But Sugar is Sweeter

Dessert

Black and White Cookies

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When I first started this blog, I remember thinking that a great first post would be black and white cookies.  I had even started writing about how great they were and why I loved them, but then for some reason I never got around to actually making them.  Then when I saw these cookies on 2 of my favorite blogger’s sites a few weeks ago, I decided that I absolutely had to make them.

I have a long history with the black and white cookie, which began at a coffee and bake shop near our college campus called Mad Hatters.  I used to go to this place from time to time to get away from the usual drone of the library, and it became a favorite place to study one summer when I was taking organic chemistry.  You might wonder why I would decide on a plain black and white cookie when there was an entire case full of delicious baked goods to chose from.  Well that’s simple –  as a poor college student an absolutely gigantic cookie (like small dinner plate size), complete with both chocolate and vanilla icing icing that cost less than $1.50 was pretty much too good to pass up.  (In fact it might have actually been been too good to be true, because according to mad hatter’s website, it seems that they no longer offer this cookie.  Sad.).  Now in all honesty, when I first bought this, I definitely thought it was just a simple sugar cookie with icing on top.  I think I might have been slightly disappointed when I first ate it and realized it was more cake like than the dense and buttery cookie I was expecting.  However, it quickly became one of my favorite cookies of all time.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to show you of the  steps getting up to the final product because I got slightly discouraged about halfway through making these.  I was sure they were going to turn out terribly,  but once I got to the final product, I ended up loving it and decided I definitely needed to share!  A few hints so that you don’t get discouraged like I did:  First the original recipe called for 20 minutes in the oven.  I pulled them out a few minutes early and they were still slightly overdone, so I really think 15 minutes would be more than enough baking time.  Secondly, I let the un-iced cookies cool  slightly and then packaged them into a ziplock bag.  When I took the cookies out the next morning they were stuck together, and when I pulled them apart it left an uneven surface on the cookies.  Therefore, I would recommend not stacking the cookies, or using parchment paper between them.   And finally, I ran out of icing and had to heat up some more about 3/4 of the way through.  I adjusted the recipe below so that it should be more than enough icing to cover the cookies.

With those suggestions, I think that these are a fairly simple to make cookie  that gives a delicious and stunning result.  The slight lemon flavor is a perfect complement to both the vanilla and chocolate icing.   It also makes a great study snack.  It’s just dangerous having more than 1 of these easily available, so be sure to share.
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Black and White Cookies

Yield: about 2 dozen large cookies
For the cookies:

  • 4 cups (16 oz.) cake flour (found in a red box)
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened but still cool
  • 1¾ cups (12¼ oz.) sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 cup milk

For the glaze:

  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 7 ½ cups (30 oz) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a few teaspoons of milk

To Make the Cookies: 

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.

2. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk to combine, and set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  With the mixer on medium-high add in the sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the eggs, vanilla and lemon extracts at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.

4.  With the mixer on low speed,  gradually add the flour mixture and then the milk, alternating about 3 times until just combined. Batter will be thin.

5. Using a  ¼-cup measuring cup or an ice cream scoop, place mounds of dough several inches apart on the baking sheet.  I could only fit 6  per sheet.  With moistened fingers, spread the mound of dough into a disk about 2½ inches wide and ¾ inch thick, it will spread more as it bakes.

6. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, until the edges just began to brown.  Cool on a baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing: 

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the corn syrup and water and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until combined.

2. Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  Transfer 1 cup of the vanilla icing to the bowl with the melted chocolate and whisk to combine.  Add a few teaspoons of milk to the chocolate icing and whisk until it is a similar consistency to the vanilla glaze.

3.  Using an offset spatula, spread about 2 T. of vanilla icing over half of the cookie. Scrape the edge of the cookie to catch any excess icing.   Place the cookies on a wire rack set over waxed paper and allow to harden for about 15 minutes before using the chocolate icing.

4.  Repeat icing the opposite side of the cookie with chocolate.  If either icing begins to harden, add a few more teaspoons of milk and whisk to combine.

5. Allow the glaze to set at least 1 hour before serving.  The cookies can be stored in an airtight container layered between sheets of parchment paper for up to 3 days.
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Source: Slightly adapted from The Curvy Carrot and Annie’s Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated


Pecan Tassies (or Mini Pecan Pies)

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I had something entirely different to share with you today – it was going to be a meal of sustenance, instead of another dessert.  However, after serving these little delicacies last night, I decided that I must get this recipe out ASAP so that you can make them ASAP.  I’m pretty sure these made both the gator’s and the buckeye’s losses yesterday seem less painful (at least to the people who might be pained by that sort of thing).

These treats were the perfect way to start off October.  They are sweet, nutty and flakey.  As a true candy lover, I think part of the reason I like these is because the brown sugar becomes caramelized on top as it mixes with the pecans, creating an almost toffee like texture on the outside with a sweet and melted inside.  Because I only had enough cupcake pans to make 24 of these at a time, I ended up running out of filling for the last tray.  While you’d think that extra filling would always be a good thing, it seemed like most of that extra filling just spilled out onto the pan and made a mess.  Therefore I would recommend measuring out half of the filling if you are making these in batches, so you have a better idea of how much to use.

Basically these are like a miniature pecan pies, with a slightly more solidified filling and an amazing crust.    They also smell amazing while baking.  And I’m pretty sure they would perfectly complement  a nice big glass of apple cider.  So go ahead and enjoy a few (or 10) for dessert, or for breakfast (like I did today).  Happy Fall!
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Pecan Tassies (Mini Pecan Pies)

– Makes 48 mini cupcake sized tassies

For the Dough:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 6 oz cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat because that’s what I had)
  • 2 cups flour

For the Filling:

  • 1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 heaping cup chopped pecans, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  To make the dough: beat butter and cream cheese together until combined.  Add the flour and mix until incorporated.  Roll the dough into 48 individual balls (each ball should be a little smaller than a quarter).  Place the balls on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

2. To make the filling:  combine all ingredients (brown sugar, pecans, eggs, butter, vanilla) in medium bowl and mix to combine.  Divide this into even halves if you are making this in batches. 

3.  Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease mini muffin pans.

4. To assemble:  Take a ball of dough and roll it out into a flat circle.  Place inside a mini muffin cup and repeat with remaining dough.  Alternatively you can simply press the dough ball inside of the mini muffin tin to create a cup.  I was worried about the crust being uneven, which is why I chose to roll the balls out, but to save time you can use the other method.   
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5.  Fill each cup with a heaping teaspoon of filling.  Top each with a sprinkle of  roughly chopped pecans.   The filling puffs up while baking, so it is not necessary to fill to the brim of the cup, in fact this tends make a mess because the filling overflows. 

6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.   Let cool slightly in pans, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Source: Brown Eyed Baker, originally adapted from “old firehall ladies auxiliary cookbook”.

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Best-Ever Raspberry Pie

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I promised you that there would be more raspberry recipes to come, and I don’t lie.  I made this as part of the dinner part I had with my family over labor day weekend, but the truth is we ate so much of it for dinner that I felt the need to make another pie the next day :-).  I’m planning on making a 3rd one, likely today, that’s how much I love this pie.

Now to give you an idea of why this must be  the best ever raspberry pie, you should know that I am not much of a fruit pie fan.  I’m not one to turn down any dessert, but fruit pie would never be my first choice.  This pie is an exception.  I really think it is the best recipe ever created for raspberry pie.  I have never met a person who didn’t love it, and my mom has been making it every year since I can remember.  Now there are a few keys to this pie that make it so delicious.  First of all it really does help if you use good quality raspberries.  I’ve bought a few of the store bought variety this year and have been sorely disappointed. This could be because I bought them before they were truly in season, but still I think raspberries are best either hand-picked or bought from a farmers market.  Second, it uses crème de cassis or blackberry liqueur.  I know that it’s a pain to buy one bottle of liqueur that you only use for one recipe, but that bottle will last you through several years of raspberry pie making – so it’s totally worth the investment.  And third, there is butter and lemon slices in the pie filling itself – how can you go wrong.

For a while I have tried to avoid the realization that homemade pie crust is about 7864 times better than store-bought, mostly because I have been trying to avoid the extra work that comes with making homemade pie crust.  However, I have (somewhat remorsefully) come to my senses.  Homemade pie crust is just so much better.  Its flakier, it melts in your mouth and it doesn’t have artificial taste that hints through in store bought crust.  Since I learned the trick about rolling the pie crust out between 2 pieces of parchment paper, it has become infinitely easier to make.  I think it is totally worth the extra 10 minutes, but I won’t tell if you still want to use store-bought :-).  I haven’t included a recipe for pie crust here because it seems that everyone has there own favorite.  I used a recipe from the pioneer woman, but I can’t say I’ve tried enough to really say it is the best ever.   And really, if you are trying to save time my mom has made this countless times with store bought pie crust and I have still loved it.    I also would guess that you could easily make this into a blackberry pie but I have never tried this since I love raspberries.  If you do, let me know how it turns out!
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Best Ever Raspberry Pie

– Makes 1 standard 9 inch pie

  • 5 cups raspberries (2 1/2  pints) 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup Crème de Cassis or blackberry liqueur 
  • 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter sliced paper thin
  • 3 paper thin slices of lemon (a mandoline would be best for this)
  • Top and bottom layer of pie crust
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Toss raspberries and sugar gently together in mixing bowl.
  3. In a measuring cup, whisk liqueur and cornstarch together  until smooth.
  4. Stir Cassis mixture, lemon juice and salt gently into berries.IMG_1810
  5. Line a standard 9 inch pie pan with crust. (Do not use a deep dish pie unless you significantly increase the number of berries)  Spoon in the berries, and arrange lemon slices and butter over the berries.
  6. With the top pie crust layer, cut it into about  ½ inch strips, preferably using a pastry cutter like this.   Arrange over berries in a lattice pattern, alternating under-over.  Crimp the edges of the pastry together.                                                                      IMG_1796 (This was the first pie we made)
  7. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake at 425F for 15 minutes. *Then lower heat to 350F and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.

Slightly adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

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Raspberry Lemonade Bars

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This week marks the end of another wonderful rotation and so therefore also another baked good. As I said, I’m working on dermatology and I’ll have to say I’m spoiled.  Not because I have the best hours (we work 11-12 hour days, there is a dermatologist shortage!)   But I’m spoiled because I think I am working with one of the kindest, most cheerful and sincere doctors I have ever met, and I’m just not sure if my future rotations can live up to these high standards.

Since I went home this weekend, I had the pleasure of going raspberry picking with my mom (and dragging John along), which opened a new world of recipe possibilities.   Despite the fact that it was about 97 degrees, we had a lot of fun and came home with quite a loot of berries.  I have come up with quite a few fun ways to put them to use, so consider this fair warning if you soon tire of seeing raspberry recipes on this blog.  As far as I’ve heard raspberry season (at least in Ohio) doesn’t end until mid-October so go ahead and pick some berries for yourself – you won’t even have to suffer through the heat.

About the bars themselves, I brought them in today, and they were a big hit.  I described them as raspberry bars , and one of the nurses said, “They taste like raspberry lemonade!”  I thought this was ironic because that was the actual name of the original recipe but she came up with that description de novo.     If you notice this recipe requires a lot of juicing of lemons.  I found this to be the most troublesome part, especially considering that after I had juiced 8 lemons I somehow managed to spill the entire cup of lemon juice all over myself.  Since I didn’t have enough lemons to make another cup, I used some bottled lemon juice to make up the difference.  They still tasted good but I wouldn’t recommend substituting all of the fresh squeezed lemon juice for the bottled stuff as it tends to be more tart.  The other tedious part of this recipe is separating all those egg whites.  If your wondering what to do with the leftover yolks, that’s easy – make ice cream!  Of course you could also make  traditional lemon bars if you want to skip the raspberry flavor all together, but I’m not advocating that.

Raspberry Lemonade Bars

Makes a 13 x 9 inch pan.  * Recipe can be halved to make an 8×8 pan, but will need a slightly reduced baking time. 

For the Crust:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Raspberry Lemon Layer:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3 T. lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups raspberries (thaw if using frozen)
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups freshly squeeze lemon juice
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (if desired)

To make the Crust:

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a 13×9 inch pan with parchment paper.

Combine butter, sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl and mix until butter is evenly cut into dough.  Press dough evenly into pan, sprinkling additional flour if dough is sticky.  Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from oven and keep warm

To make Filling:

Add flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt to a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the berries to a fine mesh sieve and mash through with a spatula to extract as much pulp and juice as possible, leaving behind the berry seeds.

Add the raspberry puree, egg whites and eggs and lemon juice to the flour mixture and whisk until evenly mixed.  Pour over the warm crust.

Bake pan for 35-40 minutes until the center is almost set.  Remove from oven and cool.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Remove bars from pan using the parchment paper and run a sharp knife under water to slice bars.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats, Originally from Sophistimom


Quick and Light Key Lime Pie

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I know there are about 400 different recipes available for key lime pie.  I have made my fair share of them, but it seems that I always go back to this recipe.  It is not particularly traditional and it certainly takes some short cuts, but I think that’s why I like it.  It’s easy to put together, doesn’t require a huge list from the grocery store and still tastes better than any store-bought version.  In fact, I can remember making this on more than one occasion while we were vacationing at the beach without access to my usual kitchen repetoire.  If you are having trouble finding key lime juice with the other drinks, try looking in the cocktail aisle as sometimes I’ve found  it there. This pie  also happens to be a lightened version, which no one would know, but generally just gives you an excuse to eat more than one piece :-).

I know that summer is coming to a close, but perhaps if you are looking for something to take to a labor day bbq today, you could have this ready in time.  Besides, I would guess that we might be blessed with a few more hotter than h-e-double hockey sticks days  before summer officially goes away.  And heck,  this pie is so good that no one is going to complain if you serve it in the middle of fall at thanksgiving dinner.

Quick and Light Key Lime Pie

– Makes 1 9-inch pie

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup Key lime juice (I use Nellie and Joes)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 (14 oz) can reduced fat sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 reduced fat graham cracker crust (6 oz)
  • 2 cups lite whipped topping, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Beat eggs and egg whites with a mixer on medium until well blended.  Add juice, lime rind and milk and blend.

3. Pour mixture into crust and bake for 20 minutes.  Center should be almost set, but will set more as it cools.

4. Cool pie on wire rack.  Transfer to refrigerator and chill for 4+ hours.  Top with cool whip before serving.

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Slightly adapted from Cooking Light


Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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If I had my choice of desserts,  pineapple upside down cake would not be at the top of my list.  Well at least it wasn’t until I made this cake.  If you think like me, you might think that pineapple upside down cake is stuck in the 1980s.  While I must admit that the ho-hum yellow-tan color occasionally mixed with the bright red of a maraschino cherry is somewhat unappetizing and does indeed remind me of 1980s wallpaper, I must give some respect to the deliciousness that is this cake.

I made this for my dad’s birthday because for as long as I can remember, it has been his favorite cake.  Perhaps this is because I was raised in the 80s, at a time when yellow-tan was in style.  Or perhaps my dad has not ventured out into the world of other cake flavors.  But most likely I think that my dad just realized that this is a simple cake base that could be eaten on it’s own, combined  with a pineapple-carmel syrup that is to die for.

When I decided that I was going to make this for his birthday, I searched high and low for what I thought would be the best recipe.  I have made a few pineapple upside down cakes in the past, but I wanted something that would be truly exceptional.  While I am not normally one to alter a baking recipe much from the original, I had to make an exception for this cake.  I ended up combining the best parts from 2 separate recipes so that I could get a rich cake that would fit in a 9-inch pan and not use the entire pound of butter.   I think it turned out to be a success.  The cake has a rich and nutty flavor and is so moist in part because of the sour cream and pineapple juice and in part because of the rich syrup sauce it is drenched in.  Of course the pineapple itself is on the of the best parts, so feel free to use real pineapple if you have it handy.  I have a feeling that I will be making this around September 1st again next year :-).

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake

 Makes one 9-inch cake

Pineapple Topping

  • 1-20 oz can pineapple slices in juice (reserve juice)
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

Cake 

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 10 Tablespoons butter (1 stick + 2 T.)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream

1. Heat brown sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbling (several minutes).  Remove from heat and pour mixture into a non-stick 9 inch cake pan.  Place slices of pineapple over the sauce, cutting pieces as necessary to fit as many as possible.

2. Preheat oven to 325º.

3. Whisk flours, almonds, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.   In the bowl of a mixer blend sugar and butter.  Add eggs, one at a time and then mix in vanilla and pineapple juice.  Once blended slowly add the flour mixture, alternating with the sour cream.  Batter will be thick.

4. Pour batter on top of pineapple slices in pan.  Bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

5. Cool for 5-10 minutes and then invert cake on a rimmed plate to insure no juices are lost.  Serve warm or refrigerate for 1-2 days before serving.

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen and Simply Recipes


Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

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I have been wanting an ice cream maker all summer (or maybe even all my life), but I faithfully waited until my birthday hoping to get one.  I did get some really wonderful presents, but an ice cream maker wasn’t one of them.  I may or may not have had a slight freak out about this incident which may or may not have precipitated an emergency run to the store on my birthday to pick one up.  Basically you don’t want to mess with me and ice cream.  Needless to say, now I have an ice cream maker ;-).

My first order of business with my new toy was a raspberry ice cream with large chocolate chunks.  While the recipe stated that it made about one quart, about 5 minutes into churning there was ice cream pouring out of the top of the 1 1/2 quart machine.  It really didn’t freeze and while it didn’t taste awful, I ended up having to throw it out.

However once we got back from vacation I was determined to tackle the infamous French ice cream.  I poured through “The Perfect Scoop”, looking for the perfect ice cream, an I finally decided on coffee ice cream because it’s John’s favorite and I liked that it would perfectly complement some large chocolate chunks.   I will warn you in advance that this ice cream is VERY coffee flavored.  This is in part due to the fact that I ended up steeping the coffee beans with the milk for several hours while I was running errands, so if you want a milder flavor, steep the beans for a shorter period of time.  With the chocolate chunks, I was trying to replicate the famous Grater’s ice cream, but I found that they were slightly more hard than I would’ve liked.  If you are brave enough you can add extra oil to the chocolate, which will keep it softer in the ice cream.  You could also try making truffles and adding them to the ice cream, but I was trying to keep it simple.

Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks

– Makes about 1 quart

  • 1 -1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 -1/2 cups whole coffee beans
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1- 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coffee

For the Chocolate chunks

  • 4 oz dark chocolate (60% cacoa)
  • 1 T. vegetable oil

1. Begin by warming milk, sugar, coffee beans, salt and 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a saucepan.  Once warmed through, cover, remove from heat and let steep at room temperature for about 1 hour.  If you’d like a stronger flavor, continue to steep in the refrigerator for 2-4 more hours.
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2. Rewarm the coffee bean-milk mixture.  Pour the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream in a large bowl and set a large fine mess sieve over top.
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3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. DSC02013

4. Slowly pour the warm coffee bean-milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly in order to temper the yolks.  Then scrape the warmed egg yolk mixture with coffee beans back into the saucepan.
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5. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir.  The mixture should thicken and coat the spatula.  If you have a reliable thermometer, the temperature should be 170-175° when the custard is done.
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6. Once the custard is thick, pour it through the strainer into the cream and stir.  Press on the coffee beans to extract as much flavor as possible, then you can discard the beans.  Mix in vanilla and finely ground coffee and stir until cool. To cool the ice cream more quickly, you can place the bowl in an ice bath in the sink and continue to stir.
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7.  To make the chocolate chunks, melt chocolate and oil in the microwave.  Stir to mix and then poor mixture onto a rimmed plate.  Cool in the freezer until hard.  Break the chocolate into chunks and keep cold until ready to use in the ice cream.

8.  Chill the milk mixture in the refrigerator and then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.  When there are about 5 minutes left of freezing time, add the cold chocolate chunks and allow them to mix in.  Make sure to chill the bowl adequately before churning the ice cream (most machines required 20+ hours of chilling time).  Store ice cream in an air tight container in the freezer.
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Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz


Malted Chocolate and Marshmallow Six Layer Cake

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In case you didn’t know, my birthday was on Monday, and our anniversary was the day before that.  Needless to say it’s been a food-filled week!  With my brother having the same birthday as me, it’s always felt like Christmas in July, but now with an anniversary to add to the festivities, July is quickly becoming my favorite month of the year.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately for him), brother John is spending the summer fishing working in Alaska, so I might just have an excuse to make another celebratory birthday cake when he returns in August.  I know some people would view it as work to make their own birthday cake, but I view it as an excuse to buy fancy ingredients and make something over-the-top without any regrets.  It’s basically like my present to myself.  I had a lot of fun sifting through recipes, but  with so many combinations of cake and icing to chose from, it was really hard for me to decide on one.  I ended up picking this cake because Sweetapolita  named it “Campfire Delight” and since I love summer and the campfires that come with it, I couldn’t resist.   After making this, I don’t think campfire delight is really a fitting name (after all it’s missing the essential graham cracker part of the s’more), however this cake is totally over the top delicious.

I was set on the fact that I wanted to make a 6-layer cake, only because I had never made one before and I wanted to try something new.  Unfortunately I didn’t want to be taking pictures while visiting with friends, so I have no pictures to show you of the inside of this mile-high cake.  You’ll just have to trust me: 6 layers really makes a nice presentation and is definitely worth the extra effort.  How can you go wrong with an almost equal filling to cake ratio?  Keeping that in mind, you can’t eat very much of this cake (at least at one time).  But that makes it  a perfect birthday cake to share with some friends!

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Rich Chocolate Cake

– Recipe as indicated is for 3-9′ inch rounds

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 T. good quality cocoa powder*
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups strong black coffee (hot or cold is fine)
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 T. pure vanilla extract

*I used Williams-Sonoma’s Dutch cocoa powder, but I think this is a better deal.  A good quality cocoa powder really makes this cake.

1) Prepare 3 x 9″ pans by cutting out a circle of parchment to line the bottom, and butter and flour to coat the edges.  Preheat oven to 350°.

2) Sift all dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer.  With the paddle attachement, add the remaining ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium-low.  (You may need a splatter guard on your mixer as batter will be liquidy).

3)   Pour into prepared pans.  To ensure even layers, I weighed the pans until I get the same amount in each.

4) Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate placement of pans in oven.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes (35 minutes total) or until a toothpick comes out clean when placed in the center.  Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool completely.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble.

5) To cut the cake layers to get a 6 layer cake, start with cold cake.  Using a knife, score a line around the outside of the cake as to where you want to cut.  With a serrated knife cut along the line, turning the cake as you go until all cuts reach the middle of the cake.  Frost as desired.

Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

– Makes enough to fill 3 (of the 6) layers

  • 24 large white marshmallows
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large (13 oz) container marshmallow fluff (or cream)

Place the marshmallows in a pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.  Place on the bottom rack of the oven and broil until brown.  Make sure to watch them continuously as they go from brown to burnt very quickly. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and powdered sugar on low for about 1 minute.  Add vanilla and mix on high for 3 minutes.  Finally add marshmallow cream and powdered sugar and blend until just mixed through (about 1 minute).  Spread evenly onto cooled layers.

Malted Chocolate Frosting

– Makes enough to fill 3 (of 6 layers) and to cover a 9″ cake

  • 4 sticks (2 cups) butter at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Ovaltine Chocolate malt mix (in the hot cocoa aisle)
  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped and melted (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream*

Clean out the bowl and paddle used for toasted marshmallow frosting, and beat the powdered sugar and butter  on low for about 1 minute.  Add vanilla and ovaltine malt powder and beat on low to combine.  Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth.  Add whipping cream and beat on med-high for another minute. Use right away.

*Do not try to substitute half and half or any other milk-  You will end up with a runny frosting (speaking from previous experiences).

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All 3 recipes slightly adapted from Sweetapolita.


Soft “Store Bought” Sugar Cookies

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There’s something about those store bought, frosted, cake-like sugar cookies that just makes you want to eat one.  I actually remember the first time I tried one I thought to myself, “This might be the most artificial tasting cookie I have ever eaten”, yet for some reason I continued to eat them, with their chemical preservative taste and all.  I think they must put something in them that just makes you fall in love, despite the fact that you are eating a “fresh” cookie with a shelf life of 3 months.  Well, if you have become addicted to those cookies, consider this your saving substitute.  These cookies taste like a better, preservative free version of the store bought cookies.  Granted, there is still quite a bit of artificial dye in the frosting :-).

I made these to take in for my last day in the hospital on my family medicine rotation (sad to leave that place!).  My motivation for making these was in part because I really did want to thank everyone who was so helpful on my rotation, and in part because I love having big groups of people to eat my baked goods!  I enjoy the actual process of baking even if I don’t eat the end result,  but with just the 2 of us here, baking becomes a dangerous habit.  I chose blue and aqua for the colors because I wanted something summer-ish and these colors reminded me of the pool.  With a heat index nearing 115°, I think we all have water on the mind.

You can really pick any mix-match of colors to dress these cookies up for just about any holiday, but I do have a few suggestions as far as the actual cookies are concerned.  First, I substituted 2 oz of cream cheese for some of the butter, mostly because I don’t think you can ever go wrong with cream cheese; however, if you happen to only have butter, or you aren’t a cream cheese fan just use 3 full sticks of butter and leave the cream cheese out.  Secondly, I was trying to plan ahead, so I made the cookie dough the night before and refrigerated it for about 24 hours. If you decide to make the dough ahead of time, just  make sure to flatten the cookies out to the desired shape before baking because they will not spread on the pan if the dough is too cold.  Finally, for some reason, I was worried that I wasn’t going to have enough icing… so I went kind of light on some of the cookies.  Then I ended up throwing away a bunch of leftover icing.  Don’t skimp like I did.   After thinking back to the ones at the store, the icing should be almost as thick as the cookie.

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Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

Makes about 36 cookies

  • 4  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4  1/2  tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1  1/4  cups (2.5 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 oz cream cheese (about 1/4 cup)  *Low-fat is fine
  • 1  1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Icing: 

  • 5 cups (1 lb, 8 oz) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 T. butter, melted (3/4 stick)
  • 1 T. vanilla extract (use clear if you want white icing)
  • 7-8 T. milk plus more if needed
  • Food coloring, sprinkles (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Then beat in vanilla.  Slowly add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix until evenly incorporated.  Chill dough for 30 minutes, or overnight.

To bake, preheat oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Spoon a heaping tablespoon of dough into your hand and roll into a ball, repeat.  Place balls on a cookie sheet 2-3 inches apart.  Using your hand or the bottom of a glass flatten each dough ball into a circle. (*Again depending on how chilled your dough is, the dough may or may not spread.  If your dough is very chilled, you will need to flatten it into the shape you desire before baking).   Bake for 10 minutes. (Cookies should not look brown).  Let cool slightly on baking sheet and then move to a cooling rack.

Frosting:  Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and whisk or stir on low until smooth.  Add additional milk if necessary.  Tint with gel food coloring if desired. Using a spatula, frost the cookies generously with the icing.  While still wet, sprinkle with desired toppings.  Icing will harden slightly to allow for easier storage.  Keep in an airtight container.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats  who adapted it from Hostess with the Mostess


Strawberry, Cream Cheese, Pretzel Squares

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This dessert is kind of hard to describe.  When you hear  “Strawberry-Pretzel” it sounds weird, and even slightly gross,  and I get that.  Let me just tell you that when I was describing it to my mom, before I could even finish telling her about the middle layer of the dessert, she said, “That is my all time favorite summer dessert!,” and then she was disappointed that she couldn’t partake in eating it.   I’m pretty sure that at some point in your life, you have eaten this dessert, perhaps without ever knowing what went into making it so delicious.  I made this for the 4th of July BBQ we had when we got back from our camping adventure and since I wanted it to be red white and blue, I added some blueberries to the cream cheese layer.  Unfortunately, you could hardly see the blue, or taste the blueberries, which should only tell you that this dessert should not simply be relegated to the 4th of July – you should probably just eat it all summer, or all year for that matter.

I’m sorry I didn’t get to take pictures of all the steps, but I was in kind of a hurry because  I started making this without first reading the instructions carefully.  This is probably the type of thing you should make the day before, or at least the morning of an evening BBQ, because jello takes a long time to set!  I cut down the chilling time significantly (because I needed it ready by 7 pm), and it still turned out fine, so I have indicated this change in the recipe below.  However, other than the waiting time between each layer, this was much simpler to put together than I imagined.  Each layer is super easy- just mix and pour into the pan.  The only baking required is the 10 minutes to set the pretzel crust.  I even took the liberty of “lightening” this dessert, and  it didn’t taste any different than I remember as a kid.  In fact, a lot of people call this “Strawberry, Pretzel Salad”, so I’m pretty sure that means that you can eat a lot of it without feeling guilty ;-).

Strawberry, Cream Cheese and Pretzel Squares

Hands on time: 20 minutes                Total Time with Cooling: 3 1/2 hours

Makes 1-13×9 inch pan, about 15-20 servings

  • 2 cups finely crushed pretzels (Pulse in the food processor)
  • ½ cup sugar, divided
  • 10 T. butter (1 stick + 2 T.), melted
  • 1½ pkg. (10 oz. total) PHILADELPHIA 1/3 less fat Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 cup thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 pkg. (4 servings) JELL-O Brand Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
  • 1 pkg. (4 servings) Sugar Free JELL-O Brand Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
  • 1½ cups ice cold water (ice cubes are fine)
  • 1 qt. (4 cups) strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries, if desired

Pretzel Layer: Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix pretzel crumbs, 1/4 cup of the sugar and all the butter. Press into bottom of 13×9-inch baking pan. Bake 10 min. Cool.

Cream Cheese Layer: Beat cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the milk until well blended. Gently stir in whipped topping and blueberries (if using).  Spread over cooled crust. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Strawberry Jello Layer: While the above layers are in the fridge, stir boiling water into dry gelatin mix in large bowl for at least 2 minutes, until completely dissolved. Stir in ice cold water (it is fine if ice cubes are still in the water, they will melt).  Put bowl in the freezer for 20 minutes, then remove and stir in strawberries. Pour cool jello over the cream cheese layer, and allow to solidify in the fridge for about 3 hours.  Slice in squares and serve with a fork.

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally adapted from Kraft

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S’more Nachos

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When John and I took a trip out to New Mexico over spring break, in addition to skiing, hiking and visiting with my in-laws, we got to try this great restaurant called Graham’s Grill.  (Side Note: it’s pretty nice to have parents-in-law that both happen to live in vacation spots :-)). The restaurant  combines the traditional flavors of the southwest but puts it’s own unique spin on them.  The chef, Lesley B. Fay recently came out with a cookbook called Straight From the Heart, and my mother-in-law was nice enough to surprise me at the end of the meal with my very own copy.    I have looked through the cookbook so many times trying to decide what to make but  I finally decided that I couldn’t pass up a recipe combining 2 of America’s greatest inventions – S’mores and Nachos.  (Another side note:  I used to think nachos were from Mexico – then I went there in college and searched every restaurant menu for them only to find out that they don’t actually serve nachos in Mexico… definitely an American creation.)

The original recipe called for deep frying tortillas, but after my recent frying disaster, I chose to make them in the oven instead .  It was actually a good reinforcement that never again do I need to fry anything, because the “chips” still came out crisp and delicious without having to mess with hot oil.  In fact, I think cinnamon-sugar chips would be a pretty great snack on their own – so next time I will likely make a double batch.  The recipe itself is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll have to say Lesley must be some kind of genius for thinking up the idea of “S’more nachos” in the first place!   If you really want to go crazy, you could try using ice cream as a dip for these nachos.   I’m sure this would be fabulous – warm cinnamon chips against cool ice cream –  but you might have to skip dinner all together if you want to try that.  So if you don’t have the pleasure of a campfire this Fourth of July, make this instead….It’s definitely easier than building a fire ;-).

S’more Nachos

Serves 3-4

For the chips:

  • 6-8 small (6 inch) flour tortillas
  • 3 T. melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 T. cinnamon

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • chocolate syrup for drizzling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a dish.  Using a pastry brush, spread melted butter onto both sides of the tortillas. Sprinkle 1 side of each tortilla with a covering of cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Using a kitchen scissors (or knife), cut each tortilla  into 8-10 triangles.  Without overlapping, place triangles sugar side up on a large baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges turn up.
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Remove chips from oven and combine into a pile on a small baking sheet or oven-proof dish.  Sprinkle  with chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and marshmallows.  Turn the oven on broil, and place the baking sheet on the middle rack (too close to the heat will catch your marshmallows on fire).  Watch carefully until the marshmallows are browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving dish and drizzle chocolate syrup over the chips.  Serve warm.

Before:
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And the Aftermath:
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– Nachos Adapted from from  Straight From the Heart by Lesley B. Fay.

– Cinnamon Chips adapted from Our Best Bites


Samoas Cupcakes

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After 2 weeks of “summer vacation”, it’s back to the (harsh) reality of 3rd year – but don’t worry about me, because these cupcakes made life better.  The last day of break happened to fall on our friends Kat’s and Griffin’s birthday, which obviously called for celebration.  I decided to make these cupcakes because both of them happen to love samoas.  I’m a thin mint/tagalong girl myself, but I have the unique ability to see the good in just about any cookie :-).  I thought these cupcakes turned out delicious, but I think if you are really trying to perfectly replicate a samoas you might want to add try making a filled cupcake with toasted coconut and caramel.

These cupcakes turned out to be much simpler to make than my endeavor of chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes, but I still found it helpful to make the cupcakes one day and then to ice them the next.  I didn’t want to make them too far in advance for fear of dryness, but I shouldn’t have been worried because these are unbelievably moist.   The only qualm I had was that the cupcake itself isn’t particularly sturdy for the heaviness of a caramel icing.  I later found out that putting them in the fridge before serving really helped the overall texture.  The only other change I would make in the future is to use 2 cupcake liners for each cupcake, because the batter is very thin, so tends to wash out the colors of the cupcake liner.  I think baking these using 2 liners would really give it a perfect finish.

