Friday, April 30, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies


I recently found the most amazing strawberries at my local farmers marketThey were such a deep red and so perfectly sweet.  My best/favorite baking partner is coming in town this weekend and I couldn't be more excited.  We have our recipes lined up for the next few days and are looking forward to having some fun in the kitchen.  I wanted to make sure I had something ready for her when she arrives, so I figured a nice strawberry shortcake cookie would be a great welcome.


These cookies taste very much like a biscuit or a scone.  They are light and fluffy and the flavor of the strawberries really comes through.  Be sure to keep the cookies small so they don't spread out in the oven and turn into a puddle.  A dollop of whipped cream or side of vanilla yogurt would go nicely with these cookies.


Strawberry Shortcake Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients 

12 ounces strawberries, hulled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups) 
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt 
6 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract
coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix together the strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp of sugar in a medium bowl.  Set aside for use later.

Whisk together the flour, 2 cups of sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter to the flour mixture until coarse crumbs are formed.  (I used my fingers as well)  Stir in the heavy cream and almond extract until the dough starts to come together.  Gently fold in the strawberry mixture.

Using a 1 inch cookie scoop, drop dough onto cookie sheets, evenly spaced apart.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Bake for 22-27 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  The cookies are best eaten the same day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies


Baking with olive oil adds heart-healthy benefits to any recipe as it cuts back on the cholesterol and saturated fat contents of typical desserts.  My father maintains a very healthy diet and never touches anything I bake unless it is made with dark chocolate or olive oil.  He recently sent me a bunch of olive oil recipes, so I decided to make my way through the pile and began with the chocolate cookies.  My timing was perfect because he was in town this weekend.  I was able to convince him to try a cookie and he said he enjoyed it! 


I have a nice big bottle of olive oil which I've never used for baking.  Measuring out 3/4 of a cup made me a bit nervous, but all was well in the end.  Believe it or not, the olive oil in this recipe takes the place of butter and eggs.  This was a nice change of pace for someone who is constantly buying sticks of butter and cartons of eggs!  These cookies offer the perfect bite of chocolate and crunch which then melt in your mouth- they are just refreshing and delightful.   


Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies
adapted from The Olive Harvest Cookbook

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals.  Set aside and let cool until lukewarm.  Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and cinnamonIn a small bowl mix together the olive oil, vanilla and almond extracts.  Add this to the dry mixture.  Add the melted chocolate and stir until the mixture comes together into a uniform mass. 

Using your hands, roll the dough into ball about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.  Bake the cookies until very lightly browned, about 25 minutes.  transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Magic in the Middle Cookies


I ventured about an hour outside of the city to Paradise Springs Winery this weekend for a friend's birthday.  It was nice to escape the city for a bit and be surrounded by the gigantic beautiful trees and hills.  We did a full wine tasting and then bought a bottle of wine to share while we hung out for the rest of the afternoon snacking on cheese and crackers and my homemade cookies. 


I found this recipe for magic in the middle cookies a while back and had been saving it for the perfect occasion.  Almost everyone loves peanut butter and chocolate, so I figured these would be a great birthday cookie.  You may be wondering how the peanut butter gets in the middle of the actual cookie.  The secret is out...it's not really magic!  If you read the directions below you will be able to see how simple it is to actually put these cookies together. 


Magic in the Middle Cookies
adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients
Chocolate cookie:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 egg 
1 tsp vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Filling:
2/3 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Directions
  
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease two cookie sheets and set aside. 

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  

In another medium bowl beat together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter until frothy.  Beat constantly and add in the egg and vanilla.  Slowly blend in the dry mixture to the wet mixture until smooth.

In a small bowl mix together the powdered sugar and peanut butter until completely combined.  

Roll the peanut butter mixture into small round balls about the size of a grape.  Scoop about a tablespoon of the chocolate batter and flatten it out in your hand.  Place the peanut butter ball in the middle of the flattened chocolate and work the chocolate batter around the ball and press the edges together to make the ball disappear. 

Gently roll the cookie ball in your hands to smooth it out and then roll each cookie ball in sugar and place on the cookie sheet.  Use the bottom of a glass to flatten the cookies a bit.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until set.  Cool completely on a wire rack before serving. 

 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Banana Whoopie Pies


I had a few bananas left over from last week's chocolate chip banana bread so I decided to try out a recipe I found for banana whoopie pies.  The cookies were much lighter than I had expected and the cream cheese filling was the perfect bit of tang to top it all off.  All in all I found this recipe to be quite refreshing and a nice addition to the early spring recipe collection.  I added about one tablespoon too much of the milk to the filling mixture, so I found it a bit difficult to assemble the whoopies.  I made sure everyone ate them right away instead of letting them sit and watching the filling ooze out...no one objected!


Banana Whoopie Pies
adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients
Cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
3 large bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Filling
*1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp milk as needed
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional) 
*(Generally when a recipe calls for cream cheese I use Neufchatel- it's cream cheese but with 1/3 less fat and the same great taste as regular cream cheese) 

Directions

For the Cookie
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees  F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, and salt until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and banana and mix together.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Whisk together the flour and baking soda then add to the banana mixture.  Mix until evenly combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Scoop the dough by a quarter cup (for larger cookies) or heaping tablespoon (for smaller cookies) and place on the baking sheet.  Allow plenty of space between the cookies as they will spread out while baking.

Bake for 14 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched and the edges are a light golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Filling
Beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Add just enough milk to make the mixture spreadable.  Be careful not to add too much milk.  Stir in the walnuts.  

To Assemble
Spread the bottom of one cookie with 2 Tbsp of the filling.  Place another cookie on top of the filling, bottom side down. 


Friday, April 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread


There were several bananas left over at work yesterday and rather than let them go to waste I decided to take them home and make use of them.  


A couple of summers ago I spent a weekend at my friend CB's lake house up in Chautauqua, New York.  Her mother had a fresh batch of chocolate chip banana bread waiting for us upon arrival.  I was taken aback at how delicious it tasted yet how simple the recipe seemed.  CB's mother happily gave me a copy of the recipe and I've kept it safe and sound ever since. 


Today I decided to test different versions of the recipe and made four small loaves instead of one big loaf.  I filled one loaf with just plain batter (no nuts and no chocolate), one loaf with batter and nuts, one loaf with batter and chocolate, and the final loaf with batter, chocolate, and nuts.  Upon tasting a bite of all four loaves I decided the winner by far was the final loaf which included both chocolate and nuts.  Choose whichever combination you like and let me know which loaf is your winner.  The ingredients listed below are meant for one big loaf or four small loaves.


Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
adapted from Nancy Benjamin's Chautauqua Collection

Ingredients
3/4 cup sugar
3 large bananas, mashed
3/4 cup applesauce (or 3/4 cup vegetable oil)
2 eggs
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease one large loaf pan or 3-4 small loaf pans.

In a large bowl mix together the sugar, bananas, applesauce (or oil), and eggs.  Mix in the remaining ingredients.  Pour the batter into the pan (or pans).

Bake for 60-70 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes then loosen the sides of the loaf from the pan and remove.  Let cool completely on wire rack before slicing.



Friday, April 9, 2010

Gooey Toffee Butter Cake


 

Just when you think it's safe to pack away your sweaters and jackets and pull out your sundresses and sandals winter decides to make another appearance.  Yes, that's right- last weekend we welcomed spring to D.C. and this weekend we welcomed back winter.  What better way to beat the cold than a nice piece of gooey toffee butter cake.  As Paula Deen would say, nothing's better than butter!


One of my best friends from high school who also happens to be a baking buddy in D.C.and her sister had a few friends over tonight for dinner on their patio.  We lit a fire, grabbed some blankets, and actually sat outside the entire time, mind you I did keep my coat on.  


I wanted to make something for tonight's dinner, but didn't have much time to prepare.  I opted for this Paula Deen recipe which calls for a box cake mix plus a few other ingredients I had on hand.  The prep took about 15-20 minutes and baking was about 45 minutes.  The result was literally gooey toffee yumminess and kept us warm out there in the cold.


Gooey Toffee Butter Cake
adapted from Paula Deen

Ingredients
 
Cake:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted 

Filling:
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup chopped heath bar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 13x9 inch baking pan.

With an electric mixer, combine the cake mix, egg, and butter.  Mix well.  Pat into the bottom of the baking pan and set aside.

Still using the electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Pour in the powdered sugar and beat well.  Reduce the mixer speed and pour in the butter.  Mix well.  Fold in the heath bar bits.

Pour the filling on top of the cake mixture and spread evenly.  Bake for 45 minutes.  The edges should begin to pull away from the pan and the center should still be a bit gooey.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.



Pictured below is Paula Deen throwing out the first pitch at the Washington National's baseball game on May 19, 2010.  Great job Paula!


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mandel Bread



Spring has officially made it's way to Washington D.C. and I hear the Cherry Blossoms are in full bloom.  Instead of walking around the National MalI and battling the tourists I took breaks from writing a paper by walking around my neighborhood and attempting to do research for the paper on my roof..."attempting" is the key word! 


In between the paper writing and spending as much time outside as possible I was also able to fit in a bit of baking.  Thanks to my step-sister for introducing me to her friend's blog which has a Passover Mandel Bread recipe.  I decided to give it a try...and what a great decision.  I don't even remember what normal Madel Bread is supposed to taste like because this Passover version is just too good.  You will not even notice the difference!


Passover Mandel Bread
adapted from papery & cakery

Ingredients
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
6 eggs
2 3/4 cups matzah cake meal
1/2 tsp. salt
2/4 cup potato starch
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I used 1 cup semi sweet and 1/2 cup milk chocolate)
1/2 cup butterscotch chips (I used these in 2/3 of the batter)
2 Tbsp. sugar & 1 Tbsp. cinnamon (for the topping)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Sift the cake meal, potato starch, and salt.  Set aside. 

Cream the butter and sugar until light.  Add the eggs and continue beating.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.  Mix in the nuts, chocolate, and butterscotch chips.

Separate into 3 loaves on a cookie sheet (or two) lined with parchment paper.  Top the loaves with the cinnamon & sugar mixture. 

Bake for 40 minutes.  Take the loaves out of the oven and slice immediately.  Turn the slices on their sides.  If you'd like, sprinkle a little more of the cinnamon sugar mixture. 



Place them back in the oven for another 15 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.