Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Peanut Butter Truffles

Buckeyes, peanut butter balls, or peanut butter truffles.   Call them anything you like, but I'll call them DELICIOUS!!!

I've had this recipe for years, and am not even sure where I first got it.    It's hand written on an old sheet of notebook paper in my ancient recipe box.   I make these treats just about every year at Christmas, and when I share them with friends, I always get rave reviews!!

The last few years I've made jumbo Peanut Butter Truffles On A Stick!   You know, anything on a stick is way more fun to eat, right?  

I wrapped these little cuties up in mini cellophane bags and tied them with Christmas ribbon.  I shared with my Ladies' Bible Study friends, and will bring them to our awesome Sunday School teachers this Sunday.  They're the perfect three-bite treat to let your friends know how much you love them!!

Peanut Butter Truffles

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
6 cups powdered sugar
3-4 cups milk chocolate chips or semi sweet chocolate chips for dipping
1 tablespoon Crisco

In a medium bowl, beat together butter and peanut butter.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add vanilla and powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until mixture is smooth.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Use a small scoop or a spoon and form small balls of mixture.  With your palms, roll into smooth balls.  Place on wax paper.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Refrigerate for at least one hour. 

Pour chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl, along with 1 tablespoon Crisco.  Heat on high for 1 minute.  Stir until chocolate chips are melted.  If necessary, microwave again in 15 second intervals, stirring frequently, until chocolate chips are all melted and smooth.

Drop a peanut butter ball into melted chocolate.  With a fork, retrieve from the chocolate and tap-tap-tap the fork on the edge of the bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off.  Use another fork to slide the peanut butter ball back onto the wax paper.  Repeat!  (If desired, sprinkle with holiday sprinkles before the chocolate firms up.)

Put cookie sheet back in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to firm up the chocolate.  Store in the fridge.  Try not to eat more than a few at a time or you'll get a tummy ache.  ;)

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

I admit it.  I watch Food Network t.v. all the time.  I mean, all four of my kids are in school now.  It's *quiet* in my house during the day!  While I'm busy with chores and such, I'll often click on the t.v. and watch cooking shows in the afternoon.  I'm a fan of Giada DeLaurentiis and her homey Italian recipes.  I've made quite a few!

Recently, on one of Giada's holiday specials, she made Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti.  I love making biscotti, and I thought this would make a perfect gift for my kids' teachers for Christmas (along with a Starbucks gift card!).

Pistachios and dried cranberries give the dough a festive red and green-speckled appearance which is perfect for Christmas!!

The biscotti recipe is straight-forward and easy to mix together.   It's formed into a log about 13 inches long and 3 inches wide.

It's baked the first time for 30 minutes until lightly golden.

After the loaf has cooled for a little while, it is sliced into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch slices, which are then baked again.

The result?   Crunchy sweet biscotti, perfect for dipping into your favorite cup of coffee!!

Here's the recipe from Giada!   I omitted a portion of her recipe (dunking the biscotti into melted white chocolate and sprinkling with colored sugar), and used orange zest instead of lemon zest.  

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, orange zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.

Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife or electric knife cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.

Candy Cane Kisses

Don't you just love holiday cookies?  When else, besides the holidays, do we get to eat tons of cookies and treats with liberty?!

Hershey, throughout the last few years, has come out with a huge variety of Kisses.  One of their newest, which I discovered last winter, is the Candy Cane flavor!  Mmmmm!!

These Candy Cane Kiss cookies are so delightful!

Sugar cookie dough studded  with chunks of chopped up Candy Cane Kisses, rolled in sugar, baked, then topped with a Candy Cane Kiss.  Scrumptious!

Here is the recipe!  Enjoy!

Candy Cane Kisses

48 Candy Cane Kisses, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
Granulated sugar

 Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove wrappers from candies.   Measure out ½ cup of kisses and chop.  Set aside.

 Beat butter, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add alternately with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar, and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

 Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookie is set. Remove from oven; cool 2 to 3 minutes. Press a candy piece into center of each cookie.  If possible, place cookie sheet directly into your fridge to cool cookies quickly.   Cool completely.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TWD: Finnish Pulla Bread

I was really looking forward to making this beautiful braided bread!   It's Scandinavian heritage reminds me of my own Norwegian family, and the recipe is familiar.

Cardamom, almonds, and pearl sugar all remind me of the other Norwegian breads I've made.  My mom's recipe for crepe-like pancakes, as well as her recipe for Skillingsbolle, are both spiced with cardamom.  The scent and flavor instantly remind me of her!

The dough for this beautiful bread is remarkably easy to made and handle.  Milk is scalded and cooled slightly, then added to a butter-and-egg-rich batter of all purpose flour, yeast, a little sugar, and cardamom.   Additional flour is added to made a beautiful dough.   (The recipe calls for cardamom pods, when you remove and crush the seeds.  I had ground cardamom on hand, so I used that instead.)

The dough was slow to rise the first time in my cool kitchen.  However, it was a dream to handle, forming a long braid and twisted into a wreath.

After the second rise, I still had hope for a successful yeast bread!

The braid is brush with an egg wash, then sprinkled with sliced almonds and pearl sugar.

After baking, the bread has risen even more, resulting in a gorgeous golden bread!  It's BIG, about 18 inches in diameter.  Perfect for a crowd on Christmas morning!

Sliced, the bread is lightly sweet, soft on the inside, and slightly crunchy on the outside from the sugar and nuts.   Perfect with a smear of butter and a cup of coffee.

Today's Tuesdays With Dorie host is Erin of The Daily Morsel.  Please visit her blog for the complete recipe, and also for some beautiful photos that will guide you step-by-step in making this Finnish Pulla.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TWD: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

Wow, these little Gingerbread Baby Cake sure pack a spicy punch!  Not in a "my mouth is burning" like hot Mexican food way, but in a warm gingery baked-goods sorta way.

The cakes earn the spicy award from the fresh ginger, powdered ginger, black pepper and molasses.  LOTS of molasses.  And yes, black pepper!!   I can say this is the first time I've used black pepper in a cake!

The recipe says to use eight 4 inch round cake pans.  Instead, I used a gingerbread man mini cake pan, plus a mini loaf pan that I already had.   Gingerbread men made with gingerbread?   Makes perfect sense to me!!

The batter is simple to put together.  No fancy steps involved.   The batter, which is dark brown from the molasses, dark brown sugar, espresso powder, and cocoa powder, is smooth and easy to divide amongst the pans.

The cakes popped out easily from the pans, except for this lil guy.   He was the first to go.

The cakes look so chocolaty.  However, they do NOT taste chocolaty in the very least!    I could not detect even the least bit of flavor of cocoa.  Alas, I decided that these little cakes would be perfect with a dollop of lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream with a sprinkling of cocoa powder on top.   ( I would have done just that if I'd had any cream!)

Alas, I chose powdered sugar to give these little cuties a little added sweetness.   They are moist and beautiful in texture.

The verdict?  These Gingerbread Baby Cakes are more suited to grown up tastes.  One of my children, the 11 year old, deemed them "okay, but not sweet enough", while the other three didn't like them at all.   I liked them well enough, but they are a tad too spicy for me without any additional sweetness added on top.

Karen from Karen's Kitchen Stories is our Tuesdays with Dorie host for today!  If you'd like to try this recipe this Christmas, please visit her blog.

Or, purchase the cookbook for yourself as a Christmas gift!   It's called Baking With Julia, by Dorie Greenspan, and it's filled with wonderful recipes from multiple contributors from around the globe.   Enjoy!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tea Party Petit Fours and Cake

I made 50 of these sweet petit fours for Ava's 4th Birthday Tea Party this weekend!   Ava and her little friends celebrated in style----pedicure, dress up, crafts, and of course, tea and treats!

Here is Ava's birthday cake!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Candy Cornucopia

Thanksgiving was two days ago, but tomorrow I'll bring these cute little treats to my kindergartners in Sunday School.  We can still give thanks for all that the Lord has blessed us with, regardless of which day it is!

The cornucopia is also known as "the horn of plenty", shown as a horn-shaped basket which is overflowing with harvest vegetables and breads. 

These little treats are ice cream cones ("sugar cones") filled with fruit and vegetable shaped candies!!

See the curved tip of the ice cream cone?    To achieve that shape, begin by heating up your tea kettle with some water until it's boiling.  Stick the end of the ice cream cone down into the spout.  Leave it for about a minute, pull it out, and gently bend the tip of the cone.  The steam will have softened the cone enough to make it pliable.  Set the cone on a cooling rack to firm up again.  Repeat with the remaining cones.

These are the candies I used to fill our cornucopia.   (I ended up not using the orange candy slices because they are too big.)

Fill the cones with the candies, and tie them up in cellophane baggies.

Attach curling ribbon and a tag if desired.

Make these cute little treats *next* Thanksgiving for your children or grandchildren!   (Forgive me for being a week late for this year!)

