Thursday, December 18, 2014

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies



It's Cookie Season! 

I'm sure you've seen more cookies than you know what to do with on Pinterest and everywhere else....but I figured I might as well contribute to the madness and post a couple of recent cookie recipes I've tried and had great success with. 

If you love chocolate and mint, these beauties will be an instant winner in your book. 
And if you don't love chocolate and mint, these might just make you a convert. 

I made these for a cookie exchange a couple of weeks ago and they were a smashing hit. With a soft, brownie-like cookie, a creamy chocolate mint frosting, and some festive sprinkles on top, they're hard to resist. 

My kids were quite unhappy with me for taking nearly the entire batch with me and would be delighted for me to make another round. Fortunately, since I found the Andes mints on sale, I bought enough for two batches, so another one may be appearing at our house soon. :) 

Marissa (9) is exceedingly interested in baking these days and thought it was great fun to help make these, especially the part with the mints and sprinkles. 

Note: Be sure to plan ahead, since the dough does require some chilling time. 

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun
Yield: 3-4 dozen depending on how big you make them

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 (4.5 oz) pages Andes mints


In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, water, and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Pour mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer and allow to cool 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda. 

Using the paddle attachment on the mixer, blend in the eggs one at a time with the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla and stir gently. With the mixer set on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. 

Cover and refrigerate dough for at least one hour. 

Preheat oven to 350°. Scoop dough out by rounded tablespoons and shape into balls. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicon liners 2 inches apart. Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until edges are set and cookies are slightly crackled. Allow to cool for 1 minute (meanwhile, unwrap chocolates) then add 1 Andes mint to the top of each cookie. Allow to rest for a minute or so, then spread over the top the cookie gently with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. 
Decorate with sprinkles if desired. 
Transfer to a cooling rack and allow chocolate to set. You can speed up that process by refrigerating the cookies for a few minutes if necessary. 
Store in an airtight container.

Source: adapted slightly from Allrecipes


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pecan Pie Squares


For as long as I can remember, pecan pie has been one of my favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts. My grandma always made it for those two holidays and it was always served with heaps of generously sweetened homemade whipped cream.

Since then, I've tried some variations over the years. Caramel pecan pie, chocolate pecan pie, and pumpkin pecan pie to name a few. And honestly, I haven't met one yet that I didn't like.

But this year for Thanksgiving, since we had a crowd of 24 people meeting up at my parents' home, 13 of which are the grandkids, I figured a traditional pie wouldn't be the best option. They're a little tricky to cut, kids would likely end up with more than they wanted and that precious pie might be wasted, plus a lot of people just want a small taste and not necessarily the commitment of a whole piece of pie.

These were a perfect solution. The recipe makes a 13 x 9" pan, so there's plenty to go around when you cut little squares. Dessert-seekers could grab one to sample and still have room on their plate (and in their stomach) to have some of the other dessert options.

Now, these pecan pie squares aren't exactly like pecan pie. They have more of a toffee, chewy texture on a shortbread crust, which is reminiscent of pecan pie in flavor but very distinctly different.

I thought some of us die-hard pecan pie fans would feel deprived of our tradition - but you know what? I didn't hear a single complaint. What I did hear was lots of compliments and requests for more.

Personally, I couldn't keep out of them. I was astonished at how addictive they were - and even non-pecan pie eaters enjoyed them. They're not messy, easily portable, small portions, and absolutely scrumptious.

I'm making them again for Christmas. Can't WAIT!!

Pecan Pie Squares
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

Crust:
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping:
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans (chop first, then measure)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13 x 9" pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides. 
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, make crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly. 
  3. Press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey, and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and vanilla.
  5. Remove the crust from the oven and pour the pecan filling on top, spreading to cover surface completely. 
  6. Return pan to oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. 
  7. Remove the pan and allow the bars to cool completely in the pan. 
  8. Using the foil overhang, lift the bars from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off the foil and cut into squares. 
Store in a sealed container at room temperature. Bars will remain delicious for several days.  


Source: adapted slightly from Just a Taste

Monday, December 8, 2014

Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies with Whipped Chocolate Ganache - SRC


Most people find a pan of brownies pretty irresistible, right?

How about if you cover the brownies with a layer of peanut butter topping?  Oh, don't stop there, let's add a layer of whipped ganache frosting!!

This pan of decadence got 2 big thumbs up from my crew of eaters. I never saw them eat their soup so fast, knowing this was waiting for dessert.

