Saturday, December 31, 2011

Favorite Recipes of 2011

I can't believe 2011 is almost over! I must say it was a pretty good year. I started my blog, began culinary school, found a a job that I love, and leaned a lot about baking. I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite recipes from 2011. I hope you all had a fantastic year and I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Cinnamon Rolls

Vanilla Frosted Honey Cake

Cheddar Soda Bread

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars

Cheddar-Corn Spoon Bread

Raspberry Cream Cheese Layer Cake 

Junior Mint Brownies 


Chocolate Malt Ice Cream Cup Pies

Honey Goat Cheese Biscuits 

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt with Blackberry Lime Sauce 

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies 

Salted Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars 

Whole Wheat "Goldfish" Crackers 

Toasted Marshmallow and Malt Chocolate Layer Cake 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Junior Mint Brownies

This recipe comes from one of my favorite holiday cookbooks, The Pastry Queen Christmas by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman. I have found so many wonderful recipes in this cookbook, and these minty brownies are one of my absolute favorites. I really like this recipe because it is simple and produces a wonderfully moist and fudgy brownie. These brownies are quite rich so I would suggest cutting them into small bite-sized pieces which I found to be the perfect size for serving, especially at holiday parties.

Junior Mint Brownies 
1 cup Unsalted Butter
6 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (use at least 60% cocoa)
2 cups Sugar
4 Eggs
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 teaspoons Vanilla
4 packages Junior Mints (1.84 ounces each)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with baking spray, line with parchment paper then spray parchment with baking spray. In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter and chocolate chips just until melted. Once melted remove from heat and allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Then in another bowl mix together the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the egg mixture to the cooled chocolate and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan smooth the top then arrange the Junior Mints in even rows across the top of the batter, making rows of 10 down and 8 across. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until edges pull away from sides and center is set. Cool brownies in pan then freeze uncovered for about an hour to make the brownies easy to cut.

Recipe from The Pastry Queen Christmas 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gingerbread House

Have you ever made a gingerbread house from scratch? I made my first one recently and now I am hooked! What I really liked about making my gingerbread house from scratch was that it allowed me the flexibility to make my house any shape I wanted. I found a great template online, which I tweaked just a little bit for this house. There are many great free gingerbread templates available online, I will post a few links to the ones I found. All you need to do is print them off, trace them onto parchment paper (which by the way is a very important step, if you use regular paper it will stick to your gingerbread a create a huge mess) then cut out your template. Since this was my first gingerbread house I wanted to share with you some helpful hints that I learned through trial and error when making this house. 

Helpful Hints
1. The dollar store is a great place to buy candy for your house. 
2. Roll out your gingerbread house pieces on parchment paper and use a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the dough. This way you don't need to use any extra flour and it just makes things easier. 
3. Use cans to support the walls of your your house while the royal icing is drying. 
4. Attach the roof last, after the rest of your house has dried and is stable. Again use cans under the bottom edge of the roof to support it as it dries.
5. Disposable pastry bags will make this project 100 times easier, okay maybe not 100 times, but I found them to be extremely convenient. 
6. Trace or draw your template onto parchment paper, regular paper will stick to the gingerbread and create a big sad mess. I may or may not know this from personal experience :) (I know I mentioned this above, but seriously this is important!)
7. Use a ruler to guide you as you cut you your pieces and a pizza cutter to do the cutting.
8. Use a toothpick to poke holes through the parchment and dough as an outline for where to cut windows and doors, then use a small pairing knife to do the cutting.  
9. After you cut out your gingerbread house pieces carefully slide the parchment paper onto a baking sheet and place them in the freezer for a few minutes until pieces firm up a bit, this helps them keep their shape. 
10. Keep an eye on your gingerbread as it is baking, a few bubbles might pop up, when this happens use a toothpick to poke them down.

I am not sure where this recipe came from because I got it as a handout in class. I really liked this recipe because it was super easy to work with and there are no eggs used in the dough so I felt completely comfortable eating a bit of the dough as I made the house. I thought this dough was pretty tasty raw, but I would not recommend this recipe for cookies (unless you are going to use it to make cookie ornaments that will not be eaten) or if you plan on eating your gingerbread house because this dough bakes up quite hard which makes it great for stability, but not so great for eating. 

6 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Salt 
1 1/2 cups Corn Syrup*
1 1/4 cups Brown Sugar*
1 cup Butter 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, and salt then set aside until needed. In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat combine corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter. Stir mixture constantly until butter is melted. Pour butter mixture into flour mixture and knead together until dough forms. I found the dough easy to work with at this point, but if you find the dough too soft to handle place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes until it firms up a bit. On that note if you find the dough becomes too stiff to work with while you are rolling out the pieces to your gingerbread house just stick it in the microwave for 10 second increments until it becomes soft and easy to handle again. Roll out the dough 1/8' thick and then use template to cut out gingerbread pieces. Place gingerbread pieces in the freezer for a few minutes (see helpful hint #9 above). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Once baked place sheet pan on cooling rack and allow gingerbread to cool completely. 