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For the Cupcakes

  • 2 cups  sugar
  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup Cocoa (I used Hershey’s special dark)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons coconut flavoring
  • 1 cup coconut, packed
  • 1 (scant) cup boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 350° and line 24 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

3. Add in eggs, milk, oil, vanilla, and coconut flavoring.  Mix well.

4. Fold in coconut, then add boiling water.  (Batter will be very thin)

5. Pour batter into muffin tins, filling each cup no more than 3/4 full.  Bake at 350° for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool for several minutes, but then remove cupcakes from tins on cool on a wire rack.

For the Salted Caramel Buttercream

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup caramel topping, plus more for drizzling (I used butterscotch caramel)
  • 1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

1. Cream butter until fluffy.

2. Add in vanilla extract and caramel topping.  Add powdered sugar and salt and mix until smooth.  If icing is still too thin add a bit more powdered sugar (the consistency differs based on the type of caramel topping you use)

3. Wait until cupcakes are completely cool, and use a pastry bag with a 1M tip to ice the cupcakes.

For the Homemade Chocolate Syrup

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s special dark)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine all ingredients except vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium-heat, and whisk until smooth.

2. Bring sauce to a boil and continue to whisk until sauce becomes thick.  Remove from heat, let cool slightly and drizzle over cupcakes or store in an airtight container in the fridge until needed.

To Finish:  Top cupcakes with toasted coconut and using small squeeze bottles (or simply a spoon) drizzle with chocolate sauce and remaining caramel sauce.

Slightly adapted from The Novice Chef 
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Chocolate Almond Biscotti

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It’s Mother’s Day, and while I may be biased (aren’t we all), I think I have the best mom ever.  She has taught me so much, and continues to inspire me, guide me, and encourage me through all of life’s twists and turns.   I wish I could be with her today, but these pesky boards have me walled up in my apartment.  (I actually wrote this post last week and saved it for today because I knew I’d be studying).  Since I can’t be there to thank her in person for all she’s done for me, I really wanted to send her something in appreciation.   I first started with the idea of chocolate-raspberry truffles, which I’m sure my mom would love but they need to be refrigerated and therefore are not mail friendly.  Then I thought I’d make toffee, but I made this at Christmas and while it was delicious, it’s way to easy to eat all of it in one day (and then regret doing that).  Then I thought about the fact that my mom, like me, is back in school.  Speaking as a student myself, sometimes we just need a cup of coffee.   I’m personally not a big coffee fan (diet coke is one of my guilty pleasures), but when I’m too tired to turn another page in my notes, coffee has been my friend.

I finally decided on these chocolate almond biscotti because they are perfect for a student, who can enjoy them with a cup of coffee during some late night studying.  They also happen to be very mail friendly because they are sturdy and keep for a long time.  If you’d like, you can pop them in the freezer and they will keep even longer.  They are also delicious, but not so over the top that you will find yourself sneaking back to eat more and more – they are really best enjoyed dipped in coffee (although my mom loves chocolate, so I can’t really make any guarantees :-)).  So thanks Mom for everything you have done for me, and for inspiring me with how hard you’re studying and how much your learning!  I hope this biscotti make your late nights a little more enjoyable! Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there – you are truly appreciated!
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Chocolate Almond Biscotti

– Makes about 32 biscotti

  • 9 squares (9 oz) semi-sweet chocolate  (or 1 1/2 cups  chocolate chips)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 5 T. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 heaping cup slivered almonds
  • 3 oz (1/2 cup) semi-sweet chocolate for drizzling (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325°.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

2. If using chocolate squares, coarsely chop them.  Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes, then stir to melt all the pieces.
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3. Beat butter and both sugars together on high.  Add the eggs and beat well. Then add the melted chocolate and vanilla.  Slowly add the flour mixture, and mix thoroughly.  Add the slivered almonds, as the last mix in.
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4. Transfer dough to a floured surface and divide into 2 equal pieces.  If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.  Roll each piece of dough into a log about 10 x 2 inches, and place on a baking sheet about 3 inches apart.
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5. Flatten the rolls slightly by pressing down on them with a spatula.  Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes.

6. Remove rolls from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.  Then transfer to a cutting board and cut each roll diagonally into about 16 pieces.  (*A very sharp knife worked better than a serrated one for me).
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7. Lay pieces back on the baking sheet, and bake (still at 325°) for an additional 20 minutes.
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8. Finish by drizzling with melted chocolate if desired.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze for future use.
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Adapted from Baker’s Chocolate Squares


Blackberry Lemon Tart

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The last few days have made me realize something – it’s probably a good thing I normally have to study all day.   In the last 4 days, which I self proclaimed my vacation before I start studying for the boards, I think I have gone to the grocery store 6 times, Bed, Bath and Beyond twice, and the mall once.  Despite the fact that I meant for this to be a relaxing break, I created numerous little projects for myself, and then convinced myself that they absolutely HAD to be done.  Things like making this blackberry lemon tart, from scratch.  (One of the trips to bed bath and beyond was to buy a tart pan, which I clearly HAD to have to make this).  But I’m not complaining, because it was all a lot of fun.

For the last day before we lock ourselves away to start seriously studying, our friends had a little dinner party.  At first I really wanted to make cupcakes to bring, but when I saw blackberries at the store, I changed my game plan, and searched for the perfect spring time dessert that would use blackberries.  Like I’ve said before, normally I’m a sucker for a chocolate dessert.  I still can never see myself ordering strawberry ice cream when there’s a chocolate chip on the menu –  but making a super chocholately dessert didn’t really seem to go with the nice weather, and I know a lot of our friends actually like fruit-filled desserts.  I also happen to be a sucker for marscapone cheese, so I knew I would like this.  If you’re worried about making your own tart crust – don’t be!  It was a lot easier than I thought, and as much as I try to convince myself that store bought crust is just as good, this recipe proved me wrong. This is a great spring time dessert, and it actually quite easy to put together.  The only part that requires baking is the crust, which can be made ahead of time.  Just assemble right before serving so that the blueberries don’t bleed onto the filling.
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Blackberry Lemon Tart

For the Crust:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 T. ice cold water
  • 1 t. vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter, very cold and cut into 1/4 inch pieces

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk, vanilla extract and ice cold water. Keep cold.

Add the flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a food processor. (If you don’t have a food processor, use a large bowl and pastry cutter, or 2 knives for the next steps)

Add the butter to the food processor and pulse until a fine meal is formed.  Then add the egg mixture, and pulse until dough just begins to come together. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
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On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into circular-like shape, a little larger than your tarte pan, and between 1/8-1/4 inch thick.   To pick the dough up, roll it around your rolling pin, and then roll it back out onto the tarte pan. Press into the edges of the pan, and pinch off excess around the edges. To help reinforce the edges, you can fold the excess tarte dough back onto itself, and then trim any excess still left.  Then chill tart for another 20 minutes (or until ready to bake)

When ready to bake, place foil on top of the dough, and fill with pie weights (which can be beans, peas, rice, etc.).  NOTE:  I used parchment paper on top of my dough, but did not bring the paper up around the tart edges. This causes the edges to fall slightly when baking so next time I will use foil, and cover the entire surface, so that the pie weights reach all the way around to the edges of the tarte, helping to support the structure. 
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Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until just golden.  Remove pie weights and cool.

For the Filling

  • 1 (8 oz) container marscapone cheese
  • 3/4 cup light sour cream
  • 4 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Blackberries for topping

In a small bowl combine all ingredients except blackberries, and stir vigorously, or blend with a mixer.    Spread mixture into cooled tart and top with blackberries immediately before serving.

Adapted from The London Times


Toffee Bars

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You know the saying, “When it rains, it pours”?  Well that was my day yesterday.  A multitude of factors (in addition to the cold rain outside my window) lead to a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Okay, so actually it was only  like a terrible, horrible, no good very bad 3 hours – but still upsetting.  I’ll spare you the details, because I’m trying not to think about it, but in addition to a good dinner of commiserating with friends, I knew I had to come home and bake something.    I had bought a giant sized bag of chocolate chips at Costco (they were on coupon special), with the intention of making all kinds of delicious treats with them.   While I did make some delightful chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies, for the most part I have been enjoying the chocolate chips by the handful, mixed with some almonds and raisins (that makes it healthy….right?).  I really wanted to avoid making plain chocolate chip cookies for the billionth time, so I scoured the internet for something that would not require a trip to the store, and that would use up some of my chocolate chips.

When I found this recipe on Ree’s blog, it seemed to fit the bill.  I was a little skeptical that these “bars” would end up tasting just like a chocolate chip cookie in a bar form since they pretty much have all the same common ingredients you find in a cookie.  I even thought about making the real toffee I made for Christmas instead – but that requires a candy thermometer, which I don’t have here.  Anyways, these bars actually taste like… wait for it…. that’s right….. TOFFEE (I know, hard to believe given the name and all).  I think it’s the increased ratio of brown sugar to butter in this recipe that gives it  something extra special.  These were super easy to put together, and were delicious.  I’m actually a little scared that I’ve found such a wonderful sweet treat that only requires ingredients I usually keep in the pantry, and that can be made from start to finish in less than 30 minutes – dangerous!  Apparently these freeze well…but I doubt there will be any leftover to find out for myself.

Toffee Bars

– Makes about 24 squares

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (finely) chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°.  Cream butter and sugar on high until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and mix.  Stir in flour until fully incorporated.  Spread the mixture onto a cookie sheet, trying to create some resemblance of a square. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or unti golden brown.
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Once baked, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top, and bake for 2 minutes.  Then spread the chocolate using a spatula.  Finish by sprinkling with chopped pecans.  Cut bars into squares, and then let cool for at least an hour to let the chocolate harden (this was definitely the hardest part).
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Barely adapted from The Pioneer Woman 


Bunnies, Chicks and Eggs, Oh my!

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Decorating cookies for every holiday is starting to become a tradition, and I’m more than okay with that!  I have my final test of pre-clinical medicine next Tuesday (hooray!), but that makes going home for Easter weekend a little tricky.  So what did I do instead?  I went home this past weekend, and celebrated Easter a little early.  We had a great visit, and collectively decided that decorating cookies is WAY more fun than decorating eggs.  John even joined in on the fun, and he may have actually won the award for best cookie decorator (yes, this was hard for me to admit :-)).

While I was ridiculously excited about this set of 4 Easter cookie cutters I found, I think next time I might just stick to making eggs.  The chicks and bunnies were cute, but there wasn’t very much room for creativity with them – I ended up just wishing that I had some more eggs to try out all the ideas I had.  My favorite thing to do was to  drag a toothpick through lines on the cookies, and create fun designs.

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I made a double batch of royal icing (using a full 2 pound bag), and it was more than enough! To get started just see the tutorial I posted earlier.  We actually had a lot of icing left over, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty to make 6 different colors (white, green, aqua, pink, violet, and yellow).

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FYI – Those are John’s fingers (not mine).

I made the sugar cookies dough one day, then rolled it out the next, and then the next day we decorated the cookies back at home.  Spacing out the project really makes it a lot less of a project, and more of a fun family activity. So instead of dying boiled eggs – try decorating some egg cookies this year!  Finishing with an iced cookie is a lot tastier than a hard boiled egg :-)!

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Lemon Bars

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I have never really been a lemon bar lover.  In fact, if I have to chose between a fruity dessert and a chocolate  one – chocolate will win out every time.  (Well, unless you count Twizzlers as  fruity dessert :-)) That being said, our friend Lydia has made lemon bars for us a few times, and every time I try one, I am pleasantly surprised.  With the weather being over 80 degrees on Sunday, I just had this craving to whip up a batch of lemon bars.  The result was so summery that I now officially have spring fever!  I actually really like the box mix of lemon bars, but I will tell you that these have a definite extra punch of lemon flavor.  So be warned: True Lemon Lovers Only!

Lemon Bars

For the Crust

  • 1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 T.) butter, slightly softened, cut into 1 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 13×9 baking sheet with parchment paper, then line the pan again with parchment in the opposite direction to allow you to lift the bars out when finished.   In a food processor, pulse the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles course meal.  Sprinkle mixture into the pan and press down evenly with fingers.  Bake until slightly golden, about 20 minutes.  In the meantime start on the filling…

For the Lemon Filling

  • 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 T. all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice, strained (about 4 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used skim, but whole would be better)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Whisk eggs, sugar and flour in a medium bowl.  Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, milk and salt and blend. Once the crust is golden brown, reduce oven temperature to 325° and pour the lemon mixture into the warm crust. Bake for about 22 minutes, or until the filling feels firm.

Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature (at least 30 minutes).  Remove the lemon bars from the pan by lifting up on the parchment (The bars may bend, but won’t break).  Cut bars using sharp knife and cleaning the knife between cuts.  Sift powdered sugar on top right before serving.

Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

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Cupcakes are pretty much the trendiest food item on the market, but to be honest I’ve never made a batch of cupcakes completely from scratch – that is until yesterday.  I’ve been wanting to try these cupcakes since the day I saw them on Annie’s “Best of 2010” list, but it just never seemed like the right opportunity.  After all, cupcakes aren’t exactly a “snack food” you want to have around the house.  Plus, these particular cupcakes have an embarrassingly large amount of butter in them; which is half the reason I chickened out on making these several times.   Finally, I decided to get over my fear, and went for these cupcakes, butter and all.

Of course, they were delicious!  They have brown sugar batter with chocolate chips, are then filled with an eggless cookie dough, and then topped with a frosting that actually tastes like cookie dough.   So if you even have a slight fondness of cookie dough- you will love these!  If you think they sound too rich, don’t worry, so did I.  I thought for sure I would only be able to eat half a cupcake, but they were actually perfect, and of course eating a whole cupcake by myself was no challenge.   I particularly thought this was a great “first cupcake”, because it’s something you really couldn’t try to replicate with a box mix.  I made these over the course of a couple days – baking the cupcakes one day, filling them the next day, and then frosting them right before serving.  I would recommend this unless you have a 4-hour block of time to spend in the kitchen all at once.  I found I had too much icing left over with the original recipe, so I corrected it below to make a slightly smaller yield.  Additionally, I wrote the recipe out to make 12 cupcakes, because when I made 24 it was just too many- you really only need one of these!   And as a final suggestion, make sure you have some friends to share these with, because they are delicious (and dangerous!).

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • ½ t. baking soda
  • ½ t. baking powder
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar with a stand mixer until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Alternating with milk, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until all the flour and milk are used up.  Blend in vanilla.  Stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Line 1 cupcake pan with liners (12  cupcakes).  Divide batter evenly between the cups.  Bake at 350 for 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

For the Filling:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼  tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips

Using a mixer, combine butter and brown sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract, and mix until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Refrigerate mixture to allow it to firm slightly.  While waiting for the mixture to chill, using a small, sharp knife, cut a cone shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake.  (You won’t need the part you cut out anymore, so you can discard it, or make cakeballs out of it, or eat it with ice cream…etc.)  Place a chunk of filling in the center of each cupcake, flattening the top, to make it easier to frost.

For the Frosting and Topping

  • 10 Tbsp. (1 stick + 2 Tbsp. butter), softened
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. milk
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Mini Chocolate Chips
  • Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies*

Combine butter and brown sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar a little at a time.  Then add the flour, salt, milk and vanilla extract, and mix until smooth.  Frost as desired.  (I used a 2D Wilton pastry tip).

Sprinkle finished cupcakes with mini-chocolate chips, and push a mini-chocolate chip cookie into the center of the frosting.
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*I made mini chocolate chip cookies by rolling very small dough balls from chocolate chip cookie dough, but I think Famous Amos or Cookie Crisps Cereal would also work well!

Slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats, inspired by Hello Baker


Royal Icing – Recipe and Tutorial

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So maybe St. Patrick’s day isn’t considered a major holiday for most people, but those people didn’t grow up in my family.  In my (half) Irish family, St. Patty’s day is probably the next  big holiday after Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had been wanting to decorate St. Patty’s day cookies pretty much since I finished the Valentine’s Day ones. It worked out perfectly,  because my festive mother was here to help me  decorate them!  I mentioned earlier that I really wanted to try to get good enough at royal icing to post a “How to” – and I think I have just about reached that point.  I’ve made it enough times now that I have it down to a science.  It’s kind of addicting, so be careful.  My mom and I are already planning next year’s St. Patty’s Day cookie decorating, and we were even brainstorming about Easter….

A lot of people wonder – “Why use royal icing?….Doesn’t buttercream taste better?”. And I’ll say, yes if you are eating icing by itself, buttercream is definitely the way to go – but with a buttery cookie underneath royal icing adds a perfect amount of sweetness without being too rich. Plus the royal icing seals in the moisture of the cookie, so your cookies can be made ahead of time, and will last a lot longer. More importantly, it’s just not possible to decorate with buttercream the way you can with royal icing. Ever wonder how professional cookies get that completely smooth surface with multiple colors and no “spread marks”? That’s right – they use royal icing.

So here’s the recipe, followed by a long tutorial.  I tried to include as many pointers as possible, but for the most part you can figure out what to do looking at the pictures.

Royal Icing

  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar (About 1 Pound)
  • 2 Tablespoons Meringue Powder
  • 5 Tablespoons Water (to start)

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix on low (Speed 2 or 4) for 7-10 minutes, or until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance.   It will be too thick to use at this point so you will be adding more water later; however, getting it to this texture makes a difference in the final product.

How to Decorate with Royal Icing

  • 1 -2 batches of Royal Icing and Sugar Cookies
  • Small plastic containers with lids
  • Pastry Bags (I like disposable so you don’t have to clean them)
  • Couplers and Decorating Tips  (I use size 3)
  • Toothpicks
  • Gel Food Coloring
  • Miniature Squeeze bottle (optional)

First, start by planning out what colors you will want to use, and how much of each.  For these cookies, I made 5 colors: Green, Light Green, Orange, Black, and White.   According to color need, divide the white icing into the containers.  Add about 1 additional teaspoon of water to each container.  Stir to incorporate.  You may need to add another teaspoon or 2 in order to get a good consistency for piping.  The key is to get the icing thin enough that you can easily pipe  a smooth line, but thick enough that the icing will still dry quickly.
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Using toothpicks, add a little bit of gel food color and stir with a spoon.  Continue adding color until you achieve the desired tint. For dark colors, like black or red, you will need a lot of gel.

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Prepare your pastry bags by cutting about 3/4 of an inch from the tip. Place the coupler inside the bag, and secure the appropriate tip.  I prefer size 3 for edging the cookies, but I used a mix of sizes 2-4, because that’s what I have.  If you do not have pastry bags and tips , you can try using a ziploc bag and cutting the corner to make a VERY small hole.  I only spent about $10 for all the couplers, tips and bags, but if you are only going to make these once, it might not be worth it.
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Fold down the edges of the pastry bags, and using a spoon or knife, scoop the icing into the pastry bag.  You only need a very small amount of icing to edge the cookies, but I think it’s easier to work with if you have a moderate amount of icing in the bag.   Also, it’s easy to simply  squeeze the left over icing back into the original container when you are finished.

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Pipe the icing around the edges of each cookie to make an outline. To get the smoothest line possible you do not want the tip to be touching the cookie.
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I think it’s better to work quickly and let the icing lie smoothy, than to try to get an absolutely perfect shape for the outline. If you look at these, some of the cookies have a smoother outline, and some are more squiggly.
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Once the cookies are lined, squeeze unneeded icing back into the container.  Now it’s time to thin the icing for flooding.  Add 1 teaspoon water at a time to each icing, stirring after each addition.  You want the icing to be thin enough that when a spoonful of it is poured back into the container, it takes about 4 seconds for it to disappear into the pool of icing.   It is better to err on the side of too thick of icing than to thin.  If you accidentally make the icing too thin, add a little bit of powdered sugar to get it back to a normal consistency.
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You should now let the icing set for about 5 minutes in order to get the air bubbles to rise to the surface.  The first time making this, I didn’t do this, and you end up with air bubbles on what was supposed to be your smooth surface cookie.  Once the air bubbles have risen to the surface, gently stir the icing through once, just to pop them.
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If you are using mini squeeze bottles, this would be the time to transfer the icing into the bottle.  It’s easier to do if the icing is in a flexible plastic container, because you can bend the container to funnel the icing in.  This was my first time using squeeze bottles, and it does make it a lot easier to flood the cookies, but it also makes one more thing to clean when finished.
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Now flood the cookies.  If you are using squeeze bottles, just squeeze it around the edges and move inward to fill the cookie in.
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If you are not using squeeze bottles, spoon the icing onto the top of the cookie, and then spread it to the edges using a toothpick.  2 pointers: 1) If you spread the icing over just over the edge of the piping, it will help to blend the piping with the flooded icing.  2) It looks a lot better if you over-flood the cookies, so that the icing ends up creating a dome look on top of the cookie.  If you under-fill them, the center will sink down and the outer edge piping will be very visible.
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If you want to decorate the cookies with sprinkles, as I did with the pots of gold, it’s best to put this on while the icing is still wet.  If you want to pipe a design on top of the cookies, it’s best to let the cookies dry for at least 45 minutes (or overnight).  For the “plaid” effect on the cookies, I cleaned up while letting the cookies dry, and I just used the little bit of icing I had left in my pastry bags and piped perpendicular lines over several cookies in a row.

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Let let the cookies dry for several hours or overnight before packing them up. The cookies should then be stored in an airtight container or cellophane bags.  These cookies will last for at least a full week, and  once the icing has dried, it is very sturdy.  Therefore these cookies can be made in advance and are great for mailing.
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Inspired by Annie’s Eats


Pirouettes AKA Cigarettes Russes

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So I finished my test (yeah!) and  as it turns out, blogging actually helped my grade – so I think its safe to continue!  Almost immediately after the test, we left for Taos, New Mexico.  We had a great visit with my in-laws, ate and drank well, and even got some skiing and hiking in.  Apparently we brought the bad weather with us, but it was still better than the cloudy skys we came back to in Ohio.  I was planning on taking a break from cooking while on vacation – but of course I got the urge to bake after about 10 hours.  Actually I’ve had the urge to bake these particular cookies for several weeks.  I kept putting them off because they looked kind of complicated,   but spring break seemed like the perfect time to try these out!

The reason I have been wanting to make these cookies for so long, is that you really can’t buy them anywhere!  Sure, you can buy filled Pirouettes, but I like the plain and simple taste of just the wafer – without hazelnut, mint, or chocolate cream inside to ruin it.   Pepperidge Farm does actually make the simple “Cigarettes Russes” (without the filling), but the only place I have ever seen them is inside of the entertaining pack of assorted cookies, and even then you only get like 2! So while I really did enjoy making these cookies, there was also a utilitarian reason for making them.

I actually tried making these twice.  The first time they did not work out …at all.  I’m going to blame it on the 7,500 altitude in Taos, NM, but honestly I think there were a bunch of factors that caused the initial demise of these cookies.  The second time was much better, and now I know the specifics of how to make them perfect – and lucky for you, I’ll share that info with you :-)!

Cigarettes Russes

  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) softened butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 egg whites at room temperature (the first time I took them straight from the fridge – which didn’t work)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt.

1. Preheat an oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with silicone liners. (Do NOT use Parchment.  If you don’t have silicon liners you could try a greased cookie sheet, but this didn’t work as well for me)

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow.
3. Gradually add powdered sugar and continue beating until well blended.
4. Add the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Add the vanilla and beat until blended.

6. Mix flour and salt together, and gradually add to buter mixture.  Stir to combine.

7. Using a small cookie cookie scoop, drop the batter  onto a prepared baking sheet, forming only 4 cookies.  You can only do 4 at time because the cookies must be rolled quickly before they cool.

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8. Moisten a spatula, and using a circular motion, spread batter into an oval/circle.  The cookies need to be even, but the thinner you can make them, the better they will turn out.  Mine ended up being about 4×4 inches.

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9. Bake the cookies until just golden at the edges – about 3 minutes.   If your batter is not spread evenly, the edges will brown too quickly.
10. While the first batch cooks, prepare a second batch on the remaining sheet.  I actually thought it worked well when the cookie sheet was still warm from the previous batch.
11. Remove the baked cookies from the oven, and quickly remove one cookie using a thin spatula. Wrap the cookie around the thin handle of a wooden spoon.  Slighly greasing the handle with cooking spray will help if the cookies are getting stuck to the spoon.

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12. Remove the cookie from the spoon handle and place on a wire rack.  Repeat with remaining 3 cookies.  If the cookies begin to harden before you can shape them, return to the oven for 30 seconds to soften.
13. If your cookies are not as crisp as you would like, place them on a wire rack in a 250 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.  This will help suck the remaining moisture out of the cookies.

Chocolate Dip

  • 3 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1 tsp  butter
  • 1 tsp corn syrup (if you have it – I didn’t so I didn’t use it)
In a double boiler,  combine the chocolate, butter and corn syrup. Set over barely simmering water in the bottom pan and stir until melted and blended. Let cool slightly. Dip about 1 inch of each cookie into the chocolate. Place on waxed paper, on tope of a wire rack, until set.
Makes about 36 cookies.

Adapted from Williams Sonoma


Conversation Heart Sugar Cookies

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!   I know that this is my second post related to Valentine’s….but I just love excuses to make cookies!  I’m really lucky that my friends, Samiya and Sarah, also share in my love of cookie decorating – it makes it a great 10:30 at night study break :-).  A while back, Sarah had the idea to make heart  shaped cookies and decorate them like conversation hearts.  It sounded so cute that I just knew we had to make them.  This is our second time decorating cookies together, and I think we are getting a little better at it.  (Still not ready to open our own cookie business….but maybe eventually.)  I made a simple sugar cookie dough (seen below) and cut the cookies out.  Then together we whipped up a batch of royal icing, and started decorating.  To make these you need to make quite a few icing colors.  We made, blue, green, white and pink, and then then took about 1/2 of the pink icing and died it a darker pink/red to do the writing with. The conversation hearts also come in purple, yellow and orange – so you can just pick your favorites.

As a helpful hint, we used gel food coloring, and even with globs of it we had trouble getting the icing to be “Red”.  My advice would be to add color until it looks like hot pink, and then the icing will dry a little bit darker.  Also, in retrospect, you really need very little icing to “write with”, and it would be easier to darkly dye a smaller amount of icing.

I don’t feel that I’m near good enough (yet), to make my own tutorial on how to ice with royal icing, but if you are interested here are a few sites that seem to have it down pat:  Brown Eyed Baker, Annie’s Eats, Sweetopia.   One day, (probably over spring break), you will be seeing a royal icing tutorial from me.  However, I think that these cookies are a simple enough design that a plain “dip” icing, or buttercream would also work fine.  Royal icing just gives the cookies that professional looking sheen.

Please take note of the “P.L.T.” cookie.  We were inspired by this week’s episode of Glee, and the Micheal Jackson song, “Pretty Little Thing”…Which we realized after was actually called “Pretty Young Thing”…whoops.

And then of course, you have to have the classic phrase, “That’s what she said”.  Which was kind of inspired by my favorite blogger, Annie, and by the fact that this phrase is awesome…

We also tried our hand at some other languages, with cookies like “Te Amo”, “Ich Liebe Diche”, “Je t’aime” & “Mi Amore.”

Janice’s Sugar Cookies

– I made half of this recipe, and it made about 30 large heart shaped cookies.

  • One lb. butter (4sticks),  softened
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5-6 cups flour
Beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla for 10 min, until fluffy. Mix together baking soda and 3 cups flour…add to butter mixture. Mix 1 min. Add remaining flour until bowl is clean and no batter is around the sides.
Chill dough for 20-30 minutes.
Roll on lightly floured board. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, or just before the cookies start to brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Recipe passed on to me by our family friend Robyn M.

Linzer Heart Cookies

With Valentine’s day right around the corner, it seemed like the perfect excuse to bake some cookies!  In my opinion, these are the quintessential Valentine’s day cookie.  They are just so adorable, and the raspberry jam peaking through the center of the heart is just the perfect for the holiday.  My mom used to make these for Valentine’s day, and I can remember her sending me some in a cute little Valentine’s care package.  I remember this so well because my mom isn’t really much of a baker, and I was so impressed that she made this complicated cookie, AND managed to get it in the mail before Valentine’s day.  I really wanted to send her some of these,  but of course – It’s saturday, Valentine’s day is on Monday, and I don’t think express shipping for cookies is really warranted. Maybe next year….

These cookies are really unique.  They are so airy and light, and almost melt in your mouth when you eat them. If you’ve ever had those little ball shaped cookies, covered in powdered sugar at Christmas time –  these cookies are somewhat similar (but more delicious). But such qualities in a cookie don’t come easy.    I’ve made these for 3 or 4 years now, and I think I have learned something new about how to make them better, and prettier each year.  Here’s a few tips that I’ve learned from my mistakes:

  1. These cookies are very fragile.  They are actually probably one of the hardest cookies to send in the mail (mine were bubble wrapped !) So don’t be afraid to make the dough a little bit thicker than 1/4 inch (and definitely no thinner).  It will help keep them in one piece.
  2. The dough has to be VERY cold when you are rolling out the cookies.  I usually divide the dough into 3 batches, so that I can roll out 1, while the other 2 are still as cold as possible in the fridge.
  3. I’ve found that it works best if you roll out the dough between 2 floured pieces of wax paper. The flour helps when you go to lift the cookie onto the cookie sheet. Another thing I’ve done is to roll out the dough and then refrigerate the flat sheet before cutting out, this also works well and if you do this you don’t have to re-refrigerate after cutting them out.
  4. The step that says “Chill the cutout cookies for 45 minutes before baking”, was actually included in the recipe for a reason (other than annoying an inpatient person like myself).  If you don’t chill the cookies before baking, they lose their shape quickly in the oven.  They still taste good, but it makes it hard to find cookies that match up nicely to sandwich together.  And they just don’t look nearly as beautiful.
  5. You cannot eat just “a piece” of this cookie.  Inevitably, you end up finishing the whole thing…

Linzer Cookies

  • 3 sticks (3/4 lb) butter, softened
  • 1  1/4 cups powdered sugar + more for dusting
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 cup cornstartch
  • 2 cups shelled walnuts or pecans, finely ground***
  • 3/4 cup red raspberry preserves

***Grind the walnuts in a food processor by pulsing 5-15 times.  Be careful not to overgrind because the walnuts will actually start to turn into paste, like peanut butter.  To help prevent this you can try adding a little bit of the powdered sugar to the nuts while grinding them.

Cream butter and 1 1/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well. Sift together flour and cornstarch together, and add to butter mixture. Add walnuts and mix thoroughly.

Gather dough in ball and wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper. Chill for 4-6 hours, or overnight, or a day, or 2.

Sandwich the dough between 2 pieces wax paper.  Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness.  

Using a large heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out 1 cookie and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (preferably lined with a silicone baking mat).  Then cut out the same size heart, and using a smaller heart, cut a heart shaped hole out of the middle, also place on the cookie sheet. Place about an inch apart on cookie sheet (Mine in the picture were a little too close together!) Then chill for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes, or until they are only slightly browned. Remove and cool on wire rack.

While they are still slightly warm, spread half of the cookies with raspberry preserves, 1/2 teaspoon of jam on each cookie. Top each with one of the remaining cookies. Press together carefully, this is when it is very easy to break the cookies!

Once fully cooled, sift the remaining powdered sugar over the cookies. Turn cookies over and sift onto the other side.  I like to sift a little powdered sugar on them again before serving.

Makes about 25 “sandwiches”.

Passed on to me by my Mom, and originally from The Silver Palate Cookbook


Peanut Butter and Chocolate French Macarons

I’ve always been in love with things related to France – French language, French food, French wine and French cities.  When I started seeing French macarons around the blogging world, I knew I had to make them.  Luckily, we found out that we are going to have a SNOW DAY, so it seemed like the perfect time to try these rather complicated French delicacy.  After eating several of them, I can honestly say that these little treats are divine.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect because a no flour, egg white base  sounded a lot like meringue cookies to me, which I happen to dislike.  But these treats are crispy on the outside and almost like cotton candy on the inside. I even liked the plain cookie without the filling.

I learned pretty much everything I needed to know in this tutorial, which I found via Annie’s Eats. But I have a few comments.

  1. You really need to have a food scale to make these (which gave me a good excuse to use some gift cards to go buy one)
  2. The egg whites quickly go from soft peaks to stiff peaks (so don’t walk away from the mixer while you’re beating them …like I did)
  3. I found I liked a lot less filling then the original recipe called for, but if you think you’d like more filling, the original recipe called for 6 oz chocolate and 3/4 cup cream (and I had more than 1/2 of it left over)
  4. Also the original recipe called for blanched, unsalted peanuts, but I accidentally  bought roasted, salted and they worked fine.
  5. I used 2 silicone baking mats to bake these on (which my brother John introduced me to for my birthday). They are awesome for anything baked in the oven and I would definitely recommend buying one!

Peanut Macarons

55 grams slivered almonds

55 grams peanuts (I used roasted, salted)

200 grams powdered sugar

100 grams egg whites (aged at room temperature for 12-24 hours)

50 grams granulated sugar

Chopped peanuts for garnish

Weigh all ingredients. Combine almonds, peanuts and powdered sugar in a food processor and process until smooth.  In large bowl beat aged egg whites on medium-high until foamy.  Slowly add the granulated sugar to the eggs and beat on high until stiff peaks form.  Be careful not to overbeat. Then carefully fold in the almond/peanut/powdered sugar mixture until the mixture seems consistent throughout.

Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats, (or parchment paper if you don’t have silicone mats). Spoon the batter into a pastry bag or Ziploc.  Cut the edge of the bag to leave an opening of about 1/2 inch. Pipe the batter into small rounds about 1-2 inches wide on the baking sheet.  Leave about 1 inch in-between cookies, although they generally do not spread. Now quickly sprinkle with chopped peanuts.  Then let the cookies sit for about an hour at room temperature.

Once a cookies have started to develop a hard shell, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Bake the cookies for 11-14 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on pans.  Place in an airtight container until you want to fill them.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Filling

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 Tablespoon butter

1/2 c. peanut butter

Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat heavy cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer.  Pour over chocolate and then stir until the mixture becomes smooth. Let the ganache cool until easy to handle.  Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip.

Add peanut butter to another pastry bag also fitted with a medium tip.

Match up cookies so that they match as best is possible in size. Pipe a layer of chocolate onto the flat side of the cookie and top with a dollop of peanut butter. Sandwich cookies together and push down lightly.  Store in an air tight container until ready to eat.  (But I’ll have to say – at the rate they disappear, you might not need to store them :-))

Recipe from Annie’s Eats