Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

These cookies are the direct result of a ridiculous lunch time conversation with my work friends.  I asked for cookie requests, since the holiday season is upon us and I'm going to be compulsively baking anyway, and somehow we ended up at....baking porn.  Yes, baking porn.  Don't ask me how-- it just happened.  This is the best part about being a teacher-- knowing that there are other adults in the building makes the bad days better and the good days that much more enjoyable.  I feel incredibly lucky to work with so many people who I respect and whose company I genuinely enjoy.  So, friends-- these cookies are for you!

Also, since it looks like I'm doing a decent job of keeping up with the blogging thing, I'm trying to get more involved with some of the online events that I read about.  I am submitting this recipe to an online cookie swap put on by one of the blogs I read.  If you're interested, you too can come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by OXO.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
(From The Better Homes and Gardens 100 Best Cookies 2011)

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1/4 cup for rolling dough
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (either light or dark)
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Approximately 50 Hershey's kisses (about 1 bag's worth)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the shortening and the peanut butter.  (Tip: Spray the measuring cup for the peanut butter with Pam- it helps the peanut butter slide right out.)  Add the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda and mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl.  Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla until combined.  Add the flour and beat until combined-- you will need to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure that flour is completely incorporated.

Place the reserved 1/4 cup of granulated sugar in a shallow bowl.  Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, roll the dough balls in the sugar, and then place them about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet (use your parchment paper here!).  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are firm and set, and the cookies are starting to slightly brown.  While the cookies are baking, unwrap the Hershey's kisses so they can be ready to go.  As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, press a Hershey's kiss into the top.  Let the cookies/kisses set for a few minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Dairy-Free Modifications:  Use almond milk as noted above, and substitute the Hershey's kiss for about 3 Ghirardelli's semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

(Vegan) Apple Pie

I am so thankful. 

There are so many things for me to be thankful for that I cannot even begin to list them all.  I can't even make the attempt.  I am thankful beyond words or measurement or even belief.  We'll leave it at that.

Instead, I will tell you about pie.

Pie is scary to me-- specifically, pie crust.  I don't like things that involve the rolling pin because the rolling pin still makes me frustrated (it sticks to my dough, I end up using too much flour, etc.) and pie crust basically exemplifies that for me.  But wait!  Enter little miss and the milk allergy.  For her second Thanksgiving, I decided I wanted to make an apple pie that she could eat, so I turned first to the trusty Better Homes and Gardens red cookbook.  In it, I found the answer to all my pie crust problems.  It's the Easy Oil Pastry recipe, easily adapted to be dairy-free (or not, depending on your preference).  No rolling pin required, and because it's just a single crust recipe, you get to cover the pie with the yummy crispy streudel-y stuff.  I've made this pie for three Thanksgivings now, and every year, people comment on how good it is.  As an added bonus, the dairy-free substitutions for this pie also make it vegan.  As mama to the dairy-free child, I always appreciate it when people publicize information and recipes that are (or can be adapted to be) diet-specific.  Don't be fooled though-- there is no difference in taste here!  It is homemade apple pie at its finest.  Happy Thanksgiving season!

Easy Oil Pastry (for the bottom crust)
(From The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, 12th Ed.)
Makes one crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cooking oil (I used vegetable oil)
3 Tbsp milk (I used almond milk here; I've also used soy in the past. Both work well.)

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt.  Add oil and milk all at once-- the easiest way to do measure the oil into a larger measuring cup and add the milk to the oil, then dump all the liquid in at one time.  Stir lightly with a fork until combined.  Form the dough into a ball with your hands.  Transfer dough ball to an ungreased 9-inch pie plate-- glass or dull metal works best.  Press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.  You're ready to fill!

Apple Pie
(From The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, 12th Ed.)

For filling:
6 cups peeled and thinly sliced cooking apples (I use Granny Smith-- about 5-6 apples worth)
3/4 cup cugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

For topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp butter (I used vegetable oil margarine-- Willow Run)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl (seriously-- use a big one), combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add the apple slices and toss until coated.Transfer the apple mixture to the prepared pie crust.

For the topping, stir together the flour and brown sugar.  Cut the butter/margarine into the flour-sugar mixture using a pastry cutter (if you have one) or a fork until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Even sprinkle the topping over the crust and filling.

You will need to cover most of the pie so that the topping doesn't brown too quickly.  Cut a piece of tin foil that will cover the whole pie.  Next, fold it in half and cut a small-ish circle in the middle (2 to 2 1/2 inches).  Unfold the tinfoil and place it over the pie with the circle in the middle. 

Place the pie on a cookie sheet in case it bubbles over as it cooks.  Bake the pie for 40 minutes with the tin foil on it, then take off the tin foil and bake for another 20 minutes (one hour total).  Cool on a wire rack.