* Dark or light corn syrup and brown sugar may be used, if you want darker gingerbread use dark corn syrup and brown sugar, for a lighter gingerbread use light corn syrup and brown sugar. 

Royal Icing 
This recipe was also a handout from class so I am not exactly sure where it came from, but it seems to be pretty standard. 

3/4 cup Warm Water 
5 tablespoons Meringue Powder
1 teaspoon Cream of Tarter
2 pounds Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract, if desired 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the water and meringue powder by hand until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and whisk for another 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar and turn mixer on low until incorporated, then increase the speed just a little and beat for 10 minutes. Icing should be thick, but still have a shine to it.

For thinner icing whisk in 1 tablespoon of water at a time until desired consistency is reached. For thicker icing whisk in 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar at a time until desired consistency is reached. Thicker icing is best for constructing your house. Thinner icing is best for making icicles and detailed piping work on your house. Cover icing with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Divide icing up into smaller bowls and color with food coloring as desired. This is where I find disposable pastry bags very convenient because you don't have to clean out your pastry bag between colors, just fill the disposable bags with your different colors. 

To make the tree you will need ice cream cones, royal icing, a star tip, and a pastry bag. Fill your pastry bag fitted with the star attachment 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full with the royal icing. Holding the tip of the ice cream cone pipe stars around the base of the cone working your way up towards the tip. Once you get close to the tip carefully set the tree down on parchment paper in a spot where is can sit for a few hours until it dries completely and finish piping the stars at the top. Allow tree to dry completely before moving. 

To make the icicles you will need a pastry bag, a small round tip and royal icing. Fill your pastry bag fitted with the round attachment 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full with royal icing. Along the base of the roof, pipe out the icing and drag downwards to create an icicle. Continue along the entire base of the roof. 

To make the snowman you will need three large marshmallows, toothpicks, orange and brown food coloring, paper towels, royal icing, tweezers, and cocoa pearls (I found these ones at Trader Joe's). Dip one toothpick in orange food coloring and two toothpicks in brown food coloring then wipe off the excess with a paper towel, set aside to dry. Attach the marshmallows one on top of the other with royal icing. Attach the buttons, eyes, and, mouth by dipping each pearl in a little royal icing and use tweezers or your fingers (which ever you find easier) to attach them to the snowman. Hold for a  few seconds until icing sets up a little. Use a toothpick to poke holes for the arms and the nose. Cut the brown and orange toothpicks to desired lengths and dip the ends that will be inserted into the marshmallows into royal icing then attach them to the snowman. 

Links to Gingerbread House Templates

All Recipes This is the template I used 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mini Cranberry Bliss Bars

With Thanksgiving just around the corner I thought it would be fun to share a mini version of this delightful treat. I don't know about you, but when I go to a holiday gathering I like to try a little bit of everything. Making these bliss bars mini sized makes it easy for everyone to get a taste with out having to eat a full sized bar or letting any go to waste. This recipe is super simple and can be easily doubled.

Mini Cranberry Bliss Bars 
8 tablespoons Unsalted Butter ( 1 stick), softened
1/2 cup Brown Sugar, packed
2 Eggs
Zest of half an Orange
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 cup All-purpose Flour
1/8 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/4 cup Dried Cranberries, coarsely chopped (plus more for sprinkling)
1/4 cup White Chocolate Chips (plus more for sprinkling)*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x9 inch pan then line with parchment paper and spray with baking spray. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar till creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, scrape bowl as needed. Mix in the zest and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and pumpkin pie spice then add it to the butter mixture and beat until well mixed. Stir in the cranberries and white chocolate. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.

4 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

While the cake is cooling make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar on low, then once it is fully incorporated add the vanilla and increase speed. Beat until smooth.

Once the cake is completely cooled, remove it from the pan and spread the frosting evenly over the cake. Sprinkle with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Cut into small triangles if desired.

* I used the white chocolate calets pictured below from Whole Foods Market. They are smaller than regular white chocolate chips so they were the perfect size for sprinkling. If you are using regular white chocolate chips you may want to coarsely chop them up before sprinkling or use white chocolate shavings instead.

Recipe slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction where it was adapted from Mr. Breakfast

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Today I cooked my first pumpkin! I made this tasty pasta and then decided to experiment with the seeds. They turned out just as I had hoped, lightly sweetened and perfectly crunchy. These seeds are delicious on their own or may be a tasty addition to any fall salad.

Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds 
1 cup Pumpkin Seeds
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Pumpkin Spice
pinch of Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil and top with a sheet of parchment paper (this makes for super easy cleanup). In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar, pumpkin spice, and salt, set aside until needed. In a separate bowl toss together the pumpkin seeds, melted butter, and vanilla then stir in the pumpkin spice mixture until all the seeds are coated. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-35 minutes, or until done, check seeds after 15 minutes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spiderweb Cake

Halloween in my absolute favorite holiday. I tend to start baking Halloween treats towards the end of September or early October. Usually I start decorating for autumn/Halloween around this time as well, but it has been incredibly warm here and I just can't bring myself to decorate until sweater weather officially begins. But that doesn't stop me from baking for the season. I used this cake recipe from Sweetapolita. It is a white cake with white chocolate frosting, which originally came from the cookbook Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.

Spiderweb Cake 
Step1: Start with a frosted cake.

Step2: Using black decorating gel, make evenly spaced circles starting in the center and working your way out to the edge.

Step3: Drag a toothpick from the center of the cake out to edge, creating six lines or so to create the spiderweb patten. You can also add a spider on top or crawling up the side of the cake.

For this cake recipe visit Sweetapolita.

Happy Baking!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Green Apple Streusel Bars

I bought five green apples with the best of intentions, but they ended up just sitting in a bowl on my dining room table looking pretty. I love green apples, lemons, and even oranges as centerpieces, but when the end of the week draws near it is time to put that fruit to good use. I decided to make these bars with three of the apples rather than eat them one by one. These bars are great with a scoop vanilla ice cream for dessert or with a cup of coffee as a morning treat.

Green Apple Streusel Bars
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, Melted
3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour

Mix together the brown sugar and salt. Pour in the butter and stir to combined, then add the flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until needed.

Apple Mix
3 Green Apples, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
1/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
Pinch of Kosher Salt

Whisk together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the apples and mix to coat. Set aside until needed.

1 cup All-Purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Kosher Salt
3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, plus more for pan
1 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar, plus more for dusting
2 Eggs
3/4 teaspoon Almond Extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the powdered sugar until fluffy. Add the almond and beat to incorporate. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well combined, scape bowl as needed. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture and mix just to combined.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x9 inch square pan with parchment. Spread the cake batter evenly into the prepared pan. Distribute the apple mix evenly over the batter, note there will be some of the flour mixture left in the bottom of the bowl that didn't stick to the apples, just sprinkle it over the apples in the pan. Top the apples with the streusel. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you like.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pumpkin Gingerbread with Pumpkin Spice Buttercream

I know it is a little early for fall time desserts, but I have an obsession with pumpkin. I usually get the itch to bake with pumpkin in August and it continues through the end of November. Fall baking is my absolute favorite, so I tend to start baking treats with pumpkin, apple, and spice a bit before the fall season officially begins. I came across this amazing looking gingerbread on Oh She Glows, and I have been thinking about making it ever since. Not only does this bread look fantastic, but it is also vegan. I have not experimented very much with vegan baking but I am really interested in learning more about it and trying new recipes.

Pumpkin Gingerbread
1 cup canned Pumpkin
3 tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup
3/4 cup Organic Pure Cane Sugar
1/3 cup Coconut Oil
1/4 cup Blackstrap Molasses
1 tablespoon Ground Flax Seed
3 tablespoons Water
1 2/3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice (or make your own)
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 cup Walnuts, Toasted and Chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coarsely  chop walnuts then spread them around on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast walnuts for 10 minutes, then set aside until needed. Prepare loaf pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl stir together the ground flax seed and water, then set aside. In a medium sized bowl mix together the pumpkin, maple syrup, sugar, coconut oil, molasses, and flax and water mixture. In a separate bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, then stir in the toasted walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Once baked allow loaf to cool completely before frosting.

Pumpkin Spice Buttercream 
1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter Stick, room temperature
2 cups Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tablespoon Almond Milk (or enough to reach the desired consistency)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the Earth Balance butter stick until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla on low. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl, increase the speed and beat again until smooth. Add almond milk if needed.  

Recipe slightly adapted from Oh She Glows where it was adapted from Fat Free Vegan

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chocolate Malt Ice Cream Cup Pies

Last weekend my brother had us all over for a barbecue for the 24th of July. The 24th of July is a state holiday in Utah called Pioneer Day. It is similar to the 4th of July in that there are fireworks and barbecues. My contribution to this barbecue was dessert. I wanted to make something easy that didn't require utensils or even a plate. I came across a recipe in sunset magazine for a malted milk ball ice cream pie and decided this would be the perfect dessert to make for the barbecue, only in cup pie form to eliminate the needs for plates and forks. The cup pies were a huge success! Although I will say they are a but tricky to travel with and are best eaten as soon as they come out of the freezer so they don't have much of a chance to melt.

Chocolate Malt Ice Cream Cup Pies 
20 Lorna Doone Shortbread Cookies (if using another brand of shortbread cookie, use 5 ounces)
1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter, melted
1 cup Malted Milk Balls, crushed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin with baking liners. Grind cookies into crumbs using a food processor, then stir in melted butter until combined. Distribute mixture evenly among cups. Press crumbs to form a crust in to bottom of each cup. Bake for 7 minutes. Once baked remove from oven and allow crusts to cool completely. When cooled, sprinkle a layer of crushed malted milk balls over the crusts. Reserve the leftover crushed malted milk balls to top cup pies.

Ice Cream 
2 1/2 cups Chocolate Ice Cream, slightly softened
2/3 cup Malted Milk Powder

Mix together the ice cream and malt powder until smooth. Pour ice cream into cups until they are 3/4 of the way full, then freeze for at least 3 hours. (Note: you will probably have some ice cream left over, which I would recommend eating while waiting for the cup pies to freeze :)

3 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup Whipping Cream

Heat whipping cream to just a boil then pour over chocolate chips. Allow mixture to sit for two minutes, then stir until smooth. Allow ganache to cool. Pour the ganache over the tops of the frozen cup pies then return to the freezer to allow ganache to set, about 15 minutes.

Whipping Cream
1/2 cup Whipping Cream
1-2 teaspoons Granulated Sugar, depending on taste

Whip cream and sugar, then top cup pies with whipped cream and the remainder of the crushed malted milk balls. Serve immediately or freeze until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from Sunset Magazine, June 2011

This post is linked with Everyday Sisters Sharing 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Bowl Full of Lemons: Creamy Lemon Squares

The other day I bought a big bag of lemons from Costco. I love anything made with lemon so I was really excited to get home and start baking with them. First I made these bars. I had seen the recipe for them a while back and I have been meaning to try them ever since. Next I plan of making lemonade, then after that, if there are any left, I am going to make a lemon cake.

Creamy Lemon Squares 
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, Softened, plus more for pan
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
4 Egg Yolks
1 (14 ounce) Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
3/4 cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice (3-4 lemons)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and line an 8 inch square baking dish with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over two of the sides, (this will make it easier to remove the lemon squares from the pan). In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the flour until just combined. Press mixture into the prepared baking dish, poke pressed dough all over with a fork, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly golden. While crust is baking prepare the filling. Whisk together the lemon juice, yolks, and the sweetened condensed milk until smooth and thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into baked crust and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set. Allow to cool in pan then place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cutting. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pita Bread with White Bean and Rosemary Dip

I love cooking and baking with rosemary because the herb is so versatile. I have used it in cakes, breads, and now a dip, but it can also be used in lemonade, which I have yet to try but plan on making soon, chicken, fish, potatoes, cocktails, and much much more. Adding fresh rosemary to many dishes can really add a lot of depth and flavor. I have a little rosemary plant that has been flourishing lately so I wanted to use a few of its sprigs to make a dip that would go nicely with pita bread. I was quite happy with the results of the dip however, I did go a bit overboard with the salt so when making this dip be sure to taste it before adding too much salt and adjust according to taste.

Pita Bread
2 1/2 cup Bread Flour
2 teaspoons Salt
1 tablespoon Sugar
2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup Warm Water (about 110 degrees F)

Whisk together 1 cup bread flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the water and the oil, then mix briskly for a few minutes, mixture will be thin. Once mixed stir in the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes adding a little more flour as dough becomes sticky. Form dough into a ball and divide into 8 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Then cover dough balls with a clean and slightly damp dish towel. Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes. While dough is resting preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and prepare the dip, if making. Once dough has rested roll each ball out into a flat circle. Line baking sheet with foil and place 2-3 of the flattened dough rounds onto the lined pan. Bake for 6-7 minutes or until slightly browned.

Makes 8 Pitas

Recipe from Farmgirl Fare where it was adapted from Bernard Clayton

White Bean and Rosemary Dip
1 15 ounce can Cannellini Bean
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt (you may want to add a bit more depending on taste, but I'd start with this amount then build up from there)

Heat beans a in medium sized saucepan until warmed through, then drain. Pour beans into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and add the rosemary and salt. Blend bean mixture and pour olive oil through the top while blending. Taste and add a little more salt if needed. Enjoy with pita bread.