Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reese's Cup Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies are out of control.  (If you know me, you know that's the current catchphrase.  I don't know where it came from.)  These are peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with an ENTIRE full-size Reese's cup inside of them.  Like I said, out of control.

I made these for one of my friends who is training for a long-distance run.  Suddenly, all of my friends are runners, which is totally amazing.  They have all inspired me to get my own butt moving just to keep up with them.  I'm not anywhere near as fast or as capable of long distances as they are, but I'm getting there.  :)  I'll be running (and walking) my first 5K the day before I turn 30, and some of these amazing friends will be doing it with me, which I totally appreciate.  I don't know if they know how inspiring they are to me. 

And so what do I do to repay them?  I make them insane cookies.  Counter-productive?  Possibly.  Delicious?  Definitely.  But it's what I do.  By the way, those of you who are from Jacksonville know European Street Cafe and their crazy huge cookies?  These cookies are that size, and my friend and her husband tell me that these are just as good, which is very high praise indeed.

Reese's Cup Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies
(Adapted from The Recipe Girl blog)
Makes 12 LARGE cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)-- at room temperature
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (you really should use crunchy, not smooth)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk chocolate chip (approximately)
12 full-sized (!) Reese's cups

Preheat oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  If you don't have parchment paper, get some.  It's cheap and it has totally changed my life. :)

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, sugars, and peanut butter.  Next, add the egg and beat until fluffy.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).  Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the large bowl, mixing until just incorporated.  Stir in the cup of chocolate chips.

You should have room for about 6 cookies per cookie sheet.  I did all the steps separately-- I did all the bottoms, all the middles, and all the tops at a time, instead of assembling each cookie separately.  So-- start each cookie with one heaping tablespoonful of dough.  (I used the Tbsp measuring spoon for this.)  Make 12 cookie bottoms on the cookie sheets.  Next, use a sugared fork to criss-cross each cookie bottom and smush it down flat for the Reese's cup.  Next, place one Reese's cup on top of each cookie bottom.

Cookie bottoms and Reese's cup middles
Next, add another heaping tablespoon of dough to top each cookie.  Just as before, use a sugared fork to criss-cross the top dough and flatten the dough over the Reese's cups.  After this step, I also pinched the dough together around the sides of the cookie, which turned out to be a good idea-- it kept the Reese's from running out of the cookies as they baked.

Final assembly
Bake until lightly browned-- approximately 12 minutes.  Try to wait until they cool to eat them. :)

Note 1:  A tip from the original recipe was to spray your measuring cup with Pam or another cooking spray before measuring the peanut butter so it would slide out more easily.  This DEFINITELY helps.

Note 2:  This is a very easy recipe to make dairy-free-- substitute soy or vegetable margarine for the butter (we use Willow Run) and use dairy-free chocolate chips (we use Ghirardelli's semi-sweet).  Obviously, you have to leave out the Reese's, but the dairy-free kiddo in this house doesn't even know she's missing them.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing (Three Types!)

Red velvet cupcakes.  They are so pretty and elegant and southern.  Isn't it pretty?  Doesn't it look lovely?

Making red velvet cupcakes is gross.  It totally makes me feel like Hannibal Lecter-- like I am doing Very Bad Things in my kitchen.  I've got a bowl of icky, congealed goop.  I've got drippy red stuff everywhere.  I've got stains that are not coming out of my countertop.  It's like a bad horror movie.

But the end result?  So pretty and tasty.  And so you forget about the yuck...until the next time you make them. 

I made these cupcakes for one of my good friend's wedding shower,co-hosted by another one of my good friends.  This was one of the coolest showers I have been to-- there were no creepy wedding games or anything.  Just wine.  Lots of delicious wine.  And a knowledgeable guy pouring us lots of extra wine.  It was great.  I was also introduced to ebelskivers, which is a pastry I may have to investigate further.  Anyway, I had a lot of fun making these cupcakes and making them look pretty for such a special occasion.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
(Recipe from Annie's Eats)
Makes approx 24 cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp (1 oz) red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350° and prepare cupcake pan with liners.  In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt)-- whisk to blend.  In another bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar.  Beat on medium until well combined-- everything should be a pretty uniform red color.  (The combination of these ingredients looks hideous-- I thought I had totally screwed up the first time I made these!)

This is the congealed-looking goop I was talking about.
Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed, beating until smooth (approximately two minutes).  Again, everything should be a uniform red color.

Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake pans-- there should be enough for 24 cupcakes.  Try not to overfill-- that way you have room for the icing!  Bake for  approximately 18 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  Doing that helps to ensure that all the cupcakes stay the correct pretty red color and don't over-brown.

<----Before, with the scary serial killer mess....

                             And after! So civilized---->

Now-- it's time for the frosting.  I made three separate kinds for these cupcakes.  In order to do that, I doubled a butter-cream cheese base, and then divided it into three parts and made each part with a modified recipe.  I will give my modified versions here as well as post a link to the original recipes, in case you want to do a whole batch with just one type.

Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting Base
16 oz cream cheese (soft, but not warm)
10 Tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature-- not melting)

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Divide evenly between three bowls.

#1) Original Cream Cheese Frosting
(Recipe from Annie's Eats)

1/3 of the butter-cream cheese base
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used clear here to preserve the pretty white color)
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

In a medium bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the vanilla extract into the butter-cream cheese base.  Next, beat in the confectioners' sugar until smooth.  Ice 8 of the 24 cupcakes with this batch.

#2) Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
(Recipe from The Cupcake Project)

1/3 of the butter-cream cheese base
1/8(ish) cup cocoa powder (start here, but this is really to taste)
1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

In a medium bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the confectioners' sugar into the butter-cream cheese base until smooth.  Next, beat in the cocoa powder until even and uniform in color.  Ice 8 of the 24 cupcakes with this batch.

#3) Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
(Recipe from Tasty Kitchen)

1/3 of the butter-cream cheese base
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of almond extract
3/4 tsp of cinnamon
1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

In a medium bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the vanilla and almond extracts into the butter-cream cheese base.  Add the cinnamon and beat until evenly distributed.  Next, beat in the confectioners' sugar until smooth.  Ice 8 of the 24 cupcakes with this batch.

The final product!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Crescent Roll Spirals

So this weekend was the last weekend before school started, and I go to go to a bridal shower for one of my friends.  You know I can't go to an event without bringing something-- having been raised in the South, it's just what you do.  You attend an event, you bring food.  Done.  So, in the grand Southern tradition of using pre-packaged foods to create some other type of food, I made crescent roll spirals.  My mom gave me this recipe originally-- it's one of the few recipes I know by heart, so I had some trouble when I went to find the original recipe.  Some trouble as in, there is no original recipe that I can find.  I'm preeeeeettttttyyy sure it's a Pampered Chef recipe, but it's not in any of the books I have. So, if you see this and know where it came from, please leave me a comment and I will be sure to add the citation.  (Fact: I love citations.  As an English teacher, it's killing me that I have no source for this.)

I also made ridiculous cupcakes with three different types of frosting for this event-- that's what I'll put up next. :)  These spirals are good, but the cupcakes were out of control.  I'm excited to show you my picture of those.  Hopefully I will get them up later this week!

Crescent Spirals
(Recipe from my mother via Pampered Chef?)
Makes approximately 56 spirals

2 tubes of crescent rolls
1 tub of spreadable cheese (I use Alouette Garlic and Herb)
1 bag of baby spinach, pre-washed (you will have tons of this left over-- we usually make salad)
1 package of deli ham (at least 8 slices)

Pre-heat the oven to the temperature directed on the crescent roll package.  Open the tube of crescent rolls.  There will be two "rolls" of dough in the tube.  Unroll each roll and separate it into two squares.  Each square is made up of two triangles-- don't separate the triangles, even though they are perforated!  Pinch together the perforations between the triangles.  What you end up with will look like the picture below:

The crescent roll dough with the triangular perforations pinched/smoothed to make one dough square.
Next, spread a generous layer of the cheese on top of your dough square.

After the cheese, layer the spinach.  Try to get close as close to the edge as possible without going over.

Next, place one slice of ham on top.  This layer will most likely hang over the edge-- that's OK.

Once you have all the layers complete, hold the crescent roll at one of the short ends and roll it into a spiral.  Try to get this as tight as possible without ripping the dough.  (The ham layer makes this a little difficult.)  Your spirals will look like this:

Cut the spirals cross-ways into equal slices.  Mine usually make about 7 slices each.

Lay the spirals on a cookie sheet and bake for the time directed on your crescent roll package.

Repeat these steps until you've used all your crescent rolls!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Caprese Salad

So I can't take any credit for this- it is my husband's creation. He's been making it all summer and it is sooo good. It's also very pretty. :)

(for one salad)

1 tomato (we've been using vine-ripened)
1-2 oz fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil (to taste)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Cut tomato into approximately half-inch slices. Layer tomato, slice of mozzarella, and basil. Season each slice of tomato to taste. Once you've stacked the ingredients, drizzle the oil and balsamic vinegar into the bottom of the bowl.

Note: we've found that the Publix mozzarella from the deli is the best for this salad. 


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Apple-Spice Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

So, in an effort to prove to the interwebs that yes, actually, I can bake, I went to my default-- cupcakes.  Apparently the imminent start of school has me thinking about fall and fall flavors, because I went with apple spice cake and honey-cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  The cupcakes were easy-peasy; the frosting was harder to work with than I expected-- but it is sooo good. :)

As a quick note-- the cake here is dairy-free.  I have a three-year-old girl with a milk allergy, so a lot of what I do is chosen because it's easy to convert to a non-dairy recipe.  I will try to note both the dairy/non-dairy ingredients in the recipe so that you can choose the ingredients you want to use. So, here's the rundown:

Cake Ingredients:
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick non-dairy margarine OR unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups applesauce (sweetened or unsweetened-- I used sweetened)

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare two cupcake pans with liners (approx. 24).  In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices (cinnamon, ginger, and cloves).

With an electric mixer, beat together butter/margarine, brown sugar, and vanilla until fluffy (2-3 minutes).  Add eggs one at a time to butter/sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.  Beat in applesauce.  (Note: at this point, my batter looked AWFUL-- like it had curdled.  I think part of this was due to the fact that I used the margarine rather than butter, but even in the original recipe there is a note regarding its icky appearance.  Don't freak out-- just keep going.)  Add the flour mixture, beating at low speed until just combined.

Fill the prepared cupcake liners approximately 2/3 full with the batter.  Don't overfill them, because you are going to want some room for the frosting after they've baked.  I did about 2-ish heaping tablespoons, and that seemed to work for most of mine.  It really should make about 24 cupcakes-- you shouldn't have a ton of batter left over, nor should you run short.

Bake at 350 for about 18-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on them-- my oven runs hot (like, surface-of-the-sun hot), so my time measurements may be off.  Remove from oven, cool in the tins for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

(Inspired by recipe in magazine100 Best Cookies, published December 2010 by Better Homes and Gardens)

1 package (8 ounces) of cream cheese, softened (I used fat-free-- it didn't seem to make a difference)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Blend the cream cheese, butter, and honey in a mixing bowl.  (If you have a stand mixer, I would definitely use it for this.)  Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing well.  Scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition.  (This frosting doesn't set up like a regular buttercream-- it will definitely be pretty soupy, even after the final addition of the powdered sugar.)  Add cinnamon; mix well.  Refrigerate the frosting for at least 30 minutes-- this will make it easier to handle.  (Just FYI-- this frosting is insanely sticky.  It's the kind of sticky that makes me crazy-- I ended up washing my hands about 50 times while making/frosting/decorating these bad boys.)

To decorate, I put the frosting in a ziploc with the corner cut off and spiraled the frosting on from the outside to the inside, like you'd normally do.  The spiral design won't set-- the frosting flattens itself out, so I decided to add some decoration.  My handy husband cut out a heart stencil from the sytrofoam egg carton for me, and I used that to make cinnamon-sugar hearts on the tops of the cupcakes once they'd been iced.
Make sure you don't put the stencil directly on the top of the cupcake-- it will definitely stick and make a mess.  Just hold it close to the top and gently shake on the cinnamon sugar.  I moved evenly from the top of the stencil to the bottom, and that seemed to work pretty well.  The finished product looks like this:
Most of these are going to preschool with the little girl tomorrow for the teachers.  They and my colleagues have ended up as my test kitchen!  No one seems to mind too much.

So-- hopefully I have convinced you that I am capable of following directions. And hopefully I have faithfully reproduced these directions here!  Enjoy-- I certainly did. :)


So as I am writing this, the first recipe I was going to post is in the oven.  It's orange scones (recipe from Sugarcrafter), slightly modified to be dairy-free and to have an orange glaze on them.  I use the past tense (as in, "WAS going to post") because I have managed to screw up the very first thing I was going to put on my blog.

Impressive, isn't it?  Really makes you want to trust me and read more, right?

So I am busily mixing away, having all kinds of fun thoughts about what I might have to say, and thinking about pictures I could take, and I am aaaalllll kinds of impressed with myself-- "I'm pretty clever, look at my beautiful scones, aren't I a genius for identifying the 'shaggy' stage of dough, look how pretty they are," et cetera, et cetera.  I get to the point where I have shaped the dough, put it in the freezer, and I am starting to put the ingredients away, when I realize that I am holding an ingredient in my hand that I definitely did NOT put in the dough.  I stop, re-check the recipe, and realize that I am a complete moron.

I forgot to put sugar in my scones.

So, c'est la vie, right?  I was never going to be one of those people who only posted the best recipes-- I feel like if a recipe is too complicated, or it doesn't turn out well, then those things are just as interesting in their own way as the recipes that are truly awesome.  So here I am-- forgotten sugar and all.  In my defense, it has been a long time since I've done something that ridiculous.  I am actually pretty nervous about sending my words out into the interwebs, which is a fairly major distraction. :)

They LOOK like scones...but do they TASTE like scones?

Things about me: I teach, I am a graduate student, I am a wife and a mother.  I bake because it is fun for me, which a lot of people don't get.  I am sure there is a psychological study to be done that correlates the pleasure you get from baking with having control over your environment-- I am Type A, and I don't relinquish control easily or well.  I am about to turn 30.  It's freaking me out.  I feel like my friends are tired of seeing pictures of my cupcakes on Facebook, so I decided to start this blog instead.  I'm not sure what will actually come of it, but we'll see, right?  Right.  :)

UPDATE:  Ok, so they look great, they are glazed...and they totally taste like biscuits.  Weird, orange-y biscuits.  With sugar on them.  Oh well.  Hopefully the three-year-old will like them. :)
Final Verdict:  Baker Error. :)