Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sugar Cookies

This is another great cookie recipe that I've made several times before. I had never found a sugar cookie recipe before that tasted good to me. This recipe, from, a supremely awesome blog, even inspired me to try using royal icing for the first time!

Cookies from last year, decorated with royal icing

This year, I decided to make it a little easier for myself and decorated the cookies before baking with colored sugars, instead of using the royal icing. Also, I was making these cookies with my sisters and cousins, so it was easier to do it that way!

Annie has such a great way of explaining a recipe that I'll just direct you to her page for the recipe. I usually follow her recipe as it's written because it's so good. This time when I made the recipe, the only change I made was to leave out the almond extract and increase the vanilla to 2 teaspoons, but I think the next time I make these cookies I'll make them with the almond extract.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hot Chocolate Cookies

I have a few Christmas cookie magazines that I purchased a few years back. There are so many recipes in them that I like to look through them each Christmas to find new recipes that I want to try, since there's no way I could try all the recipes in one Christmas! This year, a recipe for hot chocolate cookies caught my eye. The picture looked so delicious! I love hot chocolate and I love cookies, so I knew this one had potential. And boy did it! I made a half batch and I managed to eat most of the cookies all on my own! I did save a few to give to my mom and to a friend, which is good because I have lots of other cookies around my apartment! These cookies stay nice and soft and are so delicious : )

Here's the recipe:
(Half-batch and slightly adapted from Land O'Lakes Recipe Collection: Holiday Cookies, 2007)

For the cookie:
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk (I used coconut milk because that's all I had)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup instant milk chocolate hot cocoa mix (I used Starbucks Salted Caramel hot chocolate mix)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

mini marshmallows (4 for each cookie)

For the glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium speed, scraping the bowl often, until creamy. Add the egg, milk and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, cocoa mix and baking soda, beating until well mixed.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until set, Remove from the oven and top each cookie with 4 mini marshmallows. Continue baking for 1-2 minutes until marshmallows just begin to puff. Immediately remove from oven and put cookies on cooling racks and cool completely.

Make the glaze by combining the butter, milk and cocoa in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, cool for 5 minutes. Pour in the powdered sugar and whisk together until creamy. Spoon glaze over the cooled cookies.

Monday, December 20, 2010

S'more Oatmeal Cookies

I got this recipe from a friend a few years ago, who got it from a newspaper. I'm not sure which newspaper. I've made a few different s'mores cookies over the years, and this is one of my favorites. It's a little different from your typical s'mores with the addition of the oats, but they add a good texture to the cookies! I love all kinds of s'mores- campfire s'mores, cupcake s'mores, brownie s'mores...I could go on and on. These cookies are at the top of my list as well : ). The marshmallows sometimes spread out too much on some of the cookies, making it difficult to get them off the cookie sheet. You can keep these broken pieces yourself to enjoy and share the prettier cookies with friends and family : ). This recipe will give you a good arm workout, as you have to stir in by hand the oats, chocolate chips, marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs. You will love these cookies, I promise!

Here's the recipe:
(Source unknown)

1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 Cup packed brown sugar
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Cups rolled oats
1 Cup chocolate chips
2 Cups mini-marshmallows
8 coarsely crushed graham crackers (I used 1/4-1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or spray sheets with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside. Use stand mixer on medium speed to beat the butter and both sugars until creamy, about four minutes. With mixer on low, one at a time, add the eggs, beating gently until combined. Add vanilla then add flour mixture. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, marshmallows and graham crackers until combined. Evenly space rounded tablespoons of dough on baking sheet, leaving plenty of room between them. Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets then transfer to wire rack.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

BAKED Sunday Mornings: Monkey Bubble Bread

Here we are at the third recipe in BAKED Sunday Mornings. Monkey Bubble Bread. I had made this years ago, using a different recipe that called for frozen bread dough. This time, the recipes calls for homemade yeast dough, which I was a little nervous about. I have no trouble making pizza dough from scratch- it always comes out great! However, I've usually had trouble making other yeast breads, like cinnamon rolls. The dough never seems to rise for me. I don't know why this happens. I was nervous it would happen this time, and it did- the dough never seemed to double in size, even though I let it rise in a warm place for longer than the time indicated in the recipe. I went ahead and continued to make the recipe, hoping for the best. As you can see in the picture above, I halved the recipe and made it in mini-loaf pans instead of a bundt pan. It smelled so good while baking in the oven- lots of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon! After taking the loaf pans out of the oven, I let them cool for a few minutes and then turned them out onto a plate.

Since I didn't use a bundt pan, my loaves fell apart a little bit, but still looked pretty good. However, I could tell as soon as I tasted one that there was something off. The dough was too dense, because it hadn't risen properly. Does anyone know what I may have done wrong? I know the recipe said to be very careful not to heat the milk up too much because that would kill the yeast. I didn't think my milk was too hot. Next time I make this recipe, I might just use room temperature milk and not heat it up at all. The Baked recipe is so well written and I do love monkey bread though, so I'm going to try this again!

If you want to see the recipe and read how the other members' recipes turned out, head on over to BAKED Sunday Mornings

Friday, December 17, 2010

Coconut Macaroons

I've made these coconut macaroons a few times over the years. They are so easy to make- it's only 5 ingredients! I made these with my sister over our baking weekend and my sister loved them so much that she's already made them again twice!

Here she is making them the first time:

The cookies tend to spread a little bit during baking and the edges get a little crispy- I just break those parts off and then the cookies look perfect! I brought a few of these cookies to work and my co-worker loved them so much she put a status up on Facebook about them. These cookies are sure to be a hit. The recipe, from a Martha Stewart cookbook that I've had for years, says that it is essential to use unsweetened coconut, which you can get in health-food stores. I used regular sweetened coconut from the grocery store and the cookies were delicious- I like things sweet though, so I didn't mind any extra sweetness!

