Archive | March, 2012

Cookies As Christmas Gifts – The Snickerdoodle Pinwheel

25 Mar

Since I love baking so much, I thought it would be a fun idea to give everyone cookie tins for Christmas this past year. Because honestly, what is better than receiving a tin full of yummy cookies that were baked with love?

I decided to include Snickerdoodle Pinwheels in my cookie tins, a cookie introduced to me by my mother in law (who is a seriously amazing baker and cake decorator). So I decided to make them for all 12 tins, and I realized I would need 6 batches of them (each batch makes 2 ‘rolls’ of dough, which you then slice and bake and each roll will give you about 2 dozen cookies)

My 6 batches of dough (it was a LOT of cookie dough!)

 

My husband loves helping me (and is in no way scared of screwing up and dealing with the wrath of Catie!)

 

The end result – a delicious buttery cookie with yummy sweet cinnamon sugar inside. They almost look too pretty to eat!

Here’s the recipe:

Snickerdoodle Pinwheels

Yield: about 5 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • For the cookies:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • For the cinnamon mixture:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions

  1. Cream butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla; beat until combined. Sift in flour and baking powder. Mix just until combined, being careful not to overmix. Dump dough onto counter and knead 2 or 3 times just to incorporate any leftover flour. Divide into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about an hour.
  2. To make cinnamon mixture, combine sugar and cinnamon. Melt butter; set aside.
  3. Working with one disc of dough at a time, roll out into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle on a floured surface. Brush dough with half of the melted butter. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon mixture. Starting from one of the short sides, roll into a tight log. Wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with other disc. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375F.
  5. Use a sharp knife to cut dough into 1/4-inch rounds; place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are just slightly golden. Cool on wire rack.

These freeze easily which worked perfectly for me because I like to be prepared and organized ahead of time, so I was able to make and bake these in early December and then assemble the tins closer to Christmas time.

Would I make these again? In a heartbeat. Would I make so many of them again? No, definitely not, and I would probably not include them in cookie tins again. They are amazing and taste and look great and the dough is not difficult to make, but they are somewhat labor intensive when it comes to rolling it out into a rectangle, and then rolling it super tight to ensure you get that perfect pinwheel shape.

This year I think I am going to give everyone else cookie mix in a jar, and make just one perfect batch of snickerdoodle pinwheels and eat them all myself (well, maybe I will share a few with my husband if he is nice to me….we will see!)

Brownies From Scratch – Are They Worth The Trouble?

22 Mar

Ok, so we have all watched cooking shows on TV or seen restaurants that claim they do everything ‘from scratch’, and that is all well and good for them but what I want to know is when do they find time to sleep???

I am all for making things from scratch when I can, and a while back I got to thinking about brownies, my thoughts were first about how much I love them (especially in the form of a brownie sundae!), then I got to thinking about how I have only ever made them from a mix, that brownies are something that had never even occured to me to make from scratch (this is probably because there are so many delicious varieties of boxed brownie mix, like pillsbury’s mint version that has mini andes candies pieces in them….yum).

So I decided to change my way of thinking and make some non-boxed mix brownies from scratch. But hmm….what recipe to make? I pondered that for a few days, and then my prayers were answered and This Recipe for something called “Brownie Rubble” appeared in my inbox (I get daily emails from Food Network, and they have definitely inspired me to cook and bake even more!)

I decided that upon looking at the recipe, that these were something I NEEDED to make (anything with 2 sticks of butter and 3 kinds of chocolate was a winner in my book!). The best part was that I had almost all the ingredients on hand already, so after a quick trip to the store for the peanuts, I was ready to whip up some rubble-y goodness.

Here is the recipe, courtesy of Food Network:

Brownie Rubble
Prep Time: 40 min
Cook Time: 40 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 12-18 brownies
Ingredients
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, cold
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
Directions
Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil, pressing it into the corners and up the sides; leave an overhang on 2 sides. Butter the foil and dust with flour. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees F.

Bring 1 inch water to a gentle simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Put the chocolate and 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter in a heatproof bowl; set the bowl over the saucepan (do not let the bowl touch the water). Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the saucepan.

Add the sugar, cocoa and salt to the bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition, until the batter is thick and shiny. Add the vanilla, then add 1 cup flour and mix until combined. Spread in the prepared pan.

Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the marshmallows, chocolate chips and peanuts on top. Return to the oven; continue baking until the marshmallows are golden, about 5 more minutes.

Let cool in the pan on a rack, 30 minutes. Lift the brownies out of the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board to cool completely before slicing.

The results? Well, as you can see for yourself, it came out as an ooey gooey amazing mess (my favorite kind!). The only notes I can add are that I didn’t use a water bath to melt the chocolate (I microwaved it), and I would have baked it for a little longer than 35 minutes, maybe 45 minutes or so before adding the toppings, just because some of the middle pieces were a little extra gooey, which I like but I know not everyone does!

So the answer to the question “Is making brownies from scratch worth it?” – definitely! The chocolate taste is much richer, they aren’t that much harder or labor intensive to make, and best of all – you can brag that you made them ‘from scratch’ when people exclaim how much they love them (which they will, trust me)

Not all about making brownies from scratch? Then check out my equally delicious post on the Slutty Brownie, which uses a boxed brownie mix

Whether you do it from scratch or not, the end result is still chocolate-y brownie goodness, and that is the best result you can ask for, in my opinion!

Cute Cookie Shortcuts For Every Season….Including Disney Season?

19 Mar

I am the first to admit I am a huge Disney World fan, so much so that I have another blog dedicated to the reasons why Disney World is fun for adults too (not just kids!), so anytime I can Disney-fy something, I usually take advantage, and baking is no exception

Which is why I was thrilled to see these at adorable Valentine’s Day themed ready to bake cookies at my grocery store (they also had ones with Cinderella’s slipper on them)

And I also recently spotted these cute Minnie Mouse Easter ones (how exactly they fit into an “Easter” theme I am not sure, but they are still cute, and made double sense for me since I will be spending Easter in Disney World!)

These adorable cookies are a great project you can let your kids help with, because they are fast and easy and basically just involved plopping some dough chunks onto a cookie sheet

Another plus is they come in varieties for pretty much every season and occasion you can think of, from halloween to spring to easter to christmas to thanksgiving to st patrick’s day to valentine’s day to spring…..ok, you get the idea! Check out Pillsbury’s full line of cookies Here

One slight negative I have found with this type of cookie is that when they bake, they don’t spread out as nicely as I would like – I bake them for longer than stated on the package thinking this might help them spread, but it doesn’t…..

I personally miss the rolls of slice n bake cookies with the picture images in them, sometimes the images got a little distorted when you cut them, but I found as long as the dough was nice and cold and you cut it with a sharp knife, that wasn’t really an issue. My grocery store doesn’t seem to carry the rolls of dough with the images on them anymore, just the pre formed ‘ready to bake’ ones, which honestly doesn’t deter me from buying them, I just wish they came out more flat!

….And that also doesn’t stop me from eating (a lot of) them!

Slutty Brownies….Dirty Name, Delicious Results

17 Mar

The minute I saw these on a friend’s facebook, I fell in love….so gooey and yummy looking, I am a sucker for brownies, and these were no exception. Making them was easy, and enjoying them was even easier….

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

-Cookie mix – I think Chocolate chip would work best for this, it’s what I used and what the original recipe used (you can use a boxed mix, or be ambitious and make one from scratch….OR be lazy like me and use a pre made ‘break and bake’ cookie mix, they will all get the job done

-Oreos (about 16) – I just used original, classic oreos

-Brownie Mix – again, you can make a brownie mix from scratch if you want, but I just used a regular boxed mix

Directions:

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees

-Mush the cookie mix into the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 pan lined with parchment paper

…And yes, mush is a technical term.

-Then add a layer of oreos, like so…

-Mix up the brownie mix as directed on the box (most of them call for some water, oil, and eggs)

-Pour the mixed brownie mix over the oreos in the pan, and spread it evenly over the oreos

-Bake for 30 minutes (until the top is mostly set and only slightly jiggly)


-Let them cool for a bit (like half an hour, I only lasted about 10 minutes before I dug into them though!), then remove from the pan using the parchment onto a cutting board, hack it up, and enjoy!

First cut into the warm, ooey, gooey mess

The inside – check out the 3 layers (cookie, oreo, and brownie on top!)

Close up (this one makes me drool)

My notes: This actually took a lot longer to cook than 30 minutes – after 30 minutes the brownies were still SUPER gooey and runny, so it ended up taking about 60 minutes in the oven before the brownies were set on the top and only slightly jiggly. I used about 3/4 of the brownie mix (of a mix made for a 9×13 pan), next time I make them I will probably use less of the brownie mix which will make them cook faster.

 

Eat them hot from the oven, with ice cream. It will change your life. Guaranteed.

Check out the inspirational original recipe with amazing pics Here, courtesy of The Londoner


Can You Make Caramel In the Microwave?

16 Mar

Sadly, this is a question I not only asked myself, but set out trying to answer a few years ago. I thought caramel consisted basically of just sugar, so I decided to stick some plain white sugar in a little bowl and try and melt it into caramel in the microwave.

….The outcome was not pretty. There was smoke from the microwave, and while there was no actual flame, I am pretty sure there could have been had I left it ‘cooking’ for longer than I did.

As for my ‘caramel’? It was a black, smoky, gross mess….so bad that I had to throw the bowl away. I told my mom what happened, and she laughed so hard I thought she would pass out (not very supportive of my baking endeavors, I don’t think!)

Needless to say, I was apprehensive to try again, but I bit the bullet and tried again to make caramel, and I am happy to say it was a raving, delicious success!

 

Here is the recipe that turned me into a believer:

Easy Caramel Sauce
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time:10 min
Makes: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients
1 packed cup brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
4 tablespoons butter
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions
Mix the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat, cool slightly and pour the sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until cold.

Thanks to Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, for this recipe!

 

Me and my caramel!

It tasted SUPER amazing on top of the mini apple pies I made topped with vanilla ice cream…..it also tasted good right out of the jar with a spoon. I have no shame.

The Oreo Truffle – 3 Ingredients, One Amazing Dessert!

15 Mar
 Crushed Oreos + Cream Cheese + Melted Chocolate = Heaven
 
Who knew that these 3 simple items could combine to make such an amazing dessert?
 
 
 
Here’s the details on how you can create these little balls of yumminess:
 

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 ounce) package Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, divided
  • 1 (8 ounce) package Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages Baker’s Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted

Directions:

  1. Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. (Cookies can also be finely crushed in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin.) Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.
  2. Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.
  3. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.
 
So there is the recipe, and here are my notes on it: I don’t always use the Baker’s chocolate, sometimes I improvise with regular semi-sweet chocolate chips, works just as well. I don’t set aside some crumbs to sprinkle on the tops of the truffles, however I have used red and green sprinkles at christmas time (which turned out pretty cute)
 
 
  
My always helpful husband making some truffles
 
 
Some still melty kinda messy truffles
 
 
 I admit, I do have an issue with aesthetics on this one….mine end up looking like messy blobs, whereas my husband can get his to look much neater….I haven’t figured out a solution to this yet, but at the end of the day as long as they taste good who cares (which they do, taste good that is!)
 
 
Attractiveness level? Not so high. Taste level? Through the roof!!
 
 
AWESOME VARIATION: is to use MINT oreos (ok, I will be honest, I didn’t come up with this one on my own, my co-worker Bridget did, and I swear when I had one, it was an uplifting experience….the mint works so well with the chocolate, and I had never even had a mint oreo before eating the truffle, but now I need to go straight to the store and get some of my own, that’s how good they were! So Thanks Bridget for inspiring me to write this post, and for making awesome mint oreo truffles  🙂
 
They also make Strawberry Milkshake and Peanut Butter Oreos…hmm….inspiration for future truffles (and blog posts!) perhaps?

Putting the “Fun” in Funfetti

15 Mar

Did you know that you can make cookies out of a box of funfetti cake mix? I didn’t until recently, and it’s been a truly amazing discovery. They are a quick, cheap, easy way to whip up a special treat (plus since funfetti comes in seasonal varieties, you can make them for all kinds of special occasions too!

They come out great every time, and always taste delicious (like cake, only firmer!)

The recipe is on the side of the box of funfetti in case you want to give it a go.

Now, onto bigger and better (oreo filled!) things

Ready to get my cake covered oreo on

I decided, with my second box of funfetti, to attempt these Cake Batter Oreos I saw online, in honor of oreo’s 100th birthday, and also well because oreos rule, and so does funfetti, so why not combine two of my loves into one amazing dessert?

So the instructions basically say to add water until you get a thick batter, well, I ended up adding about a whole cup of water, a few tablespoons of oil, and 1 egg before I got a consistency that was thick but not too thick. Then comes the dunking. As seen above, its basically just dunking oreos into the batter, and placing them on a cookie sheet, then baking them until they are done (takes about 8-9 minutes)

The finished product isn’t all that attractive from the outside….

but it’s what INSIDE that really counts here

I love this cross section of the cookie, and when I tasted it, I personally enjoyed it, my husband proclaimed to not be a huge fan (however that didn’t stop him from sampling more of them…)

Overall, a worthwhile experiment. Would I make them again? Probably. I mean, come on, its a cookie inside cake, how can you NOT like that?

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go sample more of them….for research purposes of course