12.20.2013

Peppermint Fudge Cookie Sandwiches

.  Okay, this is getting serious.


Christmas is less than 5 days away and I still have some serious Christmas recipes to share.  So in part to the fact that I have little to no time to pump out these posts...let's get right to it.  Short and sweet.

First.  These cookies are ah-maze.  And I'm not joking.  They very much remind me of the dark chocolate lava cookies that seem to melt away in your mouth.  I mean, I named these 'fudge' cookies for a reason, right?  And for an extra special touch, you're getting a double dose of chocolate with the mini chocolate chips studded throughout.  Because who doesn't need more chocolate?  Plus they add a subtle crunchy texture to these luscious, seemingly creamy, cookies.


But the true holiday spirit comes when you get to that buttercream.  The candy cane buttercream, mind you.  Yes, real candy canes are crushed and added to a classic vanilla buttercream, upping the holiday ante.  And who would have guessed the chocolate/peppermint combo was so downright addicting?  Because neither Robbie or I could stop eating these little things.

Not to mention they're just too darn cute.


Well, I hope that everyone has a wondrous holiday and ends 2013 with a bang.  I'll be spending the last couple of weeks of the year in Minnesota and Arizona with family and friends, so odds are this will be my last post.  For the year, I mean.

I already have loads to catch you all up on, particularly with wedding planning, so I can't wait for the New Year to roll around.

Love you all, see you in 2014!  .


Ingredients:
Fudge Cookies:
1 c. plus 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1 c. mini chocolate chips

Peppermint Buttercream:
3/4 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-1/2 to 3 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. candy cane dust (about 9 candy canes)

Directions:
  1. For cookies, stir together flourcocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Melt chocolate in the microwave for about 1 minute, stir, and continue to melt in 30 second increments until fully melted and smooth; set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract; set aside.  With electric or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute).  Beat in brown sugar and sugar, scraping down the sides, until mixture is granular.  Mix in egg mixture until incorporated.  Add chocolate and beat until combined.  Add dry ingredients on slow speed.  Fold in the mini chocolate chips (do not overmix!).  Chill dough for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat oven to 350°F.  Scoop 1 Tablespoon of dough and roll into a slightly flattened ball.  Place onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 10 minutes or until cookies have just begun to set with the centers still appearing very soft (they will set as they cool).  Move to wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, for buttercream, place candy canes in food processor and crush to a fine dust.  
  5. In a medium bowl, beat butter for 1 minute.  Add 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar and mix on low speed.  Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream.  Beat for 1 minute.  Stir in candy cane dust with a spatula and add heavy whipping cream as needed if buttercream requires loosening.  
  6. Frost half of cooled cookies and top with remaining half of cookies to create sandwiches.
Yield: 2 dozen cookie sandwiches



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12.15.2013

Caramel Apple Streusel Pie

.  How has Thanksgiving already come and gone?  I haven't even had a split second to catch up with everyone to see how their food-filled day went.  And now it's almost Christmas...


But let's recap.  My Thanksgiving was spent out in Naperville, Illinois, where my aunt and her family live.  My parents [in Minnesota] and my brother [currently in Missouri for Army training] also made the trek to the Chicago suburb.  We're all over the place, huh?  But fortunately we were all able to be under one roof for one of my favorite holidays, if even for a short while.

But my Thanksgiving was off to a great start the moment I got to my aunt's house.


Right before our early dinner, my aunt asked me to grab the wine.  Unbeknownst to me, I snagged a bag in the fridge and brought it out to the table.  The next couple of seconds were a bit of a blur but I remember my mom asking me what kind it was.  I casually shrugged and started reading the label.

'Jess.'  'Bridesmaid.'  'Melissa.'

Those are basically the only three words I remember reading.  But as the utter confusion passed, I started piecing it all together.  My best friend, and Maid of Honor, was asking me to be in her wedding!


Mel is a huge wine connoisseur, so her 'invitation' was so completely her.  Absolutely perfect and I couldn't be any more honored to stand by my beautiful best friend on the biggest day of her life.

See?  A great start to my Thanksgiving.


Comically, the rest of the holiday went by rather quickly.  We apparently got right down to business and the first round of 'Thanksgiving' was over in all of about 35 minutes.  If that.  But I guess that only alludes to the delicous-ness of the our meal: we were all heads down, forks to mouths.  And then once we were done, we got back to catching up with everyone.

The aftermath of Thanksgiving.

And of course, there was dessert.  Made by me.  Unfortunately dessert is the only contribution I will ever have to any dinner party.  But I think everyone agreed, this recipe didn't let me down.

From the crunchy toffee crumble to the luscious caramelized-apple filling overflowing in a homemade crust, what's not to love?  And the fact that we only had a modest sliver left by the end of the night signifies there wasn't much we didn't love about it.  Plus my papa requested this pie for Christmas.  Musta been good then, huh?!


Well I hope everyone's enjoying the holidays, they always seem to fly by faster each year.  Like I said, it's been busy our way, too, and hopefully I can get caught up sharing everything.  But in the mean time...enjoy this pie!

Happy baking!  .


Adapted from Handle the Heat

Ingredients:
Crust:
1-1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
2 tbsp. cold sour cream
2 to 3 tbsp. cold water

Caramel Apple Filling:
6 large apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp. butter

Toffee Streusel Topping:
1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cold butter, cut into chunks
Scant 1/3 c. toffee bits

Directions:
  1. For the crust, in the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, and sugar until combined.  Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with larger chunks of butter remaining.  Add sour cream and pulse to combine.  Drizzle two tablespoons of ice water over mixture and pulse until it just comes together without being wet, sticky, or crumbly (if dough doesn’t hold together when pinched between your fingers, add another tablespoon of water and pulse).
  2. Place the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a disk.  Chill in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.  
  3. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before rolling out on a lightly floured work surface (keep turning dough after every roll to ensure it doesn’t stick to the counter and is of even thickness).  Roll out into a 1/8-inch thick 13-inch circle. Gently place the dough over a 9-inch pie pan and press into the tin.  Trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang.  Crimp or decorate edges and pierce the bottom of the crust all over with a fork.  Freeze for 30 minutes, or until very firm.
  4. Heat oven to 375°F.  Remove the pie shell from the freezer and place a double sheet of foil over the shell, pressing the foil gently across the bottom and up the sides of the pie.  Place two cups pie weights or dry beans over the parchment.  Bake 20 minutes or until crust is dry and light in color.  Carefully remove the parchment and weights and continue baking for another 12 minutes, or until just turning golden.
  5. Meanwhile, for the filling, combine apples, lemon juice, light brown sugar, sugar, flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, vanilla extract, and heavy whipping cream in a large bowl. Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the apple mixture and cook 8 minutes or until the apples begin to soften.  Pour the apple mixture into the pie crust.
  6. For the topping, in a medium bowl, combine flour and sugar.  Cut butter into the flour with a fork to form coarse crumbs.  Stir in the toffee bits and sprinkle over apple mixture.  Wrap the edges of the pie crust with a crust shield or foil.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Let cool before serving.
Yield: 8 servings

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11.24.2013

2013 Thanksgiving Recipe Round-Up!

.  You've probably seen your fair share of recipe round ups across the blogosphere as of late.  But guess what?  It's that time of year.  So you can't blame us.

And obviously bloggers have your best interest at heart.  We all know how hectic and absolutely crazy the holidays can be.  So why not list out some of our biggest hit recipes for you to easily pick out goodies that will surely wow your family and friends?  The holidays are all about the food, so you gotta bring your 'A' game.

So whether you're looking for some quick fixes or perhaps something a little more elaborate [a 'labor of love' piece is a must], here are several of my favorite recipes perfectly suited for the Thanksgiving bustle.  

This will be my last post before the big Thursday feast, so I hope you all have a beautiful day with your loved ones.  Eat lots and be thankful for everything around you!  Love you all!  .


11.18.2013

Secret Recipe Club: Salted Caramel Butter Bars

.  I can not even believe that this is my last SRC post for 2013.  Where the heck did the year go?! How is Thanksgiving less than two weeks away and Christmas is right on it's heels?  Whew, someone please slow time down.


But luckily my last 2013 SRC assignment, Making Memories with Your Kids, is chalk full of mouthwatering recipes to choose from, both savory and sweet.  So the only problem I had this month was choosing which one recipe to feature in this post.  Things like Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake, Apple Fritter Bread, and Peanut Butter Snickers Cheesecake Brownie Pie were a-callin' my name.  But I can vouch that each and every person who came within striking distance of these bars didn't have an ounce of complaint.


But really, what's there to say?  With a combination of gooey, sticky salted caramel and buttery, [buttery,] crispy, shortbread/sugar cookie layers, you can't go wrong. 


I realize it all sounds quite simple but more often than not, keeping it simple gets you the most absolute best treats.  And these Salted Caramel Shortbread Bars did not disappoint.  Not. One. Bit.


I can't rave enough about the buttery goodness of the shortbread crust and crumble topping.  Seriously, delish.  And the layer of sweet, gooey caramel in between makes it all come together.  And like I said before, the addition of the sea salt adds a lovely touch making this a unique baked goodie.  No one can resist the sweet and salty combo!  Plus, these babies scream Christmas/holiday cookie bar, so I couldn't have whipped these up at a better time!


Anywho, this sure was a fabulous way to end my 2013 SRC run.  So thank you, Erin, for an inspiring, easy recipe that I couldn't wait to share!  

Happy baking, everyone!  .

My Notes:
  • The original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of sea salt.  I stopped with half because I personally don't like too much salt, so I went the cautious route.  If you want more of a salty kick, stick to the full tablespoon.
Adapted from Making Memories with Your Kids

Ingredients:
Shortbread Crust/Topping:
2 c. butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1-1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 c. all purpose flour

Salted Caramel Filling:
1 (14 oz.) bag caramels, unwrapped
1/3 c heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp. sea salt

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 325°F.  Grease a 13x9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. For the crust, in a large bowl beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and on low speed beat until smooth.  Slowly add flour and beat until combined.
  3. Spread half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and pat down with fingers to make an even layer.
  4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool while making the filling.
  5. For the filling, place caramels into a medium saucepan with heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract over medium heat.  Stir mixture until smooth and caramels are completely melted.  Pour caramel over the cooled crust.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Crumble the remaining dough over the caramel.  
  6. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and top layer is golden brown.  Let bars cool completely before cutting to serve.
Yield: 2 dozen bars

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11.11.2013

A Recipe Contest/Giveaway and Flakey Cran-Apple Hand Pies

.  I'll be honest.


Couldn't be any more excited about this giveaway.

I've done a number of Lucky Leaf giveaways that include a package of goodies for myself and in turn, I bake up a recipe using the Lucky Leaf products and basically write a review.  So whether I like their pie fillings or not, you guys are getting the honest truth.  Fortunately, I've fallen head over heels for their pie fillings and will [most likely] never use another brand again.  They got me hooked.


Well for this giveaway, one of you is getting my most favorite package to date but also have a chance to enter the Lucky 13 Recipe Contest!

Without getting into too many of the details [who needs those?], the Lucky 13 Recipe Contest basically entails using [at least] one can of Lucky Leaf's pie fillings, the entire recipe must only take one hour, and...that's it!  Just come up with something creative and fun using their scrumptious product and YOU could win the grand prize of of $2,500!  I'd say that's a hefty payment for a pan of bars.  Or whatever it is you decide to make.


Unfortunately, I didn't read closely enough about the one hour limit, so this here Flakey CranApple Hand Pie recipe won't be making it into the contest as planned.  Dang it.  Because I'm really excited about these.


One could always use a store-brought pie crust to cut the prep time.  But to substitute for the homemade, flakey crust recipe I have here just wouldn't be the same.  The shining star [in my humble opinion] couldn't be replaced by Pillsbury.  Sowwy.

I realize this comparison is probably a baking sin and Laura from Tutti Dolci [source of the original recipe] would cringe if she read this, but for relatable purposes I'm going to say it.  The crust and filling combination of these hand pies strongly resembles a gourmet Toaster Strudel.


Gah, I'm sorry.  I said it.  But who hasn't had one of those stuffed pastries?!  And dang it, they're good!

But these hand pies are even better.  Not even on the same level actually.  But the flaky, peel-away-layers reminded me of those breakfast treats [minus the icing].  So I had to say it.

And now that I've spurred your creativity, get in that kitchen and bake up some goodies with Lucky Leaf pie fillings!  Oh, but you don't have any pie filling, you say?  Well then!


Enter a comment below telling me what you would bake up for the contest [if you were to enter] and I'll choose a random winner that will receive a Lucky Leaf package containing a can of Lucky Leaf pie filling, a ceramic pie bird, a recipe card, and and two pie slice boxes with forks.

Uh, awesome!

So get thinkin' and commentin', you have until December 2nd, to enter my contest as well as the Lucky 13 Recipe Contest.

Happy baking!  .


My Notes:
  • These hand pies are best the day they are made, but just keep them tightly covered when you're not snackin' on them and they'll keep for a good number of days.

Adapted from Tutti Dolci

Ingredients:
Flakey Pie Crust:
1 c. cold unsalted butter, divided
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 c. flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Large pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
3 to 4 tbsp. cold water

Filling:
1 (21 oz.) can pie filling (your choice)

1 large egg
1 tbsp. water
Turbinado sugar

Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, grate 1/2 cup of butter.  Cut the remaining 1/2 cup of butter into cubes and place in small bowl as well [keeping separated].  Place in freezer for 15 minutes to chill as well as buttermilk.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Sprinkle cubed chilled butter over flour mixture and cut in butter using a pastry blender or fingertips until the biggest pieces are the pea-sized.  Fold in grated butter.  Drizzle buttermilk over mixture and using a spatula, gather dough until it forms clumps.  Add tablespoons of water, one at a time, and gently knead dough to form a ball.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and flatten slightly to form a disc.  Refrigerate dough for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
  3. Heat oven to 400°F.  Grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper.  Whisk egg yolk and water in a small bowl to create an egg wash; set aside.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, rotating dough after each stroke.  
  5. Use a pastry wheel [or cookie cutter] to cut out 2-inch squares.  Place half of the squares on the prepare baking sheet and brush with egg wash.  Place one scant teaspoon of pie filling onto crusts.  Cut two slices into the remaining crusts and use to top the pies.  Seal edges with a fork.  Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Repeat with scraps and remaining half of dough.
  6. Bake 16 minutes or until pies are puffed and golden.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.  Repeat steps with scraps and remaining half of dough.
Yield: 2 dozen hand pies

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11.04.2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake Cookies

.  It has been quite some time since I've published posts within days of each other.  The Fall/holiday baking season must be getting to me.  It's too hard to resist.

But first things first.  I did have a Musselman's Giveaway a week or so back and it's about time I announced the winner of the Apple Butter, decorative bread carriers, and a Fall Musselman's recipe card!


And the lucky winner is... Drum roll pleaseeeee....

WHITNEY!!

Congralations girlie, and now all you must do is wait for your Musselman package to arrive!  Thanks again to the readers who participated, I absolutely love these giveaways and it's such a joy to share them with you all.  Until next round!


But hold on, don't leave.  Because we're about to get into these cookies.  Ones that I couldn't wait to post.  Because a combination of soft, fluffy pumpkin cake cookies studded with mini chocolate chips, and topped with a classic buttery glaze, is just too dang good not to share.  I can't keep all of these addicting goodies to myself.


But what I was truly excited about is the source of this recipe.  I nabbed the original Old Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies from Ms. Jamie over at Life as {Emma's} Mom.  But Jamie isn't just some random blogger who I happened to stumble upon.  Nope, we actually went to the same high school in good ol' Woodbury [but she's a couple of years younger than I am].  And although our paths never crossed too often, the bloggosphere [and social media] has seemingly brought us together.


As her blog name may indicate, Jamie is a loving mother to her beautiful daughter, Emma.  And even though I don't know her precious mini me personally, it has been a joy to watch Emma grow up via [Instagram] pictures and videos.  And now that Jamie has her blog, I've also been incorporated into another passion of hers: cooking.


I can't tell you how many times I've come across the mouthwatering pictures of the dinners and treats Jamie makes for her daughter and fiance.  First, it makes me wish I lived closer so I could randomly stop by.  And two, I'm hoping Robbie never wisens up and realizes what he's missing out on.  I may need some cooking lessons...

But the moment I glanced at these pumpkin cookies, they were 'pinned' and moved to first on the list for my next baking day.  And the second these babies were out of the oven [and glazed as fast as humanely possible], all of my beliefs about Jamie's cooking/baking were confirmed.  I'm hooked.


These cakey cookies are absolute heaven.  So soft and pumpkin flavorful that you'll be coming back for way too many.  If there even is such a thing.  A perfect fix for those Fall-spices cravings we all get!

Happy baking!  .

My Notes:
  • Jamie's original recipe didn't include mini chocolate chips.  So if you're not feeling those, leave them out.  Trust me, you'll still get a delectable cooke you won't be able to get enough of.
  • This may test your patience, but be sure to let the cookies cool completely before glazing.  Otherwise the glaze will drip right off!
  • For festive purposes, Jamie also added some food coloring to her glaze to get that orange pumpkin feel.  I'm boring and left the coloring out, but have fun with it!
Adapted from Life As {Emma's} Mom

Ingredients:
Soft Pumpkin Cookies:
2-1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 large egg
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/4 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips

Classic Glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease 2 baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
  2.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, in a medium bowl.  
  3. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until combined (about 1 to 2 minutes).  Beat in egg, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract. until thoroughly combined.  Gradually add in flour mixture just before thoroughly combined.  Gently fold in mini chocolate chips.
  4. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets.  Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm.  Remove from oven to wire rack to cool completely.
  5. For glaze, in a medium bowl, beat together powdered sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Glaze cooled cookies as desired.
Yield: 30 cookies

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