I hope that your Thanksgivings were as wonderful as mine!  Also-- get ready.  Here come the Christmas cookies!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Ana says, "Look! I didn't burn them!  I bet Lenin couldn't bake cookies."
This is Ana.  Ana's hair is a very accurate gauge of her personality.  Ana is not allowed to operate heavy machinery (she is, however, allowed to ride a scooter).  Ana and her husband love snickerdoodles, and because I love Ana, I let her operate the KitchenAid-- under strict supervision, of course.  (We won't talk about the fact that she tried to put the spatula in the KitchenAid while it was running.)  Ana made these cookies all by herself!  She cracks a mean egg.  :)

Snickerdoodles are not my personal favorite, but everyone around me seems to loooooove them.  Don't get me wrong-- they are good, all buttery and cinnamon-y, but give me caramel or toffee every time over cinnamon.  These are very simple cookies, but they always get rave reviews.  It's also very easy to substitute the dairy-free margarine in these cookies with really good results-- I make these for baby girl every year.  Also, this was the first time I baked with friends-- it was a blast and I will definitely let Ana use the heavy kitchen equipment again. :)

(Recipe from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

To roll cookies (approximate measurements):
1/8 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter for approximately 30 seconds.  Add the sugar, baking soda and cream of tartar and beat until combined-- scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.  Add the flour, beating until incorporated.

NOTE:  At this point, the original recipe says to chill the dough for about an hour.  I have NEVER let the dough chill and the cookies always turn out perfectly.  So, this is optional.  If you want to let the dough chill so it's easier to handle, feel free.  If you don't have that kind of time, that's no problem-- just skip ahead.  (You overachiever, you.)

Mix together the sugar and cinnamon to roll the cookies.  Put parchment paper on the cookie sheets (and if you don't have parchment paper, GET SOME-- that is not optional).  Roll the dough into approximately 1-inch balls and then roll the dough balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until fully coated.  Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Bake for approximately 10-11 minutes (be sure to check your oven-- mine is like the surface of the sun, so the cookies were done in 8 minutes).  Let cookies cool on a wire rack.

Cinnamon-y goodness!
(This was supposed to be the better picture. In some ways, it is.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

These are yummy. :)  I made them as a dairy-free dessert for little miss-- we were attending my husband's grandfather's 80th birthday party, and they only had a bakery cake, which is a big no-no for my poor little allergy girl.  I was really happy with how well these cupcakes turned out-- they were a last minute recipe that I kind of cobbled together, but it all worked out.  It's not a very "fall-like" recipe, but the frosting got rave reviews from my resident icing connoisseur-- my husband. I made these in two different forms-- large and miniature.  Both forms are equally good.  The cake base is the chocolate cake I posted for the chocolate espresso cupcakes, so I won't repeat it here, but I will link you to it.  That chocolate cake recipe is definitely the best I've ever found.  Pretty easy and definitely good enough to make again!

Chocolate Cupcakes
From Annie's Eats via Coley Creates
Makes approximately 24 mini cupcakes and 10 full-size cupcakes

Additional ingredient: 1 package miniature Oreos

Use the link to access the chocolate cake recipe.  Once you've mixed the batter for the cupcakes, line the the pan size of your choice with cupcake liners.  For the mini cupcakes, I twisted off the top of the mini Oreo and placed the bottom half of the cookie, icing side up, in the bottom of each cupcake well.  (Save the tops to crush for the icing.)

Fill each of the cupcake wells a little more than halfway full-- you don't want the cupcakes to overflow!  Reserve approximately 10-15 of the whole mini Oreos as decoration for your full-size cupcakes.  Roughly chop the rest of the mini Oreos in half and add to the remaining batter.  Fill as many of the full-size cupcake wells as you can, filling to about half to two-thirds of the way full.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 16-20 minutes-- until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack as you make the icing.

Cookies and Cream Buttercream
(Adapted from Wilton and My Baking Addiction)

1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (I used Willow Run margarine as a dairy-free sub)
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk (I used almond milk as a dairy-free sub)
1/2 cup (approximately) of crushed Oreos, without icing

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the shortening and butter until smooth.  (As always, if Crisco freaks you out, you can use all butter.)  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Add the powdered sugar on cup at a time, mixing until thoroughly incorporated and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.  The icing will appear very dry-- add the milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, until the icing reaches the consistency you want.

Crush the Oreos-- you can do this by hand or in a food processor.  I prefer the food processor, because it crushes the cookies very finely, which is is necessary if you are going to pipe the icing-- you need to make sure all the bits are small enough to fit through the icing tip.  Fold the crushed cookies into the icing-- this can be done to taste.  If you want more or less cookie bits, go for it!  It's your icing.  Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes with a bag/tip, or with the a plastic bag with the corner cut off.

It's about to be baking extravanganza time around these parts-- Friends-giving, the preschool Thanksgiving Feast, and my first ever "catering" request(!)-- I will try to keep you updated on all of it. :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Low-Cal Buffalo Chicken Dip

This week, I have been hungry.  All I want to do is eat and eat and eat and eat and...well, you get the picture.  Basically, if it's not tied down or moving real fast, I want to put it in my mouth.  I'm not kidding.  I have (in my own opinion) done a stellar job of not consuming everything in sight, and also not making stuff that I will be tempted to consume.  However, I reached my breaking point today.  My college team is playing tonight (go Noles! Currently spanking Boston College, in case you were wondering) and I just couldn't take it.  So while I was at the gym, I made the command decision-- we are having SOMETHING to eat during the game tonight.  I immediately thought of this dip.  One of my friends brought it to a party we attended earlier this fall and I was shocked at how good it tasted and how few calories it had for a cream-based dip (68 calories for 1/4 cup).  It's pretty zippy-- if you aren't into things that are warm, you may want to decrease the amount of hot sauce that you add.  Guess what-- I'm not hungry anymore. :)

Low-Cal Buffalo Chicken Dip
(from Hungry Girl-- ironic, right?)

1 8-ounce package non-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce (depending on taste)
1/2 cup 2% or part-skim shredded mozzerella cheese
1/4 cup fat-free ranch dressing
1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
2 10-ounce cans white meat chunk chicken in water, drained

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Put softened cream cheese in a bowl and stir until no lumps remain.  Add Frank's sauce, mozzerella cheese, ranch dressing, and Greek yogurt.  Stir until thoroughly mixed.  Add the drained chicken and stir until evenly distributed throughout dip.  Spoon evenly into an 8x8 baking dish.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and dip is heated through.

NOTE:  This dip is yummy, but disconcertingly pink, especially before it's baked.  Don't let that put you off.  It's really good.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache

These might be the best cupcakes in the world.  I don't usually like to call attention to things that I do well (which seems a contradiction in terms when posting on a blog, but oh well), but I am not afraid to tell you that these. are. AWESOME.  They are the most requested thing for me to make, all the time.  When I make them, my husband hangs over my shoulder and tries to lick both the batter bowl and the icing bowl-- before I'm even done.  Like most of the cupcakes I make, these guys are multi-step, but none of it is very difficult. (If you scroll to the bottom of this post, there's a picture of the filled inside of the cupcake too.)  Also, the chocolate cake has become my go-to recipe-- it's so pretty and tasty.  I've adapted this recipe to make mini cupcakes, a small birthday cake, and cupcakes without the ganache-- it's nice and versatile.  These are good, friends-- you should try it! :)

Chocolate Cupcakes
(Recipe from Annie's Eats)
Makes approximately 18+ cupcakes

9 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups cake flour (please actually use cake flour-- it makes a difference)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup milk (either whole or 2%)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the butter and sugar on medium-high speed, until fluffy (about 4-5 minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time-- scrape the bowl after you add each egg.  Combine the coffee and milk in a liquid measuring cup.


Add half the dry ingredients to the sugar/butter and mix until just incorporated.  Next, add the coffe-milk mixture and stir until combined-- the batter will look pretty runny at this point.  Add the remainder of the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.  Spoon batter into cupcake pans with liners-- you should make these no more than 3/4 full, because these cupcakes rise and dome very well-- you don't want them to overflow.  Less is more with filling these cupcakes. :)  Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow cupcakes to cool completely.

While these cupcakes cool, I make the ganache and the icing.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
(Adapted from Joyofbaking.com)

5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (I used 4 oz Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa and 1 oz Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Place chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring cream and butter to a simmer.  Pour cream-butter combination over chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5 minutes.  This is important!  Don't be impatient and try to stir too early (like I did the first few times I made ganache).  Then, whisk until smooth.  Let the ganache cool-- it will thicken a bit as it cools.  You can also make more or less ganache using the proportions of this recipe, which is nice.

...And after


Espresso Buttercream Frosting
(Adapted from the browneyed baker)

1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup of solid vegetable shortening (so, Crisco)
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar (depending on how stiff you want your icing)       
1 1/2 tsps instant espresso powder (additional powder to taste)
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp milk

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and shortening.  (If Crisco grosses you out, you can use all butter.)  Scrape sides of the bowl and add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  The icing at this point will be very dry and stiff.

In a small bowl, mix together the vanilla and instant espresso powder.  Add to the icing and beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Add milk one Tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.  Note: in this house, we like our coffee, so we like a very strong espresso flavor in the icing.  When I add the milk at this point, I usually dissolve another tsp of the espresso powder into it before adding it to the icing.  The amount of espresso powder to add is up to your personal taste-- just be sure to dissolve it in the milk!  Do not add it directly to the icing.

Assembly:  Core the cooled cupcakes (tutorial here).  Fill each cupcake with approximately 1 Tbsp of ganache-- don't overfill or the cupcake hats won't go back on!  Frost using a large star tip on a pastry bag, or a baggie with the corner cut off.  Eat and enjoy!