Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mom's Birthday

I wanted to make something light & not too sweet for my Mom's birthday celebration. This blueberry muffin recipe is adapted from Simple Treats.
Now a trip down memory lane...
We didn't bake much when I was a kid, but I do have memories of me & my sister making blueberry muffins. Blueberry muffins & peanut butter cookies, plus a few other things which I can't think of right now - pumpkin pie. My sister was always the baker/sweet maker when I was that she's moved away & doesn't live near us, it seems that I have taken up that role. Together, my sister & I made the "American" food, which I believe helped bridge my family from pure Asian cuisine to American-Asian variety at home. I can't remember all too much of my childhood - since my language was a lot more limited back then, but food was always a big part of our lives, as it still is today. At times I miss having my sister around & us cooking together, but as much as we resist change, we also find ourselves adapting & going with the flow without even noticing it. Life is all about change - taking new roles & moving beyond old ones. Although quite rare, life changes quite a bit more when we have the illusion of control, thinking we have the chance to consciously choose our roles. Ahh...all to give it all up in the end. That's what birthday's are about, a little reminder of our past experiences, although quite limited in scope. Come to think of it, my own birthday is quickly approaching - 9 days to be exact.
Back to the muffins - they were moist, not to sweet with a crunchy muffin top.
Blueberry-Lemon Muffins
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp barley flour

1/4 cup coconut oil (2 ounces)
1/4 cup maple syrup
5 /8 cup rice milk (5 ounces)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
zest of one lemon

1/4 cup sugar
1 cup barley flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup fresh/frozen blueerries, if frozen - do not thaw
few blueberries for topping
  • Mix together sugar & flour for the topping. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Oil/line 8-cups of muffin tin. Set aside.
  • Mix oil, syrup, milk, vinegar, extracts & zest.
  • In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flours, soda, powder, nutmeg & salt.
  • Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until barely combined, do not overwork batter.
  • If the batter is too stiff, add another teaspoon of milk.
  • Fold in 1 cup of blueberries using as few strokes as possible to prevent batter from turning purple/blue.
  • Spoon batter evenly among 8 tins. Do not overfill tins, as muffins tops will spread, not puff up vertically.
  • Sprinkle the muffins with the topping mixture & place 2 - 3 whole blueberries on the top of each muffin.
  • Bake for 20 minutes & rotate pan half turn for even baking. Bake additional 5 - 10 minutes, till toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes & remove from pan & cool completely on wire rack.
  • Makes 8 medium muffins.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Disaster After Disaster

What happens when you make Divinity for the first time in your life & it doesn't turn out because you didn't whip it enough?? Well, you can't waste it & throw it away, so you try to find some kind of use for it. In my case, I tried to use it as "marshmallows" to make Rocky Ledge bars! How brilliant am I? Well, not so brilliant when it doesn't turn out. The Divinity was a failure because I did not whip it until the gloss/shine was gone & the rocky ledge bars just didn't cut clean. I thought the ratios seemed a little off, there was awfully a lot of filling to flour ratio. Plus I added some nuts & pineapples, so I'm guessing that contributed to a bar that was a little harder to cut. Not sure I'm brave enough to try either one again, but I'm hoping I will. Joe didn't seem to have any problems with his bars? Hmm, sometimes baking just makes you wonder what exactly went wrong!?!?!? Too bad that can be quite difficult to answer at times. Plus I cut the recipe in half, because a 9X13 pan is always too much! I make all these changes, then I complain about it not turning out as anticipated! That's the story of my baking life. :)

Mr. T's Favorite Cookie

Christmas Cookies I

My boyfriend's current favorite cookie is a variation of vegan homemade Samoas that we made this past October. These cookies are chewy, sweet & densely packed with flavor. The brown rice syrup adds an irreplaceable peanut-buttery richness & the oats add just the right amount of chew. These cookies are pretty pretty pretty-darn good! I easily ate three in one sitting.


Mr. T's Favorite Cookie

1 cup liquid sweetener (brown rice syrup, maple syrup, etc + molasses)
1/2 cup oil (extra-virgin coconut oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat pastry
1/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/4 cup oat flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cup quick-cook rolled oats
3/4 cup - 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup raisins, roughly chopped
1/8 cup carob chips
1/4 cup caramel candy, chopped into smaller pieces
  • Preheat oven 350F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, mix together liquid sweeteners, oil & vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
  • In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine flours, salt, spices & baking powder.
  • Add oats, coconut & filling (dried fruit + chips + candy).
  • Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet & stir until just combined.
  • Roll dough into (60 grams each) balls & slightly flatten, cookies will spread.
  • Bake for 14 - 17 minutes & do not overbake for chewy cookies.
  • Remove from oven & allow to cool on baking sheet for a few minutes. (If caramel is still sticky, place cookies in the fridge for a few minutes until cookies are easily removed from parchment paper.)
  • Move to cooling rack.
  • Makes 18 - 20 large cookies.
**Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature as coco oil, if used, will solidify below 78F.
**The cookie flavors will be more prominent the second day.

Hazelnut Lime-Black Pepper Cookies

Christmas Cookies IIPutting Alton Brown's The Chewy recipe to good use. The dough on this cookie is very much like a bakery-style cookie you would get at Whole Foods, Central Market or Mrs. Field's at the mall, etc. In other words, it's really good, but since this is homemade, it's even better. I decided to use this base for the Hazelnut-Lime Black Pepper flavor combo that has been so popular.
Hazelnut-Lime Black Pepper Cookies

2 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tblspns lime zest (3 large limes)

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted & chopped
1 cup white chocolate chips

  • Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Set aside & allow to cool.
  • Sift together the flour, salt, pepper & baking soda. Set aside.
  • Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl.
  • Add the sugar & brown sugar.
  • Cream the butter & sugars on medium speed.
  • Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk, vanilla extract & lime zest & mix until well combined.
  • Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
  • Fold in the nuts & white chocolate chips.
  • Chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Scoop the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets (~60grams each), 6 cookies per sheet.
  • Bake for 14 - 17 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes.
  • Rotate the baking sheet for even browning.
  • Cool completely & store in an airtight container.

