Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Birthday Baking Extravaganza!

This last weekend was not only the mark of the 22nd year in my life, but also happened to be the birthdays of several important people in my life. Because so many wonderful people are born in the great month of July, the opportunity to combine our special days together and have one big birthday weekend presented itself and could not be passed by! Emails were sent, texts messaged and phone calls made. Everyone and anyone was invited to our Rough and Ready homestead to help us bring in another year of living. What better reason does a girl need to break out all of her best dessert recipes and get to baking!?

Here are the desserts I decided upon and made:
Pumpkin Brownies
Banana Bread Cobbler
Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes
Lemon Cream Cheese Squares
Tres Leches Cupcakes with a Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
Carrot Cake Cupcakes

This may seem like a very lofty task to take on all by myself, and that's because it is. For this reason, I begged my good friend Becca to lend a hand. Becca was glad to help, and took on the Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes as well as the Pumpkin Brownies, both of which turned out absolutely delicious and were popular among guests.

I started my project on Friday night after work, beginning with the Lemon Cream Cheese Squares. I picked up the base of this recipe through my years of searching blogs and websites for dessert recipes I could make my own. After a little changing, this is the recipe I end up with:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup powder sugar
8 tbsp unsalted butter @ room temperature
1 egg white
10 oz cream cheese @ room temperature
1/2 cup sugar, plus one tbsp for topping
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup sour cream
6 tbsp lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
2.)Process flour and powder sugar in food processor, add butter and process until the dough come together. I like to add about half the juice of one lemon to this mixture as well, but it's optional. Pulse together for about 20-30 seconds and then pat dough over the bottom of a prepared 8" X 8" pan. Glaze the top with egg white and pour off excess. Bake for 25 minutes and place in fridge to cool completely.
3.) Cream the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest on medium until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add sour cream and lemon juice, then beat again making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl continuously. Add eggs and vanilla then spread the mixture over the completely cooled base. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Also optional: Mix about a cup of powder sugar with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon juice to make a glaze to top these lemon bars with. If the mixture still needs to be thinned out, you can also add a splash of milk, or even more lemon juice for extra tartness.

This turned out to be a great summer time treat, and was refreshing for such a hot California weekend, unfortunately however, with all of the chaos of getting ready for the party, I did not manage to get pictures of any of my wonderful desserts before they were all gone! I apologize and will work on never letting such a thing happen again.

Next we have the Banana Bread Cobbler, which turned out to be a great breakfast dish the morning after our big bash. Here is that recipe:

3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup uncooked regular oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional, I did not use them)

Stir together the brown sugar, flour and butter until crumbly. I used my hands for this, it seems easier. Stir in the oats and pecans then set aside.

1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 medium bananas, cut into slices

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly grease an 11" X 7" dish.
Whisk flour, sugar, and milk, just until blended. Whisk in melted butter and pour into pan, topping with the sliced bananas and streusel topping. Bake at 40-45 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.

This was my personal favorite recipe and I would highly suggest giving this one a try :)

One of the special individuals who had a birthday to celebrate happened to be my wonderful boyfriend, also turning 22. He loves Carrot Cake, and has mentioned several times, how much he would love for me to make him a carrot cake. How could I not take this opportunity to make him the dessert of his dreams?? This was the first time I have ever tried homemade carrot cake without using a boxed mix, so needless to say I was a little nervous. However! These turned out wonderful, and I had a very happy boyfriend :)

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 15 oz can of cooked carrots, or 1 jar of carrot baby food (I used the can of cooked carrots)
2 beaten eggs
1 1/4 cup finely grated carrots
1/2 cup golden raisins (also optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Combine flour and the next five ingredients in a food processor. Pulse six to seven times and place into a large bowl.
Combine sugar, oil, and carrots (smashed), and eggs, then stir with a whisk.
Add to flour mixture and stir, then stir in carrots and raisins.
Put in prepared cupcake tins and bake for about 40 minutes.

For Cream Cheese Icing
1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup powder sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredient together and mix until one cohesive mixture on med-high speed.
You can also toast coconut and top each cupcake with it, but I did not do this due to the fact that my boyfriend does not like coconut.
If you want to toast, I suggest putting the coconut onto a baking sheet and putting under to broiler, watching the entire time, until just golden brown.

Next, if you are ever looking for a really easy to make, fast dessert, try these Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes

2 lbs cream cheese
42 Oreos, 30 left whole, and 12 chopped
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Line muffin pans with liners and place one whole cookie in the bottom of each cup.

Beat cream cheese at medium speed, gradually adding sugar and beating until combined. Then, beat in vanilla. Drizzle in the beaten eggs, a bit at a time, and beat in sour cream and salt. Finally, stir in chopped cookies and bake for 22 minutes or until filling is set. Cool completely on wire racks and refrigerate overnight.

This recipe makes 30

The other recipe that my good friend made, turned out more like a cake then brownies, so I would like to do a little more tweeking to this recipe and try for myself to try and get a more dense chocolaty brownie. However, here is the recipe if anyone would like to give it a try for themselves!

2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

2 whole eggs, beaten
1/4 cup fat free milk
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 to 1 cup raisins or chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Mix ingredients, the dry first and then add the combine pumpkin, applesauce, beaten eggs and milk. Mix until this is well blended then stir in raisins or chocolate, followed by spreading into a prepared cake pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until well set.

Last but not least, are the Tres Leches Cupcakes. We had a few guests at the party who discovered, could not eat gluten. I have never tried baking gluten free desserts, but thought that now would be a perfect time to give it a shot! Therefor, I made these little tasty treats gluten free, but because I am not a professional at this yet, they turned out a bit dense...they all disappeared, but I would like to spend a little more time perfecting this recipe as well.

1/4 cup shortening ( I used extra sour cream and one plain vanilla yogurt here)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup gluten free flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
In a large mixing bowl, cream sour cream, yogurt cup, butter and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed. Add yolks, one at a time and beat until yellow disappears. Add vanilla.
Mix in flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mixture, alternately with the buttermilk to the wet mixture.
Beat the white until they have stiff peaks and fold into the batter.
Pour batter into prepared cupcake tins, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Let cool on a wire rack, poking a whole in the middle of each while cooling. I used a chopstick for this, but you can use whatever is handy!
When cook, pour sweetened condensed milk onto the top of the cupcakes, making sure to fill each hole, then top with buttercream icing.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3 3/4 cups powder sugar
2 tbsp milk

Combine all ingredients together, mixing with a hand mixer on med-high speed until mixed well and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes. When cupcakes are cook, pipe icing on top of each.

I must once again, apologize for the lack of pictures! I promise that all of these desserts turned out quite beautifully and are definitely worth giving a shot :)

I hope you enjoy this post, and as always, let me know what you think of the recipes I have provided!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookie Time!

Sorry it has been a while since my last post. Working in an internship has unfortunately not been the best for my wallet, making it hard to buy baking ingredients :) However, while going through one of my recipe collections last night, I found a cookie recipe that called for minimal ingredients and featured my very favorite food, PEANUT BUTTER! It couldn't have been more perfect and gave me the opportunity to get back into my favorite place, the kitchen. While searching for my ingredients, I realized that I was still going to have to do some major ingredient swapping, but this gave me the opportunity to make this particular recipe my own and also made it a challenge, which I love.

The original cookies call for 1 cup of almond butter, which for those of you who have never heard of this ingredient, is just like peanut butter, but a bit more healthy with less sugar than everyday creamy peanut butter. I however, did not have almond butter in the pantry, so I used reduced sugar creamy peanut butter instead, heating it into the microwave for one minute to soften. I did find some sesame covered almonds, which I chopped up and mixed into the softened peanut butter, in order to get some of that almond flavor, not to mention add a nice crunch to the cookies.

Next, the original recipe called for 1 cup of sucanat. This is a sugar cane natural, and looks much like dark brown sugar because of the presence of molasses. Unfortunately I did not have this ingredient either, so instead of sucanat, I improvised and used about a cup of real Maple syrup, followed by the incorporation of 1 large egg, 1 tbsp of baking soda, and half a bag of Hershey chocolate chips. After mixing these ingredients together, the batter looked a little runny still, so I decided to mix in about a cup of quick cooking oats. This was just what the batter needed, but if you are not a fan of oats, than I would suggest trying about a cup or so of flour.

Finally, it was time to get the cookies in the oven to bake. The first batch I put in, I used a tablespoon to measure out a ball of batter and then flattened it out on the cookie sheet, baking at 430 degrees F for 10 minutes. These came out cooked perfectly, but for the next batch, I left the cookies in balls, and again cooked them for 10 minutes. These also came out wonderful, making this recipe wonderful for people who like their cookies flat or more round!

I would be interested in trying the original recipe when I get the chance to purchase more baking ingredients, but I am pretty satisfied with how my improvised recipe turned out, and better yet, my boyfriend, who doesn't even like nuts or oatmeal in cookies, seemed to like these cookies pretty well. Of course he tried to pretend that he didn't like them once he found out what was actually in them, but I saw him munching away when I wasn't looking :)

If you are looking for something sweet, and have limited time, money, or ingredients, give these a shot, I don't think you will be disappointed!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Brownie Ball Bliss

It has been a tradition with my mother and I to get together a week or so before Christmas and make delectable treats to package up for our friends and family. Last year, we bought these cute little christmas themed, chinese takeout boxes and packed them full of our most loved sweets. One of the items included were these Oreo, cream cheese balls, dipped in chocolate. They were the perfect little bite of decadence and a favorite among our gift receivers, not to mention irresistible to our own taste buds. It was this memory that gave me inspiration for next treat making challenge, White Chocolate Covered Brownie Balls!

I must admit, for my first shot at this recipe, I bought and used boxed brownie mix, baking them to the specifications on the back of the package. The one change that I did make however, was a substitute of milk instead of water. When the brownies were done baking, I let them rest for around 10 minutes or so, taking a block of regular cream cheese out of the fridge and leaving it on the counter to soften. Then, with a fork, I crumbled up the finished product and combine it with the soft cream cheese. Doing this while the brownies are still a little warm helps to melt the cream cheese and make the incorporation of the two easier. Next, I added about half a cup of creamy peanut butter to the mixture and mixed everything together until you could only see traces of the peanut butter left.

The next step was to form the batter into balls, about a tablespoon full, and tra
nsfer them to a freezer to harden a bit. It is much easier, especially with the hot weather, to cover these brownie balls with chocolate when they are not melting all over the place. While cooling, I took a regular bag of white chocolate chips and melted them. I would suggest doing this part in a double boiler is possible, but it is also perfectly acceptable to melt the chips in a microwave, which I did for this certain project, taking out the chocolate every minute to stir until melted to perfection.

When the chocolate was melted and left to cool for about 5 minutes, I took the brownie balls out of the freezer and started the dipping process. I must warn you know that this is quite time consuming, so make sure you don't have anywhere to be for about 30 minutes or so. It is best to do this part with a fork so that the excess chocolate can drip off through the prongs back into your bowl. After dipping each ball, I simply transfered them back to a baking sheet and placed them into the freezer once again. It only takes about 10 minutes for these finished balls to be ready for devouring, but I must warn you, it is upon my recommendation to do your devouring with a glass of
milk close by :)

Making these was very time consuming, I must admit, but it was a lot of fun to think back to the times I get to share with my mom while we make our Christmas goodies. Love you mom!

Happy baking!!