tbsp of pumpkin pie spice. Combine and then make a well in the center of the dry mixture to pour in your yeast mixture. With a wooden spoon preferably, combine all ingredients until dough is sticky and together into a cohesive mixture.

Throw some flour onto a flat surface and place the dough onto the floured surface so you can knead it until it's elastic and soft. This will probably take you about 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a ball and place the ball into a buttered bowl, coating the ball with butter as well. Cover the bowl with plastic rap or a warm, damp towel and set aside to rise. It should take a little over an hour for the dough to double in size. At this point, take it back out of the bowl and punch it down to get rid of excess air. After you knead the air out, place BACK into your buttered bowl and lay a buttered piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough. Tightly cover the bowl and place into the fridge overnight.

When dough is done rising, it is time to make the filling. This step is also quite simple in comparison to the dough. Just roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 11 by 17 inches. spread softened butter all over the dough. I find it easiest to get messy and use clean hands for this step. After butter is on, I sprinkle on 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a little less then 1/4 cup pumpkin pie spice. This step is the one that invites creativity in a baker. You can easily make the filling with pumpkin puree or creamed cheese, maybe even some kind of nut like Pecans?? The sky is the limit! However, after you spread on your desired filling, roll the dough into a log and cut 1 1/2 to 2 inch slices depending on how large you would like the cinnamon rolls to be. I placed my cut rolls into a buttered, round ceramic dish and brushed the top of each roll with egg white to make glisten. When all steps are complete, place these rolls into a 350 degrees F oven for 30 minutes or until slightly golden brown.

When the rolls are done and smelling delicious, pull them out and spread on your pumpkin glaze so that it gets all melty and wonderful :)

After all of your hard work, you deserve to sit down and devour one or two of these tasty treats.

ENJOY and as always Happy Baking!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yummy Yam Experiment

Hello foodie friends!

As some of you might have already figured out for yourselves, pumpkin, at least in my area of the world, is pretty scarce these days! This is terrible terrible news seeing as October is right around the corner and thus marks the perfect time to bring out all of my favorite pumpkin recipes. The issue of missing pumpkin products was brought to my attention one morning in my Yoga class. Yes that's right! I take a class, for actual credit, where I get to relax with Yoga for a whole hour :) I love Drury! It just so happens that this wonderful class is also taught by a wonderfully sweet woman whom I would love to adopt as a surrogate grandmother and who also loves to bake goodies just about as much as I do. One day, she brought it to our attention, that while shopping for ingredients to make us her infamous pumpkin spice cookies, she was distraught to find that pumpkin was indeed no where to be found. At first, this had me pretty bummed, but then I had one of those lightbulb moments! I decided that I would make it a project to experiment and find something that could be substituted for pumpkin and still taste pretty similar. Then of course blog about my findings for my wonderful followers :)

At first, I thought about butternut squash as being a proper substitute and when walking into the store I had it in my mind that I was going to try that first. However, while perusing the baking isle of my local market, I ran across canned yams. I know I know, CANNED YAMS?? Sounds kind of quirky at first, but when you stop to really examine this ingredient, it kinda makes sense. Yams are much like sweet potatoes, but also provide that earthy vegetable taste you get with pumpkin. Another selling point for the yams was the fact that they were canned, and I wouldn't have to go through the whole cooking down of the squash, then putting it through some kind of food mill or food pro to mash it into a wonderfully silky consistency. So I took the leap and purchased one 15 oz. can of yams. Let the baking begin!

Parked in front of my standing mixer and kitchen gadget love of my life, I first mixed two cups of white sugar with one stick of soft, room temperature butter until it was light and fluffy. You could also use one cup of white sugar and one cup of brown sugar and it would probably make these cookies even better. Into this mixture, I added about 3/4's of the canned yams and mixed until they were broken up and the batter was smooth, about two minutes. Next, I added two eggs and a pretty good splash of vanilla, continuing to mix until creamy. In a smaller bowl on the side, I combine the dry ingredients including:
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

After giving the dry a good mix, it was time to incorporate them into the wet. I always do this on the lowest setting of my mixer and little batches of dry at a time so that it isn't creating huge flour clouds in the kitchen. When all ingredients are mixed and the batter looks good enough to eat right out of the bowl, I mixed in a handful of dried cranberries, and a cup of chocolate chips, giving the batter yet another go around in my mixing bowl. These ingredients are optional but I think they give these cookies just another layer of texture.

Finally, in a 350 degree F oven, I baked my cookies for 18 minutes exactly. The batter was measured out using a Tbps measuring spoon. 18 minutes was perfect for the size, but if you choose to make your cookies smaller, than I would obviously recommend cutting the bake time down a bit.

The very best thing about this experiment is that I took them to school with me the next day for a little field testing. I told a tiny white lie, telling the consumers of my cookies that they were indeed pumpkin cookies and not yam cookies. The cookies were extremely popular and were gone pretty quickly, which of course made me happy. It was when they were already gone that I let my classmates know that they had just eaten yam cookies and not pumpkin cookies. They really had no idea and I am just happy that they were pleasantly surprised instead of the other way around :) I wouldn't recommend this again however, because of how common food allergies are these days, you wouldn't want to send someone to the hospital just for a little baking experiment.

If you are like me and love baking with pumpkin, I would seriously recommend trying this recipe out! It might even turn you into a yam fan if you weren't one before.

Good luck and as always, Happy Baking!!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reinventing A Classic

This morning I woke up feeling a little blue and overwhelmed by the normal stressors of everyday life. In my world, there is really only one remedy for days like this and that is baking. After receiving some suggestions from friends of things that I should bake, I decided to take a classic cobbler recipe that has been in my family for years, and add the twist of using plums. A good friend passed on a hint that plums are the new "it thing" to use in baked goods, so why not give it a shot?! And so it began, Sarah's Saturday baking Extravaganza.

At the store I purchased two different types of plums to use in my cobbler, black and classic red. After washing a total of seven fairly good sized plums, I sliced them thin and placed them into a large mixing bowl. With the plums, I incorporated:
- the zest and juice of two lemons
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 Tbsp cinnamon
-dash of salt

Next, I got out my best cobbler baking dish (circular with pretty high sides) and melted one stick of unsalted butter straight into the dish. While the butter was melting in the microwave, and the oven was pre heating to 375 degrees F, I combine:
-1 cup of sugar
-1 cup of all purpose flour
-1 Tbsp baking powder
-1 cup milk
-A cap full of Amaretto (optional)
*Stir ingredients well, but leave some lumps in this batter.

I then poured the wet mix into the cobbler dish featuring the melted butter and simply threw the marinated plums right on top of the wet mixture. After topping the whole thing with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, I baked for about 40 minutes until the crust had come up around the fruit and was a golden brown color.

This cobbler came out better than I could have ever hoped for. The lemon is a perfect combination with the sweet and juicy plums. I can't wait to share this new creation with my friends and family and I hope that anyone adventurous enough will try this wonderful recipe out for themselves :)

As always, Happy Baking!!