Cherry-Orange Macadamia Cookies

Christmas Cookies IIIWhen I need some no-fail cookies, I always turn to Cook's Illustrated's really chewy cookie dough. I used this base for these cherry-orange macadamia cookies. I didn't have the opportunity to taste these, but I'm sure they came out great.
Cherry-Orange Macadamia Cookies

2 cup + 1/8 cup AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter (12 tblspns), melted & cooled until just warm
1 cup brown sugar (little less)
1/2 cup white sugar (little less)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tblspn orange zest

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
2/3 cup macadamia nuts, toasted & chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

  • In medium bowl, whisk together flour, soda & salt. With the mixer on low, combine butter & sugar.
  • Beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla & orange zest.
  • Slowly add flour mixture.
  • Fold in filling (nuts, etc.).
  • Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Measure out dough ~ 60grams each & roll into ball, place on baking sheet. Allow some room for spreading.
  • Baking at 325F for 15 - 17 minutes, until edges turn slightly light brown. Do not overbake for chewy cookies!
  • Allow cookies to cool before removing from the baking sheet.
  • Makes ~ 18 large cookies.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Spicy Ginger Cookies

Christmas Cookies IV
The gingerbread cookies I made for Thanksgiving were good, but the dough was difficult to work with & the cookies were not as chewy as anticipated...again, it may be due to the extra addition of nuts & not so much related to the original recipe. Although my boyfriend's grandfather enjoyed them quite a bit, I thought I'd try to hunt down another recipe. I decided to try the Spiced up Ginger Cookies I found on Baking Bites. These did not disappoint, to say the least. Right out of the oven, the thin outer-layer was crispy & the center was moist & chewy. After a few days of storage, the cookies stayed chewy & the crispiness diminished. The cookies were flavorful with warm spices & crystallized ginger candy, this time I omitted any addition of nuts. The dough was a lot easier to work with compared to Martha Stewart's gingerbread cookies (although Martha's recipe does not call for eggs), & the results were equally as pleasing. I think I'll stick to this recipe for future ginger flavor cookies. I bet substitution with some whole wheat pastry will work here also.
Spicy Ginger Cookies
2 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tblspn ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves

1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses

1/2 cup crystallized candy ginger, chopped into smaller pieces

1/4 cup coarse sugar, for rolling
  • Preheat oven 350F & line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together, flour, salt, soda & spices.
  • In a large bowl, beat together sugar & oil. Beat in egg & molasses until smooth.
  • Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until combined.
  • Fold in chopped ginger candy.
  • Shape dough into balls (50 grams each), roll in coarse sugar & place on lined baking sheet. Press down ever so slightly.
  • Bake for 7 - 10 minutes, till cookies are slightly brown & crackly.
  • Remove from oven & allow cookies to cook on baking sheets for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove to cooling rack to cool completely.
  • Makes 24 cookies

Monster Cookies

Christmas Cookies V
I would never claim that monster cookies are only for kids, but I decided to bake these for my boyfriend's younger cousin's X-mas cookies. They're loaded with peanut butter flavor & chocolate...Yummy! They're chewy & moist, with just enough peanut butter flavor that was not overpowering. The oatmeal made the cookies substantial & the chocolate candy chips added just that extra bit of sweetness for an overall satisfying cookie. The original recipe yielded a lot of cookies, so I cut the recipe into one-third. That's always scary, since I do not own measuring spoons that measure 1/3 tsp, etc. Even with my changes to the recipe, the cookies turned out great! I will definitely be making these again. I got about 10 medium-large cookies.
Other Monster Cookie recipes I was considering:
Simply Recipes
Paula Deen
Monster Cookies

1 large egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 tsp vanilla extract (little more than 1/4 tsp)
1/3 tsp corn syrup (little more than 1/4 tsp)
2/3 tsp baking soda (1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp + a small amt more)
1/4 tsp salt

2 tblspns + 2 tsp butter, melted
1/2 cup peanut butter

1 1/2 cup rolled oats
23 grams flour (1/6 cup)

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chocolate chip candy
1/8 cup peanuts, roasted
1/8 cup almonds, roasted & chopped
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine egg, sugars, extract, corn syrup, baking soda & salt in a large bowl.
  • Add melted butter & peanut butter, stir to combine.
  • Add oats & flour, stir to combine.
  • Fold in filling (candy, chip, nuts, etc.)
  • Allow the cookie batter to rest/sit for 30 minutes so the oats can absorb the butter.
  • Preheat oven 350F.
  • Drop the cookies (60grams each) on the cookie sheet & press down to flatten, these cookies do not spread a whole lot. Place six - nine cookies to a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, until edges are slightly golden brown.
  • Yields 9 - 10 medium-large cookies.
**I made another batch of these on 12/27/07, this time, I omitted the almonds & reduced the chocolate just a tad & added unsweetened shredded coconut + caramel bits + raisins - YUM-o! I made smaller cookies & got about 14.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pumpkin Bread

As a special request, my mom wanted some sort of quick bread/cake/muffin that could easily be presented as a Christmas offering. She didn't really specify what she wanted, