Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peppermint Bark Fudge

 

 Sincere apologies for the lack of blog posts lately!  I am adjusting to having finished graduate school and starting an amazing new job.  I hope to get back into a regular blog routine after the new year!  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this holiday treat which is both guilt-free and delicious.  Happy holidays everyone!


Peppermint Bark Fudge
adapted from Hungry Girl
(2 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients
 
2 cups canned pure pumpkin
One 18.3-oz. box Betty Crocker Fudge Brownies mix
3 Tbsp white chocolate chips, roughly chopped
1 standard-size candy cane or 5 mini candy canes, lightly crushed

Directions
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8" X 8" baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin with brownie mix; stir until smooth.  Transfer mixture to the pan.

Bake until edges are slightly firm and top center is dry to the touch, about 35 minutes.  (Batter may look undercooked; this is okay.)

Immediately sprinkle with chopped chocolate chips and crushed candy cane(s).  Allow fudge to cool.

Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours. (This fudge tastes best when chilled overnight.) Cut into 36 squares and serve.  (1 serving = 1 piece, 2 PointsPlus per serving)
 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grandma's Chocolate Chip Cookies


Within my family my grandma is known for her chocolate chip cookies.  She hasn't shared the recipe with anyone until now.


My grandma's recipe is loaded with three types of chocolate and nuts.  She really does it right!  Crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside with great texture from the mix-ins, these cookies are really superb.  I hope you enjoy.


Grandma's Chocolate Chip Cookies
(4 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

1/2 pound butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp hot water
3-4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups nuts
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 oz. white chocolate chips

Directions

Cream the butter and both sugars until smooth.  Add in the salt, vanilla, eggs, and cocoa powder.  Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and then add in 1/2 cup of the flour, baking soda mixture, and then the remaining flour.  Stir in the nuts, chocolate chips, and chopped chocoate.

Cover the batter and place in the fridge for at least two hours.  It can remain in there overnight.  Before removing the batter, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove the batter and use an ice cream scoop to make cookie rounds.  The batter will be tough to work with, so you'll need to use a little muscle!  Place on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the pans for about 5 minutes.  Then remove to a wire rack.  (1 serving = 1 cookie, 4 PointsPlus per serving)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chocolate Cream Cheese Surprise Cupcakes


One of my best friends from undergrad sent me an email a while back with the subject line:

My absolute favorite


The body of the email proceeded to read:

You will LOVE these.  Also, I would run through traffic for these cupcakes. (the mini chocolate chips are really essential, don't use the big ones)

 
I was sold.  I made these cupcakes this past weekend and they brought a giant big smile to my face.  I could tell why my friend loves these so much.  The chocolate cake is rich and moist; and the cream cheese adds a nice bit of tangy smoothness.  These cupcakes were truly delicious.


These cupcakes were a great way to celebrate my 100th blog post!  Thank you to my readers and everyone else who has encouraged and supported me since the launch of The Capitol Baker almost two years ago.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Surprise Cupcakes
adapted from Hershey's
(6 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingedients

for the filling:

8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

for the cupcake:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
2/3 cups vegetable oil
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin cups with paper liners. 

Prepare the filling- beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg and salt in a bowl until smooth and creamy.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.  Beat for 3 minutes.  Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Spoon 1 level Tbsp of the filling into the center of each cupcake. 

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the cake portion comes out clean.  Let cool for 5 minutes in the pans.  Remove from pans to wire rack.  Cool completely.


This recipe makes about 30 cupcakes.  (1 serving = 1 cupcake, 6 PointsPlus per serving)

 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Biscoff and White Chocolate Chip Cookies


I bet you're thinking to yourself right now why does Biscoff sound so familiar.  You've probably had the cookie several times on an airplane, but never realized it had an actual name.


There isn't too much to say about this cookie concoction other than it is just hands down delicious.  The flavor of the Biscoff cookie combined with the white chocolate does wonders together.  You must try this recipe ASAP!


Biscoff and White Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Picky Palate
roughly 7 PointsPlus per serving

Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
20 finely ground Biscoff Cookies
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
20 coarsely chopped Biscoff Cookies
2 cups white chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a stand or electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and creamy.  Add the eggs and then vanilla, mix until well combined.

In a large bowl add the flour, ground Biscoff Cookies, baking soda and salt.  Mix to combine and then slowly add into wet ingredients until just combined.  Add the coarsely chopped Biscoff cookies and white chocolate chips until just combined.

With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart and press down.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until edges start to turn golden brown. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. 

If you're feeling adventurous like I was when working on this recipe then you can use a portion of the dough to make a cookie cake.  I made 44 cookies and then used the leftover dough for the cake.  I sprayed a 9-inch round baking pan with cooking spray, patted the dough into the pan, and baked for about 15-17 minutes.

(1 serving = 1 cookie (or slice of cake), because I made 44 cookies plus the cake I estimated one serving to be 7 PointsPlus)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dulce de Leche and Cashew Blondies


A little while back I made these Dulce de Leche and Cashew Bars which were absolutely fabulous.  I found it a bit difficult to spread the Dulce de Leche over each layer, so I wanted to experiment with mixing the Dulce de Leche into the batter.


While the end product tasted different from the original recipe, it was still a success.  This recipe tasted more like a typical blondie, sweet, soft and less chewy than the original.  Overall, both versions were delicious and you will have to make both to see which one you prefer!


Dulce de Leche and Cashew Blondies
adapted from Lucie Madeleine
(6 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup Dulce de Leche (store-bought or homemade)
1 1/4 cups roasted salted cashews (halves and pieces)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line an 8 x 8 pan with tin foil and make sure the foil reaches up the sides.  Butter the foil. 

Melt the butter over low heat in a medium saucepan.  Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Add the brown sugar to the saucepan of melted butter and whisk until mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the egg then add the salt and flour and whisk for 1 minute.  Now add in the Dulce de Leche and cashews and mix until combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set in the center and golden brown at the edges (it may seem a little underdone because of the Dulce de Leche in the middle, so just make sure it’s firm).  Cool completely in the pan and then remove bars by lifting up the tinfoil.  


Because the edges of blondies tend to get a little tough, first slice off about ¼ inch from each edge and save for someone who likes edges!  Then slice into 16 squares. (1 serving = 1 piece, 6 PointsPlus per serving)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Povitica: Daring Bakers'


The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk.  Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!


Povitica

Ingredients (to make 4 loaves)

To activate the Yeast:

2 tsp sugar
1 tsp flour
½ cup warm water
2 Tbsp dry yeast

Dough:

2 cups whole milk
¾ cup sugar
3 tsp salt
4 large eggs
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
8 cups flour, measure first then sift, divided

Walnut Filling:

7 cups ground walnuts
1 cup whole milk
1 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon

Topping:

½ cup cold strong coffee
2 Tbsp sugar
melted butter

Directions

To Activate the Yeast:

1. In a small bowl, stir 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.
2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.

To Make the Dough:
 
3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180°F), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110°F.
4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup sugar, and the salt until combined.
5. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups of flour.
6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick.
8. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds).
9. Place dough in 4 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.

To Make the Filling:
 
10. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
11. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.
12. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
13. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
14. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
15. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.

To Roll and Assemble the Dough:
 
16. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
17. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly).
18. Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches in diameter.
19. Spoon 1 to 1.5 tsp of melted butter on top.
20. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, if you prefer.
21. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to help in stretching it out, but also to make sure that it isn’t sticking.
22. When you think the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the pattern of the sheet underneath.
23. Spoon filling evenly over dough until covered.
24. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.
25. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a “U”, with the ends meeting in the middle. You want to coil the dough around itself, as this will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced.
26. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
27. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of ½ cup of cold STRONG coffee and 2 Tbsp of sugar. If you prefer, you can also use egg whites in place of this.
28. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
29. Preheat oven to 350°F.
30. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
31. Turn down the oven temperature to 300°F and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
32. After about 30 minutes check to see if the bread is getting brown and if so, you may want to cover the loaves with foil.
33. After you have completed cooking, remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
34. Allow to cool on a wire rack (still in the pan) for 20-30 minutes. Remember, the bread weighs about 2.5 pounds and it needs to be able to hold its own weight, which is difficult when still warm and fresh out of the oven. Allowing it to cool in the pan helps the loaf to hold its shape.
35. It is recommended that the best way to cut Povitica loaves into slices is by turning the loaf upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.

