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Thursday
Dec112014

Merriest Christmas: Peanut Butter Snowballs

If you need a little Christmas, right this very minute, then this peanut butter snowball recipe is just the ticket to get you on a one way trip to holiday tastiness. It's also my latest creation for Peanut Butter and Company.

These cookies share the classic shape and crumbly texture of snowballs (also called Russian teacakes, Mexican wedding cakes, Armenian sugar cookies, bullets, and, oddly, moldy mice), but they have a taste that is full of peanut buttery goodness. Using crunchy peanut butter ensures good structure and offers enough bulk that they hold their shape; the lack of eggs and leavener keeps the cookies delicate, and distinctly different in character from the type of peanut butter cookies which are cross-hatched with the tines of a fork.

These cookies are a classic kissed with peanut butter to create a true holiday delight. Truth be told, though, I doubt anyone would turn these away at any time of the year!

Recipe here!

Thursday
Dec112014

The Best Chocolate Coconut Oil Maple Syrup Dipping Sauce

Chocolate coconut sauce and cornmeal cookies

Well, did I intrigue you with the title? I hope so, because this sauce is IT, dudes and dudettes.

What can you dip in chocolate coconut oil maple syrup sauce? Any and everything you can think of. Cookies, ice cream, cake, pie. I haven't tried it with a hamburger and fries yet but I'm pretty sure it would manage to improve that, too. Seriously--this stuff is just that good.

Chocolate coconut sauce and cornmeal cookies

This recipe was included in a preview review copy of a coming-soon novel entitled Criminal Confections (A Chocolate Whisperer Mystery). The book is super cute, exactly the type of mystery-meets-chick lit-meets foodie fiction type of book I read when I am alone (if I'm in public, it's War and Peace or something that makes me look smart, of course). I haven't finished the book so I haven't come to the recipe within the story yet, but it was included on the marketing sheet that came with the book, and I thought it sounded interesting.

Chocolate coconut sauce and cornmeal cookies

This sauce comes together in oh, about two minutes, and offers many delicious rewards. I have been enjoying it as a dipping sauce served alongside cornmeal pecan cookies (I'll post that recipe soon), but like I said, it really does make everything better.

"Hayden Mundy-Moore's Chocolate Butter"

Notes from the author: the keys to this recipe are the coconut oil and pinch of salt. The coconut oil gives the chocolate butter just the right luscious consistency. The salt (flaky sea salt is great if you've got it!) adds complexity. Natural cocoa powder and Dutch-processed cocoa powder both work well in ths recipe. Honey can be substituted for maple syrup, if you prefer.

from Criminal Confections (A Chocolate Whisperer Mystery)

  • 1/4 cup refined coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa power
  • pinch of salt

Melt the coconut oil in the microwave or on the stovetop over low heat. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and whisk until smooth. It will become thicker as it cools. Enjoy!

What's your favorite dipping sauce for sweets?

Wednesday
Dec102014

Recipe Redux: Butterscotch Chip Microwave Fudge

Fudge? That you can make in the microwave? Who has ever heard of such a thing?

Um, you have. On this very site, several years ago. It's OK. I understand that if you're new to the site you haven't spent all day sifting through my archives. I also understand that if you're a longtime reader...well, you forget things.

But this recipe is good enough to bring back. I made it "new" by employing butterscotch chips instead of peanut butter this time. And let me tell you, it stands the test of time. It appeals to me both on a level of novelty (it's fudge! made in the microwave!), but also on a level of taste (it's chocolatey! It's very, very sweet! It has butterscotch chips inside and on top!). 

Basically, what I am getting at here is that this recipe is fun, it's tasty, and it's worth your time. It's also easy enough that if you had a cookie swap to go to in an hour, you could still make it RIGHT NOW. 


Butterscotch Chip Microwave Fudge

Makes about 16 squares

  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 cup half and half, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chip morsels, divided into 1/2 and 1/4 cup

Procedure

  1. Line an 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch pyrex pan with parchment paper or waxed paper.
  2. In a large microwave safe bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa. Pour 1/4 cup of the half and half over the mixture and place butter in bowl. Do not mix (it will be too thick to mix, anyway). Microwave on high until butter is melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and 1/2 cup of the butterscotch morsels (the residual heat will melt them just enough). Stir vigorously until smooth. You can also put the mixture into a stand mixer if that sounds exhausting. If your mixture is too dry, add up to 1/4 cup more half and half, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together in a fudge-like consistency.
  3. Spoon the mixture into your prepared pan and using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture so that it is evenly distributed. If desired, sprinkle the top with the remaining chips.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour, or the freezer for half an hour, before serving. Makes about 16 squares.

Have you ever heard of or eaten microwave fudge?

Tuesday
Dec092014

Impress Your Friends: Stained Glass Cookies

Stained glass cookies

Let's be honest. When we share our baked goods with others, it's not *only* to unselflessly share sweetness and love. 

It's also to show off. And for a cookie that is really good for showing off, look no further than these stained glass cookies.

Guaranteed you'll get "oohs", maybe some coos, and a lot of questions about how on earth you did it. You don't have to tell; I'm not the boss of you.

But I will tell you how to do it, right here, right now. You start with a cutout cookie, fill it with crushed candy, bake it up, and voila. Total magic. And they taste good, to boot: buttery cookies with a sweet candy middle in whatever flavor you could possibly desire.

How's that for a Christmas miracle? 

Stained glass cookies

Stained Glass Cookies

Makes about 36 2 ½” cookies

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 6 to 8 ounces assorted translucent hard candies, such as Life Savers, divided by color and crushed finely

Procedure

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add in the granulated sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 more minutes.
  2. Reduce speed of the mixer to low, and stir in the egg, vanilla and salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary using a rubber spatula. Stir until combined.
  3. With the mixer still on low, mix in the flour in 2-3 increments, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Once it’s all been added, only mix until the dough comes together and there are no powdery traces of flour left. The dough may feel crumbly, but it should be easy to clump together.
  4. Divide the dough into two halves, and flatten into two disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until quite firm, at least three hours or up to overnight.
  5. Near the end of your cooling period, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Work with one disk of dough at a time to keep the dough from softening too much. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 1/8″ thickness. Using 2″ to 2 1/2″ cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes and place on your parchment-lined sheets. Using smaller cutters, cut the centers from each cookie.
  7. Note: If the dough is too firm to roll directly from the refrigerator, let it soften for a few minutes and then try again. It should become easier to roll after a few minutes at room temperature.
  8. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of crushed candy into the center of the cookie (a little more or less depending on the cutout size). You want to evenly cover the cutout portion with crushed candy, so that you can’t see the parchment below the candy and so that it reaches every nook and cranny of the cutout. If any candy-powder gets on the top of the cookies, dust it off.
  9. Bake until just golden at the edges and set on top, 7 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring with a spatula to wire racks to cool completely.

Store the cookies, layered between sheets of waxed or parchment paper, for up to a week in an airtight container.

Tuesday
Dec092014

For Extra Yolks: Sugar Cookies with Egg Yolk Only

I love holiday cookies! But you know what I don't love? Recipes that call for only one part of the egg, like the tuiles I made for Colavita or the holiday tree meringues I made for Craftsy. Don't get me wrong--love the cookies. But those extraneous egg yolks TORTURE me. Like, I feel for a few minutes that it is my mission to make use of those yolks, make sure those eggs weren't cracked in vain. 

Happily, this recipe made use of not one, not two, but THREE of those egg yolks lying in wait. That in itself was an accomplishment, but can you imagine my pleasure when they tasted just lovely? Because that they are. I made a few edits to the recipe I found (you will have to forgive me, I forget where) subbing part whole wheat flour (because I like it), omitting the lemon zest (I just didn't have it) and adding a little more salt. I also added some cinnamon and nutmeg on top of some of the cookies, which made them smell and taste like the holidays.

Somewhat crunchy but with a little "chew" in the middle, these cookies are maybe not a showstopper, but they are a quotidian delight. 

