Sunday, December 16, 2018

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

If you're squeamish, don't read the following blurb. Just skip straight to the recipe below. These cookies are scrumptious, and that's all you need to know.


I had a stage I melanoma removed from my abdomen last week. To be completely honest, it's taken me down, both physically and emotionally. The incision is about 4 inches long, the wound is pretty deep, and I have internal and external sutures. If the wound were located in an area of little to no movement, it wouldn't be a big deal. However, your stomach stretches when you move in any way - sitting, standing, bending, twisting, reaching, and so on. I hate resting, and I've had to do a lot of that. This time of year, I want to be elbow-deep in Christmas-themed batter, dough, and filling. Fortunately, my mother, who has been staying with me since my procedure, assisted me with getting back into baking last night. We rigged a system where I could do most of the work without moving my lower half too much, and it rocked. My spirits were instantly lifted, and they were absolutely soaring when I first taste-tested these delicious chocolate sugar cookies! I'm clearly off my decorating game since I'm still weak and shaky, so my OCD is very unhappy with the glaze-work. Right now, though, that is irrelevant! Stella is getting her groove back, and her melanoma is gone!

Cookie Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsps vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt

Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/4 to 2 Tbsps water

Cookie Directions:
Mix the butter and sugar until incorporated. Mix in the egg, followed by the vanilla. Add the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix until just incorporated. Do not overmix. Roll dough between 2 large pieces of parchment to thickness of your liking. Place on baking sheet to refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and cut into shapes. Place shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet, refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to prevent spreading, and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes. The cookies should appear set when ready. Cool completely before decorating.

Glaze Directions:
Mix ingredients. Spread glaze on each cookie. Allow cookies to air-dry overnight.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Mini Cherry Christmas Tree Cakes & Chocolate Ganache (Single-Layer Cherry Cake)


Last year, I stole some old mini Christmas tree cake pans from my mother's kitchen, as she had never even removed the 90s Walmart price stickers. When my neighbors decided to host a last-minute Holiday Wrapapalooza this year, I knew I wanted to use those tiny cake pans to bake some treats! I found a recipe for a single-layer cherry cake, transferred some frozen chocolate buttercream to the refrigerator to thaw, and got to baking. Yes, leftover buttercream becomes a lovely pourable ganache when microwaved, ensuring a flawless finish!


Cake Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening
1/4 cup whole milk
2 Tbsps maraschino cherry juice
1 egg
8 maraschino cherries, cut into eighths

Cake Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray round cake pan or mini cake pans with Baker's Joy. In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until combined. Add shortening, milk, and cherry juice. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Add egg. Beat for 2 minutes. Fold in cherries, then pour into pan. For a round cake, bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before moving to wire rack. For mini cakes, bake 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon your oven.

Chocolate Buttercream/Ganache Ingredients:
1½ sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2½ cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsps milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Buttercream/Ganache Directions:
Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined. Gradually add powdered sugar and milk to cocoa mixture, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla extract, then combine well. Use as spreadable frosting, or microwave to create a pourable ganache.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Candy Cane Cookies (Peppermint Shortbread)


These candy cane cookies are so fun to twist, and they can be made with or without the crushed peppermint on top! Peppermint lovers can enjoy that extra crunch of mint on a topped cookie, and even peppermint haters can appreciate the subtle mint flavor in a bare cookie! Each cookie is unique, and some cookies are more - ahem - special than others. Now go! Twist the night away…


Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 egg
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Red food coloring gel
2 Tbsps finely crushed peppermint candies
2 Tbsps granulated sugar


Directions:
In a large bowl, beat together butter, both sugars, both extracts, and egg on low speed. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Add red food coloring gel to half of the dough until the desired color is reached. Wrap each portion of dough in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours. In a small bowl, combine peppermint candies and 2 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. To make a candy cane cookie, take 1 level teaspoon of each dough. Roll each teaspoon into a 4-inch rope. Place 1 red and 1 white rope beside each other, then start twisting the colors together. Press the ends together to prevent unraveling, bend a crook in the neck of each cookie, and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Immediately sprinkle cookies with the peppermint-sugar mixture, if using. Move cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield: 
3½ to 4 dozen cookies

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Small Batch Pecan Pie Bars & Small Batch Pumpkin Pie Bars

I love baking in small batches! Both of these recipes are made in a standard loaf pan. I highly recommend making them together because the flavors complement each other beautifully!


Pecan Crust Ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsps butter, cold
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Pecan Filling Ingredients:
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsps cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions (Pecan Pie Bars):
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Combine all crust ingredients with fingers or a food processor. Press into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 15 to 18 minutes. While crust bakes, whisk together all filling ingredients except pecans. When crust comes out of oven, sprinkle pecans evenly over the top of the hot crust. Pour filling into hot crust, covering the pecans, then return to oven to bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the filling is set and does not jiggle when shaken. Cool completely, then refrigerate until cold. Lift out parchment, then slice into 8 bars.


Pumpkin Crust Ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsps butter, cold
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Pumpkin Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk

Directions (Pumpkin Pie Bars):
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Combine all crust ingredients with fingers or a food processor. Press into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 15 to 18 minutes. While crust bakes, whisk together all filling ingredients. Pour filling into hot crust, then return to oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the filling is set and does not jiggle when shaken. Cool completely, then refrigerate until cold. Lift out parchment, then slice into 8 bars.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

2-Layer Pumpkin Spice Cake & Cream Cheese Frosting (Or 8x8 Cake - Or Penis Cake)


Where do I begin? Let me start by saying that this recipe is extremely versatile. I've made it as an 8x8 cake. I've made it as two 8x8 cakes. And... I've made it as a penis. Twice. I know that I've piqued your interest with the mention of a pumpkin penis cake, but first, here's the recipe for the two-layer cake. I prepared and baked each layer separately, and I doubled the frosting recipe.


Cake Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Frosting Ingredients:
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8-inch pan with parchment. Spray sides with Baker's Joy. To a large bowl, add the eggs, sugar, pumpkin, oil, spices, and vanilla, then whisk to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then stir until just combined. Smooth into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly before turning out onto cooling rack. To prepare frosting, mix together all ingredients.

Note: The pumpkin penis took around 45 minutes to bake in my oven, and I didn't use all of the batter. I frosted it with this cream cheese frosting for Halloween, and I frosted it with my Chocolate Buttercream Frosting for Thanksgiving. The feathers on the turkey were cut from a Single-Layer Chocolate Cake and were frosted with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. Enjoy the puns.



Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

When you need dessert for just a few people, cupcakes are a great option. This recipe makes 6 cupcakes, which I topped with half of my Chocolate Buttercream Frosting recipe.


Ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
4 Tbsps unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 cup whole milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. Line cups of a muffin tin. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the egg and sugar for about 30 seconds. Add the vanilla extract and melted butter, then whisk until well-combined. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then whisk until just combined. Add the milk, and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients, then whisk until combined. Do not overmix. Fill each cup around 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes.

Single-Layer Chocolate Cake

Sometimes, you just need chocolate. Sometimes, you just need cake. Sometimes, you know better than to bake a two-layer cake that you'll finish all by yourself in a matter of days. I topped this cake with a random salted caramel chocolate buttercream frosting that I invented with leftover ingredients and could never replicate exactly. Sorry about that, but you can frost it with whatever you'd like.


Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted and warm
1-1/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup hot water

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350ยบ. Line the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt. Sift the cocoa into the dry ingredients, then whisk to combine. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and vanilla, then stir until blended. Add the flour mixture all at once, then stir just until all of the flour is moistened. Pour the hot water over the batter, then stir until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to rack.