Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers': Decorated Sugar Cookies


The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!”. Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.


While this challenge presented the Daring Bakers' with a lot of freedom to get creative, Mandy asked everyone to decorate their cookies with a theme of September.  For me September meant the beginning of a new year, a fresh start filled with love, happiness, and encouragement from family and friends. 


The base for this recipe was a basic sugar cookie which was then topped with Royal Icing.  The last time I made a cookie like this was probably when I was five or six.  I remember going to my god-mother's house and making decorated sugar cookies for hours on end.  As soon as I smelled the almond extract from the Royal Icing this time around I was immediately brought back to my days as a young baker!  


Decorated Sugar Cookies

Basic Sugar Cookie 

Ingredients
½ cup + 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups + 3 Tbsp flour, sifted
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Directions

Cream together the butter, sugar, beating until creamy.  (Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape)  Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.

Knead the dough into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.  Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Once chilled, peel off the parchment paper and place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.  Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30 minutes to an hour.  (Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.)  During this round of chilling you should preheat the oven to 350°F.   

Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the cookies.  (Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done.)

Leave cookies to cool on cooling racks.  Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.  (Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.)

Royal Icing

Ingredients

2½ - 3 cups powdered sugar
2 egg whites
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp almond extract, optional

Directions

Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.  Sift the powdered sugar and add it to the egg whites.  Beat on low until combined and smooth.  Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.  (Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.)


For those who did not get to taste these cookies, hopefully the pictures will suffice.  :)


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nutella Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is one of the holiest days of the Jewish year.  We refrain from eating or drinking for 25 hours in order to truly reflect and atone for past sins.  With the culmination of Yom Kippur comes what is commonly known as a break-fast.  It is typical to gather with friends and family and enjoy each others company while eating a 'light' meal.


I started hosting break-fast a few years ago and hope to continue for years to come.  These Nutella Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies were one of a few types of cookies I made this year.  I actually started with a recipe for Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies and because I'm not too fond of peanut butter I decided to swap it for nutella.  As soon as I mixed in the nutella and smelled the hazelnut coming from the batter I knew I made a great choice.


The cookies turned out thin and crunchy with a bit of chewiness due to the oatmeal, but after a day in tupperware they turned less crunchy and more chewy.  I happen to prefer chewy cookies, so I was happy to let them sit for a day, but if you prefer your cookies crunchy then I would recommend serving them the day of.  The taste of the nutella is very subtle and when combined with the oatmeal and chocolate chips, makes for a super delicious cookie.

Nutella Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4-1/2 cup nutella
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chip cookies

Directions

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

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, both sugars, nutella, and vanilla extract.  Add in the egg and beat to combine.  On a low speed, add in the flour until just combined.  Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.

Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 12 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden.  Cool completely on the baking sheets and then store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies


This weekend I went to Atlantic City, New Jersey for a bachelorette party.  We ate great food, spent time outside in the beautiful weather, had a bit of luck with black jack, and had an overall fantastic weekend.  I made a batch of cookies for the group just in case we needed something to munch on and the cookies were a big hit!


They were soft, fluffy, and chewy, just the way a chocolate chip cookie should be (I hope I don't offend those who like crunchy cookies)!  The instant pudding is the secret ingredient which gives the cookies that extra bit of soft fluffiness.  I used french vanilla pudding, but the original recipe called for butterscotch, so I bet it would be fun to experiment with other flavors as well.  If you try something different please let me know! 


Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies
adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3.4 oz package instant pudding mix (I used french vanilla)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat together the butter and both sugars until creamy.  Beat in the pudding mix, eggs, and vanilla.  Add in batches of the flour, baking soda, and salt and beat until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips until distributed evenly.  Drop heaping teaspoons of the batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 13-14 minutes.

My batch made about 50 cookies.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Apple Cake


Rosh Hashanah, literally meaning the "head of the year", is the Jewish New Year.  During the two days of Rosh Hashanah we look back upon the year before us in order to remember the mistakes we have made and we also look forward to the year ahead.  Apples and honey are eaten during Rosh Hashanah and symbolize our wish for a sweet new year.  In theme with the sweet apples you will likely find an apple cake at every Rosh Hashanah gathering.  


The recipe for this apple cake comes from my friend Ashlynn's grandmother.  The first time Ashlynn brought this cake into the office I felt myself fall in love.  I looked around and knew I wasn't alone as everyone else had this look on their faces as if this was also the best apple cake they'd ever tasted.  The recipe has since been passed around our office and gets made every Rosh Hashanah and then some more.  :)  


Shana tova umetukah!  Wishing everyone a good and sweet new year.


Apple Cake
adapted from Grandma Anne

Ingredients

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups corn oil
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
4 cups peeled and chopped apples

Directions

Preheat the oven to 340 degrees F.  Gently mix together the sugar, corn oil, eggs, and vanilla with a wooden spoon.  Add the flour, salt, baking soda, walnuts, and apples and mix until combined.  Spray a bunt pan with non-stick baking spray (make sure to cover the sides all the way to the top) and pour in the batter.  Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15-30 minutes before turning over onto your serving plate.

Enjoy!




Apple Cake on Foodista

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake


A friend recently asked me if I ever bake something twice.  I love to experiment and try new things, so I really thought about his question and realized I don't often bake something twice, unless it was truly amazing and deserving of being eaten again.  This Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake is one such dessert.  I made it once before and decided to make it again for my friend Jenny's birthday.  Jenny is a fellow baker, so I knew I needed to make something really impressive.  She loves peanut butter and chocolate, so I figured this cake was the perfect fit to celebrate her birthday.


When you first look at this cake you may think of peanut butter overload, but there is a really nice balance of peanut butter to chocolate.  The devil's food makes for a very moist cake which creates a nice contrast with the richness of the frosting and Reese's peanut butter cups.  I'll admit that chopping the Reese's was a bit tedious, but thinking about the final product will get you through making this cake.  This is such a beautiful and luscious cake that I guarantee whoever you serve will be thanking you for the rest of the evening!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
adapted from Picky Eatings

Ingredients

1 box (18.25 ounces) devil’s food cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups chopped chocolate-covered peanut butter cups (about 8 ounces) for the cake, plus more to garnish (I used about 2.5 bags of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups total)
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line with wax paper and coat the paper with more spray.

In a large bowl, beat the cake mix, eggs, buttermilk and vegetable oil on low for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high; beat for 2 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl after 1 minute.  Fold in 2 cups of the chopped peanut butter cups.  Divide the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake for about 34 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the layers cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Then turn out the cakes onto the wire racks and cool completely.

While the cakes are cooking, place the chopped chocolate in a medium-size bowl.  Bring the cream just to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate melts and then add the peanut butter and whisk until smooth.
Trim the top of the cake layers flat with a serrated knife.  Pour about 1 cup of the frosting on top of the bottom cake layer; spread evenly with a spatula.  Top with the remaining cake layer.  Pour the remaining frosting over the top, allowing it to spill over the sides. Smooth the top and sides with a spatula and then place the chopped peanut butter cups on the top and sides of the cake.  Take special care when placing the Reese's on the sides of the cake as they may slide off at first.  Simply press and hold them on the cake for a few seconds.  For the sides, I started lining the Reese's on the bottom of the cake and worked my way up.  Refrigerate for 1 hour to set.