Storage:

There are several options for storing (and eating) your four loaves of Povitica:

• The Povitica will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature.
• The Povitica will keep fresh for 2 weeks if refrigerated.
• The Povitica can be frozen for up to three months when wrapped in a layer of wax paper followed by a layer of aluminum foil. It is recommended to not freeze Povitica with cream cheese fillings as it doesn’t hold up to being thawed really well – it crumbles.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hamburger Cookies


Do not be fooled.  These are in fact cookies that look like hamburgers.  Oh yes, believe it.  They are real.  They are adorable.  And most importantly, they are delicious.

I first spotted a Hamburger Cookie a little over a year ago at my cousin's (wedding) cookie table.  Ever since then I have wanted an excuse to give these a try.


Thankfully my excuse finally came!  A colleague ordered a dozen for his nephew's birthday; and while the nephew may have still asked, "where's my truck?," I was told that the adults enjoyed these little treats.  They really are so fun to look at and are a cinch to make.

Hamburger Cookies
adapted from taste of home

Ingredients

48 Nilla Wafer Cookies
24 mini peppermint patties
1/4-1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 can vanilla frosting
1/2-1 Tbsp sesame seeds
Red, Yellow, and Green food coloring
1 egg white *optional 

Directions

Spoon out half of the frosting into one bowl and the rest in another.  Drop the red food coloring in the first bowl and mix.  Continue to drop the coloring until the desired color is reached.  Repeat with the yellow coloring in the second bowl.

Pour the shredded coconut into a third bowl.  Drop the green food coloring and mix.  Continue to drop the coloring until the desired color is reached.

Lay out all of the Nilla Wafers, curved side down, on a cutting board or large plate.  Using a knife, dab a bit of frosting (does not matter if it's the red or yellow) on 24 of the Wafers.  This helps to secure the peppermint pattie.  

Unwrap the 24 peppermint patties and place on top of each Wafer with the dab of frosting.  Carefully spread a bit of red frosting on half of each pattie.  Repeat with the yellow frosting on the other half.  Take the coconut and sprinkle on top of each pattie.  Place the remaining Wafers on top of the patties.

Now you can dab a tiny bit of either egg white or water on the top of each Wafer and then sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Let stand for about 30 minutes to an hour in order for the cookie to stick together.    

(makes 24 cookies)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cap'n Crunch Cookies


When is the last time you had Cap'n Crunch cereal?  Before these cookies my answer would have been sometime in Middle School!  I really do not eat too much cereal nowadays, but these cookies may have changed my breakfast routine.


Cap'n Crunch happens to be the favorite cereal of one of my (adult) cousins who lives nearby.  It just so happened that a few days after I came across this recipe Cap'n Crunch came up in conversation.  I had an AH-HAH moment and realized this is what I would bake for him as a congratulations for making partner in his cardiology practice.


I appreciate my one cousin's honesty that cake pops are still his favorite item that I make, but my other cousin said these were his all-time favorite.  The sweetness and crunch of the cereal combined with the browned butter makes these cookies spectacular.  The outside was crunchy but the inside was slightly chewy.  Oh my, I think I may need to go grab one right now!

Cap'n Crunch Cookies
adapted from Bourbonnatrix Bakes
(4 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

2 cups Cap'n Crunch cereal, divided
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour

Directions

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

Process 1 1/4 cups Cap'n Crunch cereal in a food processor until finely ground.

Melt 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, until butter foams and turns light golden brown.  You will see golden brown specs in your pan and also smell a nutty aroma.

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the browned butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until well combined and grainy.  This should take about 2 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla, egg, baking soda and salt and beat an additional 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in the processed Cap'n Crunch cereal and 1 cup cake flour until just combined.  Take the remaining Cap'n Crunch cereal and crush in a ziploc bag making sure to break in smaller pieces but leaving enough chunks that you'll be able to see the cereal in the batter.  Stir the remaining cereal into the batter until combined.

Portion dough into 2-3 Tbsp sized balls, and place on cookie sheet.  Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 17-18 cookies.  (1 cooking = 1 serving, 4 PointsPlus per serving)


I just love the photograph below!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Daring Bakers': Croissants


The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!


Last fall I somehow found myself in a conversation with one of my professors about how he lived in a building (I think it was in Cambridge, Massachusetts) with Julia Child.  He said the building usually smelled wonderful when he came home from work and that Julia occasionally brought up breads or other baked goods for him and his wife to try.  I wonder if he ever tasted her croissants!


This was my very first attempt at homemade croissants.  The recipe really was not that difficult, it just took a ton of time!  I made these with my mom and we had a lot of fun together.  Fresh out of the oven, these croissants were soft, sweet, and delicious.  They tasted more doughy than flaky, but were still irresistible.


Chocolate Almond Croissants
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two. Julia Child and Simone Beck

Ingredients

1¼ tsp dry-active yeast
3 Tbsp warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 3/4 cups strong plain flour
2 tsp sugar
1½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash
1 bar of chocolate, chopped into chunks
1 can almond paste
1 cup sliced almonds

Directions

1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first tsp of sugar in a small bowl.  Leave aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little.

2. Measure out the other ingredients

3. Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar.

4. Place the flour in a large bowl.

5. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour.

6. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated.

7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and let it rest a minute while you wash out the bowl.

8. Knead the dough eight to ten times only.  The best way is as Julia Child does it in the video (see below).  It’s a little difficult to explain, but essentially involves smacking the dough on the counter (lots of fun if you are mad at someone) and removing it from the counter using a pastry scraper.

9. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

10. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.

11. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips.

12. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches.

13. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up).

14. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

15. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size.  This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge

16. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter.

17. Once the dough has doubled, it is time to incorporate the butter.

18. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board.

19. Using a rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, until it is quite flat.

20. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth.  You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.

21. Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter.  Let it rest for a minute or two.

22. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches.

23. Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle.

24. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch across from all  edges.

25. Fold the top third of the dough down and the bottom third of the dough up.

26. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right.

27. Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches.

28. Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up.

29. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

30. After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter.

31. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little.

32. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes.

33. Roll the dough package out until it is 14 by 8 inches.

34. Fold in three, as before.

35. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches.

36. Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising).

37. It is now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants.

38. First, lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready.

39. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter.

40. Roll the dough out into a 20 by 5 inch rectangle.

41. Cut the dough into two rectangles.
 
42. Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold.

43. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 by 5 inches.

44. Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches).

45. Place two of the squares in the fridge.

46. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime.  Roll it out again until it is nearly square.

47. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles.

48. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.  Rip of a chunk of the almond paste and place at the wide end of the dough.  Now take some of the chocolate pieces and place on top of the paste.

49. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape.

50. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet.

51. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, almond paste, and chocolate creating 12 croissants in total.

52. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour.

53. Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F.

54. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water.

55. Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants.

56. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes total, until the tops are browned nicely. (About half way through you should sprinkle on sliced almonds, if desired)

57. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Here is the video of Julia Child.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Creamy Lemon Bars


A few times a month I usually receive a small envelope with two to three different recipes cut out from the newspaper.  Also in this envelope is a handwritten note from my grandmother letting me know she found a few recipes she thought I may like to try.  I just love picking up my mail after a long day of work and tearing open an envelope with my grandmother's handwriting, knowing that what's inside will brighten my day.


These lemon bars will surely brighten anyone's day.  This was my first attempt at lemon bars and I think the recipe is just lovely.  The bars are smooth and creamy, but most importantly they are not overly sweet nor too tart.  They have a very subtle hint of lemon which is just the way I like lemon bars. 

Creamy Lemon Bars
adapted from Bev Bennett
(3 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

For the crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cake flour

For the filling:
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)

Optional for garnish:
Sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries
Powdered sugar

Directions

Turn the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream the butter and powdered sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer.  Stir salt into flour.  Add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to the creamed butter.  Pat the dough into an 8-inch square pan.  Bake for 13 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

While the crust is baking go ahead and make the filling.  Beat the eggs in a medium bowl.  Add the white sugar and beat again.  Stir together the cornstarch and 2 Tbsp of the lemon juice in a separate bowl.  Pour this into the egg mixture.  Add remaining lemon juice and stir.

Once you remove the crust from the oven, let sit for about 5 minutes.  Pour the filling mixture over the crust.  Return the pan to the oven for another 30 minutes or until the top is firm when gently pressed.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan.  Store in the refrigerator (for up to one week).  When you're ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and slice into 21 piecesIf desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with whatever berries you have on hand.  (1 bar = 1 serving, 3 PointsPlus per serving)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Magic Shortbread Cookies

 

I received an email a few weeks back from a very nice woman wanting to place a special order for her daughter-in-law.  She said her daughter-in-law loved fudge stuffed shortbread as a child but cannot find them anymore!  What a thoughtful gesture.  I hope the recipient of these cookies had a big smile on her face when she opened her package of Magic Shortbread Cookies.


I decided on the name Magic Shortbread Cookies because they can be a bit deceptive.  From the outside it looks as though you will be enjoying a simple shortbread, but after taking a bite you may be surprised by the fudge found inside.  The shortbread was buttery and crisp and paired extremely well with the smooth hazelnut fudge.  These cookies go great with a nice cup of tea and a newspaper!

Magic Shortbread Cookies
(3 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup granulated sugar for coating
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp Nutella
2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Directions

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

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and salt.  Set aside. 

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter.  Gradually add in the superfine sugar.  Beat in the vanilla extract. Pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture in small batches.  Mix until the dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl.

Mix the powdered sugar with 1/4 cup of Nutella until well combined.  If the mixture looks too dry, continue to add up to 1 Tbsp more of Nutella.  Pinch off small portions of the Nutella mixture and roll into pea sized balls (you will need 36-38 total, but may end up with a few more depending on your size).

Place the remaining sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.

Now it's time to wrap your dough around the fudge.  I find the easiest way to portion out your dough is to divide it into 4 sections and then divide each section into 9 pieces.  Take one piece of dough and flatten it in the palm of your hand.  Take one ball of fudge and place in the middle of the dough.  Now wrap the dough around the fudge and roll around using your hands until you form an even ball and cannot see the fudge.  Place the ball in the bowl with sugar and gently roll around until the entire surface is coated with sugar.  Place the ball on the cookie sheet and continue this process until all of the dough is used up.

Bake for about 17-21 minutes or until the cookies are firm to the touch or the edges turn a very light brown.  Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes.  Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Recipe makes about 36 cookies.  (1 cookie = 1 serving, 3 PointsPlus per serving)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Marbled Nutella Banana Bread


I just returned from meeting my two nephews for the very first time!  They are the most adorable little guys around.  I can't wait to get back down to FL to spend more time with them.


For this week's post I want to share a recipe with you that makes me feel like I'm at home, banana bread.  This is exactly what I need after being around my family for a few days and now returning to D.C.  This recipe takes banana bread to the next level by incorporating nutella in a gorgeous marbled pattern.  The bread is moist and delicious, just the way a banana bread should be.  I hope you enjoy!


Marbeled Nutella Banana Bread
adapted from Sugar Plum
(9 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe banana
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Nutella 

Directions
 
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together the banana, butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy and well combined - about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs until well combined - about 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture until just combined.  Divide 1/2 of of the batter into a medium bowl; stir in Nutella until combined.

Alternate spoonfuls of batter into the loaf pan until all of the batter is used up.  Swirl batter gently with a knife. Bake 1 hour or until well risen, deep golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out with moist crumbs attached.  Once slightly cooled, slice into 10 pieces and enjoy!  (1 serving = 1 slice, 9 PointsPlus per serving)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cake Pops

  

Guess what?!  I became an aunt for the first time this week!!  And I'm not just any aunt...I'm now an aunt to two adorable little boys, Nolan Gray and Camden Kade.  I can't wait to meet them!  I am flying to Florida next weekend and my trip can't come soon enough! 
 

Even though my nephews are too young to have a cake pop, I think this recipe is a great way to celebrate.  Hopefully my brother and sister-in-law can enjoy a few pops next weekend.


If you're reading this post and thinking to yourself how in the world could I ever make a cake pop, well I'm here to tell you that you can!  It really is simple and even the most novice of bakers can create a beautiful pop with just a few ingredients and lots of patience.  Read on to the recipe below for step by step instructions and helpful tips.

Cake Pops
adapted from Bakerella
(base pop without toppings is 3 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

1 box Devil's Food box cake mix (really any brand or flavor cake will work)
1 16oz. can cream cheese frosting
1-2 bags chocolate candy melts (regular chocolate chips will also work just fine)
50 lollipop sticks
several blocks of styrofoam
1/4 cup edible candy pearls*
1/4-1/2 cup chopped, toasted nuts*
colored sprinkles*
fleur de sel*
*optional toppings

Directions

Bake the cake according to the directions on the box.  Cool completely.

Once cool, crumble the cake into a large bowl and mix in the cream cheese frosting until smooth.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.  (This helps the mixture to firm up so it is easy to roll into balls.)

Once firm, roll into quarter size balls.  Depending on the size, you should be able to make about 45-50.  Place the balls on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

A few minutes before removing the baking sheet from the fridge, go ahead and melt your chocolate by your preferred method.  Let cool for a few minutes.  Next remove the baking sheet with the cake balls from the fridge.  Take one lollipop stick and place the tip in the melted chocolate.  Then place the stick into a cake ball.  (The chocolate helps to seal the stick and ball together so the cake ball doesn't come off later on when you dip in the chocolate.)  Repeat this step until all of the cake balls are attached to a lollipop stick.  Place back in the fridge for another 20-30 minutes.

Now comes the fun part...  Make sure your chocolate is nice and smooth.  If you need to reheat for a little go ahead and do that.  Once again remove the cake pops from the fridge.  Take one cake pop and submerge it completely in the melted chocolate.  Remove the cake pop by lifting it straight up into the air (do not move your hand sideways).  Let the extra chocolate drip for a few seconds and then turn the cake pop right side up.  Now you can add whatever toppings you have on hand simply br sprinkling them onto the pop while the chocolate is still melted and soft.  Now you place the stick into your styrofoam and leave it there untouched until firm and dry.  (If you do not have styrofoam, get creative and look around your house to find something that will hold your pop upright.  I found that by turning my fruit bowl upside down and placing the sticks in between the mesh rings, my pops were able to stay sturdy and upright).

If you have room in your fridge to place the block of styrofoam with the pops attached go ahead and put them in there to cool down.  If you do not, it's okay to keep them on the counter until they dry and then place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and put in the fridge to cool completely.

Usually cake pops are best served at room temperature, but I found with this batch they became too soft and almost fell off the stick after the first bite.  So I kept them in the fridge until I was ready to serve.  What I recommend to you is to play around with this- leave a pop out and take a bite to see if it is too soft or not.  Then you can determine if you should keep them out or place in the fridge until you are ready to devour!  (Toppings such as edible pearls and nuts may affect PointsPlus values, so I have calculated the value for the base cake pop. 1 serving = 1 cake pop, 3 PointsPlus per serving)


The combination of fleur de sel and chocolate was just incredible.  Sweet and salty and irresistibly delicious!  The toasted nuts also provided an incredible flavor when combined with chocolate.


You really can't go wrong with the infinite number of combinations.  I'd love to hear about your favorite cake pop flavor and combination so please leave your comments below!