Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Iced Soft Gingerbread Cookies

Growing up, one of my favorite store bought cookies was Archway's Iced Spice cookies (though for some unknown reason we called them "Icy Spicy"s).  It now appears that they may have stopped making them, though I thought I bought some maybe last year (I'm probably mistaken and had bought another iced variety).  When it was announced that this month's What's Baking theme was "Baking with Gingerbread" I knew I wanted to try to recreate my beloved spice cookie.

I had made gingerbread men in the past but those weren't the soft cookies I was going for.  I did a little Google search and the picture accompanying this recipe was exactly what I was looking for.  I set out to make them ,but I wanted to go a little more festive with them.  I was going to use these for my cookie swap I signed up for on my cooking forum, so I bought a snowflake cookie cutter and got to work.

I also used a trick I learned from watching Rachael (Rachael Ray's daytime show).  When using molasses or honey, line the measuring cup with plastic wrap.  Pour the sticky stuff in, then lift out the plastic wrap carefully, and while holding it over the bowl of batter, cut a hole in the plastic and let it drip through.  You can squeeze it out to make sure you get every last drop, plus you don't have to clean the measuring cup after!

The end result was exactly what I was looking for.  It tasted just like I remembered!  Of course they puffed a bit in the oven so the detailed edges of the snowflakes were a bit lost and after looking at the photos I realize I inadvertently made and sent iced Jewish star cookies.  Oops!  At least they were delicious Jewish stars!

Iced Soft Gingerbread Cookies (slightly adapted from

2 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup molasses

2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, sift together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg until well combined, then stir in the water and molasses.  Gradually stir in the sifted ingredients.
- If you want regular cookies, roll into walnut sized balls, place onto a lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly.
- If you are going to use a cookie cutter, roll all dough into one large ball and wrap well in plastic wrap.  Chill for at least an hour in fridge.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/4 in thickness.  use cookie cutter to make desired shapes, re-rolling excess dough  only once more.  Place onto a lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cookies are cooling, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.  Add the additional tbsps of as needed to reach your desired consistency.  Carefully dip cookies in the icing and allow to harden before storing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Overnight Caramel French Toast

I love having people over for brunch.  Breakfast food is one of my favorite types of food, and any time I can get a bit indulgent and fancy I am in heaven.  

One dish that I love making is overnight caramel french toast.  My father makes this dish every year for his annual break-fast gathering.  About a year ago I asked him for his recipe, which he found online. (He doesn't remember the website but it is similar to this one.)  I knew it wasn't healthy, but his recipe was a bit much for me (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp corn syrup?!?!).  I did a little online search and came across a similar recipe from Betty Crocker.  I did a little back and forth between the two recipes and added a little bit of my own twist and settled on this delicious dish.

I have served this a few times now and it has always been received very well.  Plus, you prep it the night before so you don't need to worry about doing much the next morning.  It's great for a crowd as part of a brunch but also a few pieces reheated the next day (on the rare occasion that there are leftovers) make a perfect quick breakfast.  It's not something I would make just for my family, so makes me want to invite people over for brunch more often!

Overnight Caramel French Toast (adapted from a passed down recipe [source unknown] with inspiration from Betty Crocker)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 loaf french bread, sliced into 1 1/2 in pieces
4 eggs
2 cups skim milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
cinnamon sugar

- Spray a 13x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
- In a medium saucepan, mix the butter, corn syrup and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly until bubbly (do not boil).  Pour evenly into the baking dish.
- place the slices of french bread in a single layer over the caramel sauce, filling the baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg.  Pour the mixture evenly over the bread.  Cover and chill at least 8 hours.
- Uncover, sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Tarts

When my cousin got married back in the early 90s our aunt compiled a booklet of family recipes for her.  At my bridal shower I was handed the booklet which my cousin lovingly passed down to me.  Considering our aunt had since passed away, this was even more special as it made me feel that the gift was from our aunt as well.

As I was deciding what treats to make for my family this year, I flipped through this booklet and came across this recipe for holiday tarts from my grandmother.  Because my grandmother passed away a week after my 11th birthday I don't necessarily remember her making these, but as soon as my mom opened her package she exclaimed "you made my mother's holiday tarts?!" so I knew I made them well.  My grandmother would make them as free-form thumbprint cookies but I made use of my mini muffin tin to make mini tarts.  What I love about her recipe is the "old school"ness of it.  She suggests using a thimble to make the nest.

I love family traditions, especially around the holidays, so it made me very happy to incorporate my grandmother's recipe this year.

Holiday Tarts (slightly adapted from my grandmother's recipe)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pastry flour
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup pecans
jelly (I used strawberry, but my grandmother used mint)

- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar.  Add slightly beaten egg yolk.  Gradually add flour.
- Roll into small balls by hand then dip in lightly beaten egg white.  Roll balls in chopped nuts.
- Press ball into greased mini miffin tin, shaping so the sides are higher than the center, creating a "nest".
- Bake for 20 min at 300 degrees.
- Let cook for 5 min before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
- Allow to fully cool, then fill centers with jelly.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Iced Pumpkin Cookies - Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

When I asked my uncle what I could contribute to our Thanksgiving meal, his response was "how about a cookie that is appropriate for little fingers?".  We had nine kids 5 and under (including my own) so I was happy to oblige.  And I knew the perfect holiday treat to make, too!

