Thursday, December 23, 2010

Easy Peasy Shortbread Cookies

Every year my family and I do some serious baking for neighbors, teachers, friends and family for the holidays.  This year is no different!

I tried this particular cookie recipe this year because they:

a.)  seemed easy to make
b.)  we had the ingredients on hand 
c.)  they looked like they came straight from the bakery. 

Oh, and they had great reviews too!   If you are curious, I found the original recipe here at All Recipes.

Festive Shortbread Cookies


1 c. butter
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 t. vegetable oil
sprinkles for garnishing
1/3 c. chopped nuts or candy canes for garnishing


In a mixing bowl, cream butter and confectioners' sugar.  Add vanilla.  Gradually add flour; mix well.
With lightly floured hands, shape tablespoonfuls into 2 inch logs.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Take a fork and press indentation to make a design.  Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until edges and bottom are lightly browned.  Cool for 2-3 minutes before removing to wire racks.

I melted the chocolate in a double broiler but you can also do it in the microwave.  Just melt the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe bowl, taking care not to burn the chocolate.  Stir until smooth and drizzle chocolate over the cookies using a pastry bag and small tip attachment.  Garnish with nuts, candy canes and/or sprinkles. 

Makes 24 cookies.

* If you don't have a pastry bag and tip, place melted chocolate in a Ziploc bag and snip a small hole in one corner of the bag.  Voila!

 Happy Holidays!

posted by dawn

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Miniature Cheesecakes

New York Cheesecakes are creamy, and smooth, and rich, and dense, and absolutely delicious. This is the recipe I use for a large cheesecake but made mini-sized cheesecakes instead this time. You can top them with whatever fruits are in season at the moment. Since we are in December and it's holiday season, I wanted them to look festive. I decided to use fresh currants, currant jam and tiny mint leaves.  

Miniature Cheesecakes

2 cups graham wafer crumbs or finely crushed vanilla wafers or gingersnaps (process whole cookies in a food processor until they are crumbs)
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

4- 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat free cream cheese)
1 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
zest of 1 lemon 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream (not low fat or fat free)
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grease, or spray with baking spray, 4 mini muffin pans. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center of oven.

For Crust:
In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly in each muffin tin over the bottom (I use the botton of a shot glass to press down the crust). Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

For Filling:
In bowl of your electric mixer place the cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes), scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the whipping cream, lemon zest, vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Remove the crusts from the refrigerator and pour in the filling.

Bake for 15 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F and continue to bake for about another 20-30 minutes or until firm. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Spread the topping over the warm cheesecakes and return to oven to bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife inside edge of each to loosen the cheesecakes.

Let cool before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating. This cheesecakes tastes best after being refrigerated for at least a day.

Posted by Luisa

Monday, December 13, 2010

Compost Cookies

I've been wanting to make these cookies ever since I saw the originals on one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo.  They've been all the rage for awhile, as is their crack pie~ both from David Chang's Momofuku Milk Bar Bakery in NYC and the brilliant creation of Christina Tosi.  Being that I'm a tad far from the Big Apple to just pick some up and it's too wickedly cold outside to do anything else productive, it was the perfect day to tackle making these.

I searched for a recipe that was closest to Momofuku's recipe as humanly possible. The original or one like it, was given by Ms. Tosi herself on the Regis and Kelly Show (here), but a lot of bakers commented that the cookies were flattening out while baking....Meh.  I like my cookies with a little more body, so I adapted two promising recipes- one from Cookie Madness (here) and The Oatmeal Cookie Blog (here) to get the recipe that follows below. 

The original Compost Cookie Recipe asks for corn syrup (left it out) and also graham cracker crumbs.  I substituted panko crumbs and rice krispie cereal and the Oatmeal Cookie Guy threw in oatmeal and fritos... an interesting pick!  But that's the beauty of this recipe; you can substitute whatever you're craving or have on hand.   As a nod to my youth, I'm mixing in top ramen and also peanut butter-filled pretzels next time! 

The end result was that the cookies held their form and we found out soon afterwards, these cookies are seriously addictive with their sweet and salty combo...Proceed with caution!

Compost Cookies

1 1/2 sticks butter
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c.  white sugar
2T. dry, used coffee grounds
1 egg
1 T. vanilla
1 c. rolled oats
1 1/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. kosher salt
3/4 c. roughly crushed potato chips
1/4 c. panko crumbs
1/2 c. rice krispie cereal
1/2 c. butterscotch chips
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. In a small bowl, combine the egg and vanilla and whisk together until smooth.  Add the combined we ingredients to the cream mixture until well incorporated.

Mix the oatmeal, flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Using a sppon, lightly mix together until evenly distributed.  Slowly pour the dry ingredients to the combined creamed mixture.  Mix until evenly combined.

Next mix up your "snack" ingredients and fold gently with a rubber scraper.  Chill dough in the refrigerater (the longer the better...I chilled mine for 3 hours but will chill overnight next time.  It will help hold it's shape and prevent spreading while baking!).

Scoop out with a small ice cream scooper or scoop 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball.  Place dough balls about 2 inches apart on a Silpat mat or parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove the cookies sheets from the oven and let stand for 2 minutes.  Then place cookies on wire racks to cool.

Posted by Dawn

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bread Machine Bagels

I have been using this bagel recipe for years now, ever since I got my first bread machine. I currently own this one I purchased at Costco and I LOVE it. I'm always hearing about how so many people get bread makers and don't use them---this so does not apply to me. I use it the most for pizza dough but these lovely bagels make an appearance at least once a month.

Bread Machine Bagels

1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 quarts boiling water
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
cornmeal, for sprinkling on baking sheet
1 egg white
toppings of your choice (sesame/poppy seeds, cheese & sliced jalapeno, etc.)

Place water, salt, sugar, flour and yeast in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select Dough setting.

When cycle is complete, let dough rest on a lightly floured surface. Meanwhile, in a large pot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Cut dough into 6-8 equal pieces (depending how big you like your bagels) and roll each piece into a small ball. Slightly Flatten balls and poke a hole in the middle of each with your thumb. Twirl the dough on your finger or thumb to enlarge the hole, and to even out the dough around the hole. Cover bagels with a clean cloth, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle an ungreased baking sheet with cornmeal.

Carefully transfer bagels to boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, turning half way through. Drain briefly on clean towel. Arrange boiled bagels on baking sheet. Glaze tops with egg white, and sprinkle with your choice of toppings.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until well browned.

Posted by Luisa

Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Tis the Season!: Eggnog Cupcakes with Amaretto Cream Cheese Frosting

Last Christmas I made these cupcakes for a family party and they were a HUGE success.  Thank goodness I made two-dozen because my cousin's boyfriend ate six to himself! The eggnog cupcake was derived from Paula Dean's coconut cake recipe.  That recipe calls for self-rise flour.  I didn't have any on hand last night, so I made my own.

Now what's eggnog without a bit of "nog"?  I substituted the usual addition of milk with amaretto to the cream cheese frosting.  Since I have a three year old I didn't want to add too much, but feel free to add more to your liking.  I also used vanilla bean paste in the cupcake batter.  I love to see the flecks of vanilla bean when I bite into the cupcake.  There is also a little "pop" when I happen to bite into a little bean.  I purchased my vanilla bean paste at Sur La Table. At the end I dusted the frosting with a dash of nutmeg.

In the recipe below I also included measurements for the use of light eggnog and included easy instructions on how to create your own self-rise flour.

Lastly, be sure your ingredients are all at room temperature (~°60) before mixing.