The recipe came from my Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month, It's Yummi, where Chef Becca uses her culinary expertise to create and share from-scratch, mainly healthy recipes. She has a wealth of amazing recipes, like Key Lime Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust , Slow Cooker BBQ Baked Beans and one that Grant would cheer for  - Double Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Tart. 

(I need to ask for a tart pan for Christmas. Seriously, how have I baked for so long without one?)

All that to say, I thoroughly enjoyed browsing her blog and have found plenty of pin-worthy recipes to add to my list of things to try.

These brownies just sounded too good though. And they did not disappoint. I ended up halving her ganache layer ingredients - I mean, I LOVE ganache, but I figured we could cut the calories a little bit without sacrificing the flavor.

The peanut butter layer, which is just a package of peanut butter chips melted with some butter, hardened up more than I was expecting and I wondered if it would matter - turned out it added a nice texture variation and great flavor. Just don't expect it to be light and fluffy like a peanut butter buttercream frosting would be.

It still cuts fine with a sharp knife at room temperature, but I imagine if you chilled the brownies in the fridge, they would be harder to cut neatly.

These brownies were a huge hit and would be a great gift for that chocolate-peanut butter fan in your life.

Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies with Whipped Chocolate Ganache
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

Yield: 9"square pan of brownies

Brownie Layer:
5 oz (1 stick plus 2 Tbsp) salted butter, room temperature
3.5 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
3.5 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3 oz (2/3 cup) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Peanut Butter Layer:
10 oz (1 bag) Reese's peanut butter chips
2 oz (1/2 stick) butter

Ganache Frosting:
5 ounces chocolate, finely chopped (I used mostly semi-sweet and some white chocolate)
4 ounces heavy cream

For the Brownies:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line an 8 or 9" square baking pan with foil, extending up the sides by 2 inches. Spray with cooking spray.
  3. Melt butter and chocolates in a medium bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat; whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each one before adding the next.
  4. Continue to whisk until mixture is completely smooth and glossy. Add flour and baking powder and stir just until incorporated.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out with wet crumbs - about 20-25 minutes.
  6. When the brownies have about 5 minutes left to bake, make the peanut butter filling.
For the Peanut Butter Layer:
  1. Place the peanut butter chips and butter into a microwaveable glass bowl. Heat at medium power for 1 minute. Stir and continue to heat on medium power in 30 second intervals until the mixture is melted and glossy in appearance.
  2. When the brownies come out of the oven, pour peanut butter mixture over the top of the warm brownies. Spread evenly over the top. Cool brownies completely.
For the Ganache: 
  1. Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring cream to a simmer (do not boil). Pour cream over chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Place in refrigerator until completely chilled, whisking occasionally.
  3. After ganache has chilled, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Spread on top of brownies.


Source: adapted slightly from It's Yummi

Friday, November 28, 2014

Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies


Happy Day after Thanksgiving!!  Hope y'all had a lovely holiday filled with lots of laughter and delicious food!
In case you need an extra dessert to whip up for lingering family or friends.....or you want to get a head start on that Christmas baking....here's a cookie you don't want to miss.

Chocolate chip cookies.

Everyone seems to have their own favorite recipe.  There must be hundreds of variations on this "simple and ordinary" cookie.  It can be overwhelming to pick which one to try - everyone likes to claim that their version is "The Best".

Well, I guess y'all know that I completely avoid the "Best" label even when I might think it - because it's so subjective and very personal.

That being said, this version of chocolate chips cookies has rocked my world.

And what is so special about it?

It's the basic Tollhouse recipe....EXCEPT with one less stick of butter and one less egg.

Wait, what?

You can eliminate butter and an egg and still end up with an awesome, chewy, delicious cookie?

Yup. That's right.

When I heard the claim, I couldn't resist testing it out.

I made a double batch and took them to share with our church small group. Everyone wanted the recipe. One friend (who is an incredible baker and cook) texted me later that night and said that after I had left, her 8 year old son had asked her, "Mom, when are you going to learn to bake cookies like Ms. Rebekah?" LOL.

One thing to note - you MUST measure the flour appropriately, or they may end up too dry and crumbly. Here's how you do it.  Hopefully your flour is in a bin so this will be easier.


  • Whisk the flour in the bin around gently to aerate it a little
  • Scoop the flour with a spoon into your measuring cup.
  • Level off with the flat side of a knife. 
 Bonus - the dough doesn't need to be refrigerated before baking, like many cookies.

Another HUGE bonus - you're saving money (and calories) by eliminating that butter and egg. 

Win/Win/Win. 


Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies
from: Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

Yield: 30-32 cookies

1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz), room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar, and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir until combined. Add in chocolate chips and stir until incorporated.

Form the mixture into walnut-sized balls and place two inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicon liners.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until lightly golden and crackled on top. Cool on cookie sheets for a couple of minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.


Source: adapted slightly (added more vanilla) from Good Cheap Eats


Monday, November 10, 2014

Cinnamon Raisin Brioche - SRC


It's no secret that I love bread - I even have a Nutrimill wheat grinder to grind organic wheat berries for the freshest bread possible. I've made homemade cinnamon rolls, pizza crust, dinner rolls, crescent rolls, sandwich bread, French bread, and of course, biscuits and a wide variety of quick breads.

But I had never made brioche.

In case you're wondering, brioche is a kind of French "pastry" bread that has a high butter and egg content and a dark, golden crust.

So when I saw a recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Brioche on my Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month, I couldn't resist.

Julie is a fellow carboholic who blogs over at White Lights on Wednesday.  She has a really great assortment of DIY home projects, decorating tips, blogging advice, and of course, lots of recipes!

I was tempted to try the Crockpot Rocky Road Chocolate Cake (still haven't used my crockpots for desserts - what am I waiting for?), I love the sound of this Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Dressing, and I have a feeling this Peanut Butter Crack is gonna make it to my Christmas baking list. But I just had to try the brioche.

Now, this bread isn't something you can rush. It requires several hours of prep time, most of which is the rising periods, of course. Some traditional brioche recipes even require refrigerating the dough for a day or two to further develop the flavors. Yeah, I didn't plan ahead enough for that.
But it's really not too involved, so it's perfect for a day that you don't have to be anywhere.

Okay, another confession. The recipe called for 3/4 cup of butter per loaf- that's a stick and a half for anyone who's counting. I stood there and looked at all that butter and just.couldn't.do.it.

Butter is expensive. And that would be a ton of calories.

So I made the only reasonable decision I could at the time and only used 1 stick of butter total. Yes, I cut the amount of butter called for by two-thirds.

And you know what? The bread was still delicious. Maybe not as "pastry-like" as it could have been, but I wasn't trying to make dessert anyways. The kids and I gobbled up half on one loaf within 10 minutes of removing it from the oven. Nobody complained that there wasn't enough butter in there. :) A couple of my kids didn't like the raisins in there, but whatever. I loved them.

I made cinnamon toast the next morning with the leftover bread by slicing it, spreading on a little butter, sprinkling with cinnamon sugar, and baking at 350°F until golden brown. Simply scrumptious!


Cinnamon Raisin Brioche 
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun
Yield: 2 loaves

Starter: 
2 teaspoons sugar
2 packets active dry yeast (or 5 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm whole milk
(105-110° F)
1 scant cup all-purpose flour

Dough: 
1 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons hot water (or milk)
6 eggs
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 1/2" slices

Extras:
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions:

Starter:
In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and yeast. Pour in warm milk and stir to combine. Let the mixture set for 5 minutes until it's foamy. Stir in the flour until a soft dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside, at room temperature, for 1 hour.

Dough:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, sugar, and hot water (or milk) until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Using the whisk attachment, beat eggs on medium low speed with a stand mixer until the eggs are fluffy. Add the sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add 3 cups of flour and mix until combined.  Add in half of the butter and mix for another minute.
  3. Remove the whisk attachment and switch to the dough hook. Transfer the starter dough into the dough mixture. Beat for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Add a little additional flour if dough is too runny and sticky. Add the rest of the butter and beat until it's incorporated into the dough.
  4. Transfer the dough to a large buttered bowl. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour to prevent a crust from forming. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled. I like to use my unheated oven with the light on. 
  5. Coat 2 standard loaf pans with butter. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon.
  6. Uncover dough and punch it down a bit. Add raisins to the dough and knead them in by hand. 
  7. Section the dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece in cinnamon sugar, coating heavily, and form into a ball. Place 8 balls in each loaf pan in a 2 x 4 format.
  8. Cover the pans with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise until doubled, or slightly over the top of the pans. 
  9. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake bread for 25-30 minutes, until the bread is set and golden. Start checking about half-way through to see if it's getting too dark. If so, cover the tops with a piece of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.  
  10. Remove bread from oven. Let sit in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out bread from pans and let cool. 
Delicious warm with butter; also makes great cinnamon toast and French toast!





Source: Adapted from White Lights on Wednesday

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Apple Scones and another Birthday!




I originally posted this recipe in 2009, so it was long overdue for an updated photo.

These scones have made an appearance on our breakfast table many times and have even been the birthday breakfast request from Marissa several times. And for good reason.

They're so tender and flaky, even though they have less butter than most scone recipes. The grated apple adds a lovely flavor and texture to the scones. And to top it all off, the glaze made with apple juice, cinnamon, and powdered sugar gives that extra apple boost and sweetness that makes them almost a dessert.
Everybody in my house is happy with a plate of apple scones for breakfast!

Since today is Marissa's birthday, here's a little collage of her first 9 years of life.


Happy Birthday to our amazing 9 year old girl! These years are going by too fast!

And thanks for choosing such an awesome birthday breakfast! 

Apple Scones
From Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun
Yield: 16-18 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
6 Tablespoons  butter, chilled
2 apples - peeled, cored and shredded (3 if they're small)
3/4 cup milk

Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Heavy dash of cinnamon
2-4 Tablespoons apple juice, or enough to achieve the consistency you desire.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Measure flours, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a large bowl. Cut in butter or margarine until crumbly.Use a food processor if you have one - it simplifies the process immensely! Add shredded apple and milk. Stir to form a soft dough.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 8 to 10 times. Pat into three 6-inch circles. Score each into 6 pie-shaped wedges. Alternatively, you can just pat into a rectangle and cut into 16 equal pieces. Place on greased baking sheet. 
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until browned and risen. 
  • While they're baking, mix together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle or spread on scones while still warm.
Source: Adapted from Allrecipes


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blueberry Muffins and a Birthday for for my Baby


A friend told me once, "Blueberries are like God's natural candy". I couldn't agree more. I have a hard time thinking of a fruit I enjoy more than fresh blueberries, especially ones we picked.
The kids and I picked 5 gallons of blueberries from local farms this June. Only 3 of those gallons made it to the freezer. In just a few weeks, we managed to eat 2 entire gallons of fresh blueberries. And we could have eaten more.

But I was determined to hide them away in the freezer for use throughout the fall and winter. I'm exceptionally stingy with them and won't let the kids just nibble at them whenever they want.
Sigh. One of these years we're going to have our own blueberry plants and not have to ration them so much. 

So my *baby* Miranda just turned 3 last week. Take a look at her.

Oh, this girl. So expressive, so affectionate, strong-willed, compassionate, clever, talkative, friendly, and full of sass. "Just like her mama," Grant says. (about the sass part)
And ohhhhh, those eyelashes. Just look at the upper right photo. 
Yeah. I'm jealous too. 
She is a blessing to our family and many others and just a precious delight. When she's not screaming, of course. :) 
We can't imagine our lives without her!

"Faces of Miranda"

Miranda is one of my biggest blueberry lovers. She would eat bowls full every day if I let her. So when deliberating what to make for her birthday breakfast, it didn't take me long to decide on blueberry muffins. (I decided against her original suggestion of spaghetti, mean mom that I am.)
Just as predicted, she was delighted, as were the rest of the children.

You just can't go wrong with tender, slightly sweet muffins with those juicy berries.
I decreased the sugar from the original by half, and the muffins are still sweet enough.
Of course, you can half the recipe if you're not wanting 24 muffins. I just always would rather  have too many than too little, and nobody complains about a leftover muffin the next day. I'm sure that extras would freeze nicely, too.

Blueberry Muffins
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

Yield: 24 muffins

4 cups all purpose flour (can substitute white whole wheat)
1 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1 cup oil (I use expeller pressed coconut oil)
1 cup milk, warmed in microwave
4 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:


  • Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and oil. Add the warm milk and vanilla extract.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir just until combined. 
  • If using fresh blueberries, wash and drain them, then stir into batter. If using frozen blueberries, place in a colander and run hot tap water over them for about 20 seconds. Drain berries well, then stir into batter. (This step really helps - if you don't do it, the berries will clump together  when stirred into the batter. Trust me, I know.)
  • Use muffin liners or grease 24 muffin cups. Fill cups 3/4 full and bake for 15- 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If making mini-muffins, start checking at 10 minutes. 
  • Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. 



Source: Adapted slightly from Tammy's Recipes (I reduced sugar and amount of blueberries)

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