My dear friend Jessica over at Sunny Side Up had just made these Iced Pumpkin Cookies for her Blogger's Choice swap and raved about them, so they were the obvious choice for my Thanksgiving dessert.  To make them more toddler-friendly I left the icing off, but everyone still raved about them.  My sister-in-law even made them herself that weekend!  And bonus, the recipe Jessica had based hers on was actually dairy-free, so if you're looking to make them parve, just check out the post at Dough See Dough.

These cookies went over so well at Thanksgiving (and made so many - I got about 45 cookies with one batch!) I knew immediately that these were the cookies that I would send out this year for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

I love this cookie swap.  You send out 3 dozen or so of one cookie and get cookies in return from 3 different bloggers.  It always opens up my world of blogs to follow, as well!  I sent my cookies to Take a Bite out of BocaFlamingo Musings, and Shikha la Mode and in return I got delicious molasses spice cookies from Three Sixty Five Degrees, chocolate chip oatmeal hazelnut macaroons from My Upbeet Life and cranberry chocolate chip cookies from The Dreamery.

From the response I have been getting from everyone that tries these cookies, I know that they will be making a comeback next fall.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies (from Sunny Side Up)

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup pack dark brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (I used fresh, but you can also use 100% canned pumpkin)
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

- Preheat oven to 350f.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.  Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla.  Mix  until well combined.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients (I add 1/4 cup at a time), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Using a rounded tablespoon (or a cookie scoop), place the dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Wet your hands with a little water (so the dough doesn't stick to them) and gently mold the dough into a more rounded circle, flatten, and smooth.
- Bake 13-15 minutes.  Allow to cool on teh baking sheet for 5 minutes  before transferring to a wire cooking rack.
- While the cookies are cooling, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.  Add the additional tbsps of as needed to reach your desired drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over the cookies and allow to harden before storing.

It's noted that the cookies may become too moist being stored in tupperware or a ziplock bag.  If this happens, you can store them with parchment paper between each layer and leave a corner of the tupperware lid open.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

My annual tradition to kick-off to the holiday season is getting a peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks.  Yes, I know they are available all year around, but it doesn't seem right having one mid-July.  I always indulge in this treat Thanksgiving weekend.  Something about the minty chocolatey-ness (yes, that's a word) brings the cozy feelings of the holidays.

When Colleen from The Redhead Baker announced her Cupcake Day event I knew that I wanted to make a cupcake version of my favorite holiday drink.  After one more "research trip" to Starbucks I got to work.

I scoured the internet to find a good recipe for the cupcakes and came across one on 2Teaspoons, then added my own spin on the icing with adding a mint whipped cream.  Most recipes I found had a buttercream or marshmallow frosting, but when you order a hot chocolate they always ask if you want whipped cream.  The appropriate answer, of course, is a hesitant "ok, just a little".  That way you feel like you're not going to blow a ton of calories and can pretend they actually write "just a little" and not just mark it to get a huge glob of deliciousness added on top.

I have to say, this is maybe one of my favorite things ever to come out of my kitchen.  I ended up with some mint whipped cream left over and could probably adjust the measurements so you'd wind up with less, however it's so delicious that I could eat it by the spoonful or put on top of a mug of actual hot chocolate, so why would I deny you that pleasure as well?!

This is going to be a permanent addition to my holiday baking.  I already have ideas to make mini cupcakes if we need a treat for any holiday parties.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupakes with Mint Whipped Cream Frosting (slightly adapted from 2Teaspoons)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup + 1 heaping tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp peppermint extract, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, mix 1/2 cup milk and 1 tbsp white vinegar and let it sit for 5 min)
2 cups heavy cream

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt butter and chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl for 2 min, then stir to combine.  Add in the heaping tbsp of cocoa powder and stir.  Set aside to cool.
- In medium bowl, sift together remaining cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, which together eggs, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, light brown sugar, vanilla and peppermint.  Once that is combined, whisk the butter/chocolate mixture in.  Stir in the buttermilk.
- Gradually (I used 1/4 cup at a time) add in the flour mixture, stirring to combine before each addition.  The batter will be the consistency of a thick chocolate pudding.
- Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.  Divide batter evenly amongst the 12 liners.
- Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted, approx 18 minutes.
- Let cook completely before frosting.
- In a medium bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) whip heavy cream, 2 tbsp granulated sugar, and 1/4 tsp peppermint extract until it becomes a stiff whipped cream.  ***I love to use the whisk attachment that came with my immersion blender, otherwise it makes for a really great arm workout!
- Once the whipped cream is set, fill a frosting bag with it and pipe it onto each cupcake.

Full list of Cupcake Day participants: