Archive | December, 2010

Christmas Sugar Cookies

26 Dec

This was my first shot at christmas cookies.  My dear friend Corcs inspired me with the possibilities.  I knew I didn’t want something crunchy and tasteless with hard frosting. So I decided to go with chewy sugar cookies from America’s Test Kitchen.  Now, the recipe doesn’t sound all that appealing- it has cream cheese and veg oil in it.  But I knew as well as to trust the test kitchen.  These are not just for christmas.  I added red decorative sugar to be festive- but you can definitely just make them for everyday. Bonus, this recipe doesn’t use any sort of mixer.  I only did a couple stars- dough not quite ideal for cookie cutters.

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups sugar , plus 1/3 cup for rolling (can add decorating sprinkles here)
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter , melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat to 350.  Set oven rack to middle. Line backing sheets w. parchment paper.
Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in medium bowl.  Set aside.
Put the 1-1/2 cup sugar and cream cheese in large bowl.  Put remaining 1/3 sugar (and decorative sprinkles if using) in shallow dish.  Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (there will be some small lumps but will smooth later). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft dough forms.
Scoop out cookies- about 2 tablespoons each (maybe a little less).  Using hands, roll dough into balls (maybe 1.5 inch diam?).  Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet (these spread a lot). Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter (then they come out perfect circles). Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray), discarding any remaining sugar.
Bake, 1 tray at a time (do this), until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes (11 was fine, they might not look quite done, but they are), rotating tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

They say it makes 2 dozen cookies, but I got closer to 3.


Cake Balls

20 Dec

I first had these at Kevin & Sarah’s place.  They made cake pops- I bought the sticks and all– but during my first pop- i gave up and decided to go w. cake balls.  I used vanilla cake and frosting– but you can go w. whatever– chocolate, red velvet etc. Baking chocolate is the way to go for dipping because it hardens well.  I ran out- and tried w. semi sweet chocolate chips- but that was much messier.  Sprinkles are a great way to dress them up- and cover up those imperfections.  There is something so delicious about the cake box/store bought frosting– reminds me of my youth– and with all the preservatives these keep very well.

1 box cake mix
1 container frosting
Baking Chocolate- I used semi-sweet- i’d say you need at least 2 packs

Make cake according to directions. Cool cake totally.  Break up cake with your hands (which it oddly fun).  If you have one, you can put it in the food processor for extra fine uniform crumbs.  Put in a big a bowl, mix w. about 3/4 tub of icing or 1/2 cup of homemade frosting, until it comes together- can use your hands.  Mix in additional frosting if necessary.  Roll mixture into 1″ balls and place on a cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.  Melt chocolate in microwave- in about 15 second intervals,  stir and repeat.  Roll balls in chocolate (twss), sprinkle w. sprinkles, put back on cookie sheet to harden.

Peppermint Bark

16 Dec

One of my favorites things is peppermint bark from William Sonoma. A couple years ago, Chrissy got me some for my birthday.  Last year, Charlotte awesomely made me some.   This year, I wanted to try to make it myself and give it to a someone (who should receive it via fedex tomorrow).  Terry sent me this recipe- from a Philly paper. Would be great for holiday parties/office gifts.  It is so good- and is very easy- you are just basically melting chocolate. Make sure you use good chocolate- I always go Ghiradelli.  I used about a 9×13 inch jellyroll pan. You’d think- the thicker the better- but this was actually perfect thickness/proportions—too thick and it separates and is hard to eat.

1-1/4 pound dark/semi-sweet (ghiradelli calls it bittersweet) 60-70% cocoa
3/4 pound white chocolate
5 candy canes (i used 6, but same difference)

Line a jelly roll/baking sheet w. edges with parchment paper. Put candy canes in a zip lock bag. Bang with a frying pan to break up. Melt dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl (pyrex bowls work great) over simmering water (just a couple inches of water- it shouldn’t touch bottom of bowl) in a small saucepan . Pour and spread melted chocolate on prepared sheet.  Refrigerate until firm (only takes like 10/15 minutes). Melt white chocolate.  Pour and spread on dark chocolate.  Sprinkle on candy cane pieces and dust.  Refrigerate again until firm. Break/chop up as you wish.

Coffee Cake

13 Dec

I wanted to make a coffee cake- like the kind they sell at Cromer’s out by the beach.  This recipe was pretty on point.  A few stipulations from the folks at America’s Test Kitchen.  “Don’t be tempted to substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour, as doing so will make a dry, tough cake.”  If you don’t have buttermilk, they say you can use an equal amount of plain-low fat yogurt.  As I didn’t have either- I made sour milk- as I learned in Maine- add 1 tsp lemon juice to 1 cup milk, stir and let sit for 5 minutes (in this instance 1/3 tsp to 1/3 cup milk).  This seems much more efficient to me anyhow because I always buy a big carton of buttermilk, and only use a cup and the rest goes to waste.  [I don’t understand why they don’t sell buttermilk in 8oz cartons like heavy cream.]  Test kitchen also says you can double this recipe for a 9×13 inch pan, increase baking time to about 45 mins.  But really, unless you are having 20 people over, the 8×8 is plenty. The only ridiculous part of the recipe, is actually forming all the topping into individual pea-sized crumbs (roll between thumb and forefinger).  This took a bit of time– Rach Weins was a superstar crumb-maker. She and I did a test corner- with just a willy nilly sprinkling- to see if  the individual crumbing was worth the effort- and it definitely is.  Also, this is surprisingly a pretty legit cake- not just a holder for the crumbs.  As with most brunchy treats, it really tastes best same day.

Crumb topping
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)

1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk (see note)
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. Topping: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Cake: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish. [this is just so you can pull out of pan easily]
3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
4. Transfer batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer.  Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

10 Dec


These might just be my favorite cookies.  Another fantastic recipe from Mrs. Weiner– not exactly sure what cookbook these come from- but in it, they are called Zoe’s macaroons. These have a bit of coconut in them– but trust me- i don’t like coconut- and these don’t taste like it- it just helps w. the chewy texture.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 cups rolled oats

Semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 3/4 of a bag)

Preheat oven to 375.  Butter baking sheets (don’t think this is necessary- can also line w. parchment paper).  In a large bowl, blend both sugars and melted butter and eggs.  Stir in coconut and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix the soda, salt and flour.  Combine both mixtures.  Add rolled oats, 1 cup at a time, and mix until batter is very stiff.  Drop cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake until lightly browned.  12-14 mins.  I’d err on the side of under baking so chewy.

Makes a lot of cookies.

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