Here's the recipe:
(Slightly modified from The Best of Martha Stewart Living: Desserts: Our Favorite Recipes for Every Season and Every Occasion, 1998)

3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (I used sweetened shredded coconut)
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spray it with cooking spray or use a Silpat sheet. In a large bowl, combine sugar, coconut, egg whites, vanilla and salt. Use your hands to mix well and completely combine the ingredients. Dampen your hands with cold water. Form 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture into a loose haystack and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, spacing the cookies about 1 inch apart. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Macaroons can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Spice Cookie Cut-Outs

My mom has been making these spice cookies for Christmas ever since I was a little girl. She can't remember where she got the recipe from. It's been written on an index card that she's kept for years. I don't like spice cookies, but it has always been a tradition in my family for my mom and sisters and I to make spice cookie cut outs and decorate them together. They're a pretty simple looking cookie, with a touch of molasses, cinnamon and nutmeg and my family loves them. We like to use all different kinds of holiday cookie cutters to cut out the cookies and we decorate them with all different sugars. Kids will also love helping to make these cookies!

Here's the recipe:

¾ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer on high until light in color.  Add egg and molasses and continue mixing for one minute.  Scrape down the sides of bowl with a spatula.

On low speed, add flour mixture. When the ingredients are moistened, turn to medium speed and beat until well blended, about 1 – 2 minutes.

Separate into thirds, flatten as much as possible and wrap in Saran Wrap. Refrigerate for one hour, until dough is chilled. 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out dough ¼” thick on a floured board.  Cut out & decorate.  Bake 8 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chocolate Nutella Fudge with Sea Salt

'Tis the holiday season and fudge is definitely a staple this time of year. I've made different fudge recipes in the past, but this is a new recipe for me. Fudge AND Nutella? I'm sold! I can't even describe how much I love Nutella. This fudge recipe was so easy to make- a one bowl recipe and it took about 10 minutes to come together. I made a half batch and I will probably eat it all up myself. I love the sea salt sprinkles on top!

The recipe:
(slightly adapted from Cookin' Canuck, which she adapted from a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe)

This is the recipe for a half-batch. The link above has the full recipe.

1/2 of a 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup Nutella
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
Sea salt for sprinkling over the fudge

Line a loaf pan with foil or parchment paper. Heat a pot of water to simmering.

In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter.

Make a double boiler by setting the bowl on the pot of simmering water. The water should not be touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, until the fudge is firm.

Run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Lift the fudge out of the pan using the foil. Peel off the foil. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.

Enjoy! I can't wait to bake more holiday recipes, especially lots of different cookies!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

BAKED Sunday Mornings: Sweet & Salty Brownies

Apologies for the poor picture. This is the second recipe chosen for BAKED Sunday Mornings! I was so excited to try this recipe because I tried the sweet & salty brownie when I visited Baked in Brooklyn last year. I'm also a sucker for brownies and caramel, so this seemed like the perfect combination. The directions for making the caramel were so easy and it came out perfectly! I've never had such good luck making caramel! I halved the recipe for the caramel and for the brownies and used an 8 inch square pan to bake them in. The brownie batter also came together easily in 1 bowl. I used milk chocolate because I didn't have any dark chocolate, but I think next time, I'd use dark chocolate like the recipe asks for. I used all the caramel that was made, although I think I used too much because a side note on the recipe says to be careful not to use too much because it could seep out and burn during baking. The caramel on mine didn't burn, but the brownies were really hard to cut and get out of the pan in one piece, even after I refrigerated the brownies for awhile. I thought for sure when the time was up that the brownies wouldn't be done, but my knife was clear after I pulled it out of the center of the brownies. The caramel layer just makes the middle of the brownies a very fudgy texture. I loved the fleur de sel and coarse sugar on top of the brownies!

 Watching closely until the thermometer gets to 350 degrees

The finished caramel

I was unable to get a picture of the brownies sliced and out of the pan, so here's another picture of the finished product. I can't wait to try the other recipes in Baked Explorations!

Go here for the brownie recipe and to see how the other participant's recipes came out. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chicken Salad with Green Apple & Pecans

There's this restaurant I've gone to down the shore (that's New Jersey speak for "at the beach") that has the best chicken salad. They have so many different kinds- with grapes, with apples, with cinnamon, with raisins....I order it every time I go there. I had always wanted to make my own chicken salad, but had never gotten around to it. Since I don't live close to this restaurant, I wanted to try to create my own that tasted just as (or almost) as good as theirs. I stumbled upon this recipe at The Novice Chef blog, but I don't like cherries, so I decided to modify the recipe a bit. I love the slightly sweet flavor the apple brings to the salad! I've made this chicken salad a few times, and it's really good and pretty healthy! My only issue, and it's not with the recipe, is that I seem to have a problem cooking the chicken breast so that it's not overdone. I just put them in a baking dish sprinkled with salt and pepper and baked them in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, but they seemed a little dry. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to make this again and cook the chicken a different way! Maybe on my george foreman grill?

Here's my recipe:
(modified from The Novice Chef who modified it from Gourmet, 2003)

2 cups of cubed cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 rib diced celery
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 medium green apple, chopped (I used a Mutsu apple)
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup fat free greek yogurt
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, greek yogurt and white wine vinegar. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir together. Adjust seasonings as needed. I refrigerate it for a few hours and then eat it on whole wheat bread, but sourdough or a tortilla wrap would also taste great!