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Thank you, Food Network, for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I've ever baked!  Truly, these cookies are soft and filled with chocolate chunks.  

I've always preferred soft cookies to crunchy ones, especially when it comes to chocolate chip cookies.  I've tried oodles of recipes, and I think this is finally The One.

I found it on the Food Network website, here.   The only modifications I made were that I used light brown sugar instead of dark, and semi-sweet chocolate chunks instead of chips.

I made these cookies jumbo sized for a friend whose turn it was to bring birthday treats to work.   I used a 1/4 cup cookie scoop to portion out the refrigerated dough.   (That's the trick to having soft cookies---chilled dough!)

Make sure you leave plenty of room for the cookies to spread out a little bit.   Cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.   Or eat a few while still warm.  Ohhh, so good!

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together into a large bowl.

Beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes (use the paddle attachment for a stand mixer). Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges but still soft in the middle, about 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cub Scout Camping Cake

With inspiration from several cakes I saw online, this camping turned out adorable!!  The tents are made with rolled fondant over graham crackers.  The pine trees are ice cream cones piped with buttercream.  The pond is rolled fondant, as well as the fire pit logs.  The stones surrounding the pond and fire are chocolate covered raisins.

My friend said the cub scout boys were thrilled with the cake, and loved eating the trees, tents, pond, and fire!

TWD: Best Ever Brownies

I admit it.  I have a ton of brownie recipes.  Many of them claim to be the best ever.   Fudgey brownies.  Cake-like brownies.  Brownies with a caramel layer.  Turtle Brownies.  Cheesecake brownies.  Mint brownies.  Peanut Butter filled brownies.    Yes, I've made them all!

Now, this recipe from Baking With Julia is truly, without comparison, the *most* fudgey brownie I've ever baked and eaten!  Wow.  Super fudgey, bordering on not-all-the-way-baked.  BUT SO GOOD!!!

Nut-less, caramel-less, cheesecake and peanut butter-less.  These are straight-out FUDGE brownies.

This recipe does not have any leavener.  No baking soda or baking powder.  The batter gets its volume from whipping the eggs and a cup of sugar until they're thick and pale in color.  They are then gently folded into the chocolate, butter, and remaining sugar, which have been melted on the stove.  Finally, the flour and salt are folded in.  The batter is poured into an eight or nine inch square baking dish and carefully timed to reach the ultimate level of fudgyness, approximately 25 minutes.

The result? 

You got it.  Fudgy gooey brownies that are so sinfully rich you truly can only eat one.  Well, at a sitting.  A few hours later you'll go back for another.  Pour yourself a tall glass of cold milk, too!  You'll need it!

Our family of six sure enjoyed these treats for dessert last night!    I hope you give them a try too.  To find the recipe, please visit Monica of A Beautiful Mess, our hostess for the week on Tuesdays With Dorie.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Giant Ho Ho Cake

Did your mom buy you Ho Ho snack cakes as a child?  What about Twinkies?   Or Oatmeal Creme Pies?  Or those Fudge Rounds with the squiggly lines of chocolate frosting on top?   I think those were my favorites.

My mom bought them for us occasionally.   They were such a treat!

Am I a bad mom if I've never bought them for my children??   Okay, I take that back.  I think I've bought Oatmeal Creme Pies once or twice, but that's it.

It's not like my children are deprived of sweets, believe me.  And it's not that I think those treats are horribly bad for children to eat on occasion.  It's that I bake treats all the time!    There's no need for me buy sweets treats when there are freshly made ones in the pantry.  :)

This, friends, is a Ho ho cake.  A giant Ho Ho.  Chocolate Cake rolled up with a fluffy white filling, covered in a chocolately glaze.  Oh my.

I found the recipe for a Chocolate Cake Roll on the Kraft website.   I've simply renamed it Giant Ho Ho Cake!

The batter is spread into a wax-paper-lined jelly roll pan, baked, then rolled up in a clean tea cloth that has been dusted generously with powdered sugar.

The fluffy filling is a simple mixture of Cool Whip, cream cheese, and powdered sugar.  Magical stuff.   The cake is unrolled gently, but even with the most care, the cake will likely split.  I don't know how to prevent this.  Every time I make a jelly roll type of cake, this happens.  It doesn't really matter much.  The filling is like glue and holds the cake together!

Once the filling is spread, the cake is rolled up again.   (See the crack in my cake??)

The glaze is a mixture of semi-sweet baking chocolate, butter, and Cool Whip which are melted together and cooled.   This is a ganache-like glaze that thickens as it cools, and is then spreadable.

The cake is refrigerated for at least an hour, then cut into slices.   (I use my electric knife----it makes perfect slices every time!)

Arrange the pretty slices on a serving plate.  Serve with tall glasses of cold milk.  Reminisce about after school snacks when you were a child, sitting at the kitchen table with your mom, telling her about all the kids who got in trouble at school that day and how you were the only one who didn't.  ;)


Giant Ho Ho Cake
(otherwise known as Chocolate Cake Roll, by Kraft)

6 squares Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate, divided
6 Tbsp. butter
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 cup flour, divided
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup water
4 oz Cream Cheese, softened
3/4cup  powdered sugar, divided
3 cups  thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping, divided

Heat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 15x10x1-inch pan with cooking spray. Line with waxed paper; spray with additional cooking spray.  Microwave 3 chocolate squares and butter in medium microwaveable bowl on High 1-1/2 to 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add granulated sugar; mix well. Beat eggs in large bowl with mixer on high speed 3 min. or until thickened. Blend in chocolate mixture. Add 1/4 cup flour and baking soda; beat just until blended. Add remaining flour alternately with water, beating well after each addition. Spread evenly into prepared pan. 

Bake 15 min. or until top of cake springs back when touched; sprinkle with 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Immediately invert cake onto clean towel; remove pan. Carefully peel off paper. Starting at one short side, roll up cake and towel together; cool completely on wire rack. 

Beat cream cheese and remaining powdered sugar in medium bowl with mixer until well blended. Gently stir in 1-1/2 cups Cool Whip.

Unroll cake carefully; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture onto cake, completely covering top of cake. Roll up cake; place, seam-side down, on platter.

Microwave remaining chocolate and remaining Cool Whip in microwaveable bowl on high 1 to 1-1/2 min. or until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring after 1 min. Cool 2 min.; spread onto cake. Refrigerate 1 hour before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

TWD: Buttermilk Crumb Muffins

I bake muffins frequently, and while these are tasty, I'll say they are far from one of my favorites.   I made jumbo muffins, which are double-sized, so perhaps that affected how they baked;  all of my muffins sank in the centers!

The tops were the best part, crispy like a cookie.  (My kids especially enjoyed "peeling" the tops off of their muffins and eating the crunchy part first!)

The muffin is cinnamony and sweet, and crumb topping is tasty......but overall, this is just an "okay" muffin.

Today's Tuesdays With Dorie hostess is Alisa of Easier Than Pie.  Please visit her lovely blog for the recipe!  Hopefully you will have better luck than I!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Candy Corn Cookies

*~*Happy Halloween*~*

These Candy Corn Cookies will be sure to bring a smile to your little trick-or-treaters this year!     If you're stuck at home because of Superstorm Sandy today, spend the afternoon baking.  These are super fun to make.

Begin by whipping up a batch of sugar cookie dough.  This is my go-to recipe.  It's called No Fail Sugar Cookies, and I found it online several years ago.  The cookies are soft and have a delicious buttery flavor.  What I love most about this recipe is that the cookies don't spread or puff up very much, so you can use detailed cookie cutters and have fantastic results, especially if you plan to decorate the cookies with fondant or royal icing. 

Color 1/3 of the cookie dough yellow, and 1/3 of the dough orange.   Leave the other 1/3 of the dough uncolored.

Line a standard sized loaf pan with plastic wrap, and press the white dough in the bottom of the pan.

Next, press the orange dough evenly in the pan, followed by the yellow.

Fold the plastic wrap up over the dough and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.

 Once chilled, pull the dough out of the pan.  It comes out easily with a tug on the plastic wrap.  Unwrap the dough and place on a cutting board.

Slice the dough into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices (depending on how thick you like your cookies!).

Cut each slice into triangles.  Trim the ends and set them aside.  You can bake them as little mini cookies!

Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet (line with parchment paper if you'd like), and bake 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your slices.  You want the edges to just begin to turn golden brown. 

Have a fantastic time baking these yummy treats!   Enjoy!!

No Fail Sugar Cookies

6 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract or desired flavoring (almond extract, lemon extract, etc.)
1 tsp. salt
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix well. Mix dry ingredients and add a little at a time to butter mixture.  Mix until flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together.

Chill for 1 to 2 hours

Roll to desired thickness and cut into desired shapes.  Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges.  This recipe can make up to 5-dozen 3” cookies.