Eggnog Cupcakes
 3 cups (15 oz) self-rise flour, sifted
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 cups (10 oz) of granulated sugar
2 sticks (8 oz) of unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 1/2 cups of eggnog (use 1 cup for light eggnog)
1/4 cup water (omit water if using light eggnog)
3 large eggs (4 eggs for light eggnog)

-Preheat oven to °335 degrees and line cupcake tin with papers.
-Sift dry ingredients together and set aside
-Soften butter on low/med speed until creamy.
-Add sugar in three stages.  On low speed add first portion of sugar and then increase to med/high speed.  Scrape bowl at the middle and end.  The butter/sugar mixture should feel light against your rubber spatula and the color should be a lighter.
-Add eggs one at a time, just like the sugar. Mix thoroughly before adding the next egg.  Scrape down the bowl to make sure it is a homogeneous batter.
-Add vanilla and mix.
-Add the dry and wet to butter-sugar mixture in three parts, ending with flour.  Be sure not to over mix.  Tip: The mixture does not have to be blended completely before adding the next increment.  You can leave streaks of flour and eggnog. Scrape bowl in the middle of mixing and at the end.
-Finally mix everything for 30 seconds on medium high.
-Fill liners to 3/4 full or use a #16 ice cream scooper.  If you¹re using the ice cream scooper, be sure to scrape the top off and then fill the liners.
-Place tins in oven.  Cooking time: 18 to 20 minutes.  Test cupcakes with a toothpick or metal skewer.  It should come out with very little crumbs or clean.
-Immediately remove cupcakes from tin and cool on wire rack.
Makes about 20 cupcakes.

Amaretto Cream Cheese Frosting
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 bricks of cream cheese, cut into cubes and allowed to be at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
3 tbsp amaretto

-Cream butter on med/high speed
-Add the cream cheese to the butter slowly, scrapping the bowl every so often.  Allow each addition to blend before adding the next to prevent lumps.
-Add the powdered sugar of increments of 1/4 cup into the butter by sifting it into the bowl or sift it ahead of time.  Tip: Don¹t add all the powdered sugar at once or start the mixture on a high speed.  You¹ll end up with sugar all over you and your kitchen (speaking from experience...).
-Add the vanilla to the amaretto and slowly add them to the mixture, again in increments. 
Frost on cooled cupcakes.

Frosting can be refrigerated for one week. Your left over cupcakes should be placed in the fridge, but do allow the cupcakes to come to room temperature before service.

How to make your own self-rise flour
1 cup all purpose flour = 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the cupcake recipe above, measure all the flour into a bowl.  With a
teaspoon, remove 4 1/2 tsp of flour and put back into your flour container.
Measure 4 1/2 tsp of baking powder into a separate bowl and then add to the
flour.  Now sift the flour/baking powder together fives times.  This helps
to disperse the baking powder.  Now it's ready to use.

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding Pie with Crème Fraîche Topping

I made this for my friend Amanda, who is moving to Texas this week (insert teary eyes & chin quiver here). I had a block of Schaffenberger bittersweet chocolate left over from a catered party so I thought of making a chocolate pie. I googled "bittersweet chocolate pie" and the below recipe from Epicurious was the first to pop up. I thought it was perfect - bittersweet, because she is leaving, and the "crème fraîche" topping, in honor of the recent hilarious South Park episode we both loved :-)

Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding Pie with Crème Fraîche Topping

1 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about half of one 9-ounce package; about 23 cookies, finely ground in processor)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk, divided
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), finely chopped
1 tablespoon dark rum (I used Kahlua, yummy)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chilled crème fraîche
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Bittersweet chocolate shavings or curls

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Blend cookie crumbs and sugar in processor. Add melted butter; process until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides (not rim) of 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Bake until crust begins to set and no longer looks moist, pressing gently with back of fork if crust puffs, about 12 minutes. Remove crust from oven.

Whisk sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt to blend in heavy medium saucepan. Gradually add 1/3 cup milk, whisking until smooth paste forms. Whisk in remaining milk, then 1/4 cup cream. Using flat-bottom wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, stir mixture constantly over medium heat, scraping bottom and sides of pan until pudding thickens and begins to bubble at edges, about 5 minutes. Add chocolate; stir until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in rum and vanilla. Pour hot pudding into crust and spread evenly. Cool 1 hour at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap; chill overnight.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.

Using electric mixer, beat crème fraîche, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl just until stiff peaks form and mixture is thick enough to spread (do not overbeat or mixture may curdle). Spread topping decoratively over top of pie, swirling to create peaks, if desired.

DO AHEAD: Pie can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.

Sprinkle chocolate shavings decoratively atop pie, if desired. Cut pie into wedges and serve.

Posted by Luisa


We love ebelskivers! Ebelskivers, are danish pastries, sort of like little rounded pancakes that you can leave plain or stuffed with a little bit of jam, fruit, custard, pudding, or whatever your little heart desires. We like to make them with a little bit of apple butter tucked inside and a heavy-handed sprinkling of powdered sugar to mirror the great snowy outdoors. You can find ebelskiver pans at Williams-Sonoma or a cheaper "pancake puff" version at stores like Target. I found my cast-iron pan at the local goodwill for a mere $10.

They are a little tricky to turn over, but once you get the hang of manuevering the two skewers it is kind of fun. What also helps is to brush the wells with some butter and to have a few extra helping hands. Miss Lana Lou, my "sweet" assistant, is in charge of sifting powdered sugar over the tops of the ebelskivers. We can't stop saying ebelskiver (pronounced like "able-skeever") whenever we make them. We also can't ever stop ourselves from eating them off the plates, still warm and yummy.

We used this recipe from the Williams-Sonoma site. Keep in mind we swapped the blueberries for apple butter, poured in a shot of vanilla extract, and used half wheat flour and half white flour):

Ebelskiver Recipe

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 pint fresh blueberries or filling of choice
(nutella, jam...the possibilites are mind numbing!)
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
Maple syrup for serving


In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, granulated sugar and salt. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg yolks and buttermilk. Whisk the yolk mixture into the flour mixture until well combined; the batter will be lumpy. In another bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff but not dry peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter in two additions. Put 1/2 tsp. butter in each well of a filled-pancake pan. Place over medium heat and heat until the butter begins to bubble. Pour 1 Tbs. batter into each well and cook until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Put 5 or 6 blueberries in the center of each pancake (or 1 tsp. filling) and top with 1 Tbs. batter. Using 2 wooden skewers, flip the pancakes over and cook until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and blueberries. Dust the pancakes with confectioners' sugar and serve warm with maple syrup. Makes about 40.

Posted by Dawn

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pimped Out Peanut Butter Cookies

My sister made a version of these cookies for our family after she had sampled some classic peanut butter cookies that a coworker made for the holidays. She forwarded me the recipe, and because I'm known never to leave well enough alone, I was tempted to tamper with it...and so I did.

This is what resulted: a super easy, slight twist on the classic peanut butter cookie. I like to think what makes the cookies different are our fresh chicken eggs (thanks girls!), but I think it's the blinged-out topping that makes it a little more unique. In my ever evolving quest to experiment with recipes, next time I may have to dip half of the cookie in chocolate!

Pimped Out Peanut Butter Cookies

1 c. natural peanut butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. rolled oats
roasted + salted peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
sea salt and turbinado sugar for 'blinging'

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the peanut butter and sugars together. Add egg and vanilla extract. Add flour and oatmeal until just combined. Stir in the peanuts if you desire!

Roll a rounded teaspoon full of dough into a ball and dip the top in the sea salt + turbinado sugar mix. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and "criss cross" the tops with a fork (my favorite part besides eating them!).

Bake for 8 minutes. Cool on pan until set, then transfer to a rack to cool. Makes a dozen cookies.

Posted by Dawn

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Simple Brioche Dough

Today I made Brioche à tête to go along with a butternut squash soup we are having for dinner. A brioche à tête is formed and baked in a fluted round, flared tin; a large ball of dough is placed on the bottom, topped with a smaller ball of dough to form the head (tête). I have also included how to bake it in loaf form. I love this bread because of it's versatility; I use it to make sweet or savory bread puddings, Pain Perdue (French toast), even cinnamon rolls. Stay tuned for Brioche Monkey Bread, posting soon hopefully!

Simple Brioche Dough

1/2 cup whole milk
2 large organic eggs
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (use only the best quality butter you can buy please)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast (= 2 1/2 teaspoons)

Bread Machine method:
Add all ingredients in order to your bread machine. Set on the dough cycle. When cycle is done (usually 1 1/2 hours for most bread machines)

By hand method:
Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until it's just warm (110-115F)

Remove pan from heat and pour milk into a small bowl. Stir in the yeast and 1 cup of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 min.
Combine the butter, sugar, salt and eggs in a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment (or food processor). Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour and process until smooth.

Add the yeast mixture and process again until smooth. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

For mini brioches:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place 15 mini brioche tins on a baking sheet. Lightly spray with organic canola oil. Divide dough into 15 pieces, pulling a little piece off for the top. Roll into balls. Place larger ball into brioche tins, then make an indentation with your finger in center of each. Lightly brush with egg wash and top with smaller ball (the "tete" which means head in French). Brush the head with egg wash, cover lightly with clean towel and allow to rise in warm spot 20-30 minutes.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

For a loaf:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Shape the dough into a loaf and place into 8 1/2 or 9 inch non-stick loaf pan. Cover the pan with a clean dish towel and allow rising for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Using a sharp knife, score the loaf length wise with a sharp knife. The score the loaf 3 times at equal intervals across. This makes a professional looking loaf and helps it bake evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from pan and place the loaf on its side on a cooling rack. Alternate side after 5 minutes (this prevents the loaf from compressing)

Posted by Luisa

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Soft White Buttermilk Bread

I was craving open faced turkey sandwiches today, which is good considering all the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving we need to use! I found a recipe online but tweaked it a bit (real butter instead of shortening & half the amount of sugar). It resulted in a light, fluffy bread, perfect for open face sandwiches - or any sandwiches for that matter! This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Soft White Buttermilk Bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup lukewarm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 cups bread flour
2 packages dry yeast (5 teaspoons)

Bread Machine Method:
Add all ingredients in order to machine and press the dough cycle.

By Hand Method:
In a bowl add lukewarm water. Sprinkle yeast on top and set aside. Add buttermilk to a saucepan and heat to lukewarm. Add buttermilk and melted butter to yeast. Blend together. Add dry ingredients. Place onto a floured surface. Knead for 8 - 10 minutes. Place dough into a oiled bowl. Turn dough to cover all sides with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap till double. Punch down gently.

To Bake:
Cut dough in half. Place into 2 loaf pans. Cover and allow to rise again. Bake at 375degrees for 25-30 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Posted by Luisa

Friday, November 26, 2010

Simple Puff Pastry

Why buy it when this version is just as easy as making a pie crust? Thought this would come in very handy for the holidays...

Simple Puff Pastry

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted organic butter, cold
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
ice water

Cut the butter into 1/4 inch pieces. Place 1 1/3 cups of the flour and the 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor. Add 1 stick of the cut up butter, pulsing until combined. Add the remaining stick of cut up butter and 1/3 cup of flour to the food processor, tossing the butter pieces until the butter is coated with flour. Pulse 3-4 times to just combine (you want to see specks of butter there still). Add about 1/3 cup ice water and pulse until the dough just forms a ball. If you need to add more water, do so.

Dust a work surface with flour and roll out to form a 10x14 inch rectangle. Fold into thirds, creating a 3x14 inch rectangle. Fold into thirds again, this time forming a 3x4 inch rectangle (dust lightly with flour each time you fold and roll). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour (dough may be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month).

Note: I always fold and roll a few extra times to create more layers. More layers = more puffy :-)

Posted by Luisa