Egg Yolk Only Sugar Cookies

Makes 48 or so

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2/4 teaspoon salt (I like salt - if you like less salt, add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks

 Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Thoroughly stir together first three ingredients. If you have time, sift them. I didn’t and the cookies turned out fine. Stir in the salt.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the vanilla, then one by one, beat in the egg yolks.
  4. Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Mix well.
  5. Form into 1 inch balls and place balls about 2 inches apart on a non-stick or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies start to brown around the edges. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Do you have go-to recipes for extra egg yolks?

Monday
Dec082014

Easy Homemade Naan Bread

I love Indian food. But I'd be lying if I tried to tell you that I was more excited about chicken tikka masala or vegetables jafrezi than I was about the naan.

I'm all about the naan.

Naan is an ideal vehicle for eating: it's puffy and substantial, yet not so filling that it keeps you from enjoying the other parts of the meal. It's not wimpy, like pita bread (no offense). It's substantial. It's griddled with butter. I love it. 

And as I now know, you can make this magic at home. I have seen a lot of naan recipes which require baking powder, but I find it far easier to work with just yeast. I prefer my naan made with whole wheat flour, not only for health, but for flavor: I am addicted to that lightly nutty, fascinating flavor which it imparts on the carbohydrate discs. 

This bread is freaking awesome. I've used it for everything from making flatbread pizzas to serving eggs for breakfast. I hope it will bring you as much joy as it has brought me!

Easy homemade naan bread

  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2-4 tablespoons warm water 
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (0.25 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup plain full fat greek yogurt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (can substitute all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • melted butter, for the griddle

Procedure

  1. Combine the milk and 2 tablespoons of water. Add the active dry yeast. Give it a moment to start bubbling lightly, and add the yogurt, flour, and salt. Mix until it comes together into a cohesive mixture. If needed, add the remaining water.
  2. Roll the dough into a ball. Place it in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and leave it at room temperature to rise for an hour to an hour and a half. 
  3. Gently deflate the dough, and remove it from the bowl. Divide it into 8 equal portions.
  4. Roll each portion into a circle, approximately 5 inches in diameter.
  5. Fire up a skillet larger than the bread and generously butter it. Once sizzling, place a round of bread on top. Once it begins to bubble on the surface, flip it and cook slightly less time than the first side. Using tongs, remove and place on a plate. Continue buttering the grilling surface before adding each new round of bread.

Do you love naan bread?

Monday
Dec082014

Sweet Treats for the Holidays Blog Tour: Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Cookies

Guess what? I'm part of the blog tour for a fantastic new book by my friend Norene Cox.

The book is entitled Sweet Treats for the Holidays: Edible Creations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and More, and I need to tell you: it is adorable.

In its pages, you'll find tutorials for such crafty holiday-themed sweets as these:

and these.

And I'll share the recipe from the top of the post--how cute is that??

Be sure to check out the other stops for the blog tour as seen below:

November 28: The Purple Pug
November 29: Fizzy Party
November 30: Log House Foods
December 1: My Cake School
December 2: Party Wagon
December 3: Catch My Party
December 4: Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons
December 5: Bird’s Party
December 6: Momstart
December 7: The Things I Love Most
December 8: Cakespy
December 9: Simple Fare, Fairly Simple • Readalot • Author’s Hideaway
December 10: The Marshmallow Studio • Babs Book Bistro
December 11: Creative Juice

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup white candy coating
  • 4 mini candy canes
  • 4 jumbo marshmallows
  • 1 (16-ounce) can chocolate frosting
  • 12 jet-puffed mallow bits
  • 1 7-ounce pouch stor bought white cookie icing
  • 4 store bought tea cookies 
  • 40 small tree sprinkles
  • 4 large tree sprinkles

Procedure

  1. Melt the candy coating in a small microwave-safe bowl according to the package instructions. 
  2. Cut a candy cane at the curve. Dip the ends into the melted candy coating and push them into the side of the marshmallow. Hold it in place until it hardens and is secure.
  3. Using a small knife, spread a small amount of chocolate frosting on top of a marshmallow, leaving a small rim. Top with 3 mallow bits.
  4. Frost a cookie with white icing. Place the marshmallow in the middle of the cookie.
  5. Place 10 small tree sprinkles around the perimeter of the cookie.
  6. Attache a large tree sprinkle to the front of the marshmallow using the candy coating.
Saturday
Dec062014

I Love H: Award-Winning H-Bars Recipe

I love love.

I also love cookies.

And furthermore, I adore a good story.

Naturally, I gravitated toward this recipe, since it combines all of the above in one tasty form. Adding to its intrigue was the fact that is was an award-winner: these bars are featured in the new book Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More


These so-called "H-Bars" have a mysterious story: 

Victoria Weisenberg won first place in 2012 for this recip and her tale of using them to woo "a very special man". Weisenberg created the recipe as a Hanukkah give for her former beau and said the "H" stands for the first letter of his first name, though she opted to leave that name a mystery.

This story is what intrigued me about the bars, which I might have otherwise passed over owing to the fact that they are made with a raisin filling. This t-shirt design sums up my thoughts on raisins in cookies:

Luckily (great timing!) I just received a package from the California Dried Plum Board (no, really). It didn't take me long to decide to swap the prunes for the raisins. I'm glad I did: they add a wonderful moisture and mellow flavor to the bars. 

Yes, really.

The only other thing I did differently is I baked the bars in a loaf pan rather than the size specified in the recipe. Doing such, I had to increase the bake time by about 5 minutes. I have left the instructions intact though; if you want to make them look like mine, use a loaf pan, increase the bake time, and slice into fingers instead of bars. 

Award-winning H-Bars

  • Yield: 20 bars
  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Bake time: 37 to 40 minutes per batch

Shortbread base:

  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Middle layer

  • ⅓ cup flour
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 ounces chopped dried plums (original recipe calls for ⅔ cup golden raisins)

Topping:

  • ½ cup flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted
  • butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Icing (I omitted this)

  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1½–2 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla

Procedure

  1. Grease or coat with cooking spray a 7½-by-11-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

  2. For the shortbread, combine butter, flour and granulated sugar in a medium bowl until crumbly. Pack into the prepared pan; bake, 15 minutes.

  3. For raisin layer, stir together flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, beat brown sugar, eggs and vanilla together until blended. Stir in dry ingredients and dried plum bits. Pour over the baked shortbread layer.

  4. For the topping, combine ingredients in a bowl until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the middle layer. Bake, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool.

  5. For the icing, combine confectioners’ sugar, 1½ tablespoons milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Add more milk, if needed, until you get a smooth, easy-to drizzle mixture. Drizzle over the top. Cut into 20 bars.

Food processor method: You do not have to wash the bowl of the processor between steps. Combine ingredients for the bottom layer with a few pulses until crumbly. Pack in pan. Bake as above. Prepare topping in the processor in the same way. Place in a bowl and set aside. Then, place brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in processor bowl and process until blended. Add dry ingredients and pulse a few times. Stir in raisins. Continue as above.

Do you like raisins in baked goods?

Saturday
Dec062014

What Type of Chocolate Should I Use in My Baking?

What type of chocolate should I use in my recipe? Well, depends on what you're baking. I've written up a helpful guide to the different types of chocolate and their best uses in baking. Read more.

Saturday
Dec062014

Cake Mix Bonbon Cookies

You'd never guess cake mix is the key ingredient of these pleasant little cookies. Vaguely shortbread-y, I made mine with peppermint extract for the holidays, but I'm putting vanilla for more everday use. 

I made these because I had a spare box of cake mix lying around (you know, food blogger problems) but was pleasantly surprised. I even included them on a few cookie samplers.

Enjoy!

Cake Mix Bonbon Cookies

Makes 30-40 cookies depending on size

  • 1 box cake mix (I used Immaculate Baking Yellow Cake Mix)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or peppermint around the holidays)
  • 3-4 ounces of dark or milk chocolate (3 ounces = delicate drizzle; 4 ounces = more generous icing like pictured)

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). In large bowl, mix cake mix, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs with spoon until dough forms. It will be a somewhat crumbly dough.
  2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. On ungreased cookie sheets, Place balls 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. 
  4. Make the chocolate topping. Melt 3-4 ounces of chocolate, and drizzle on top of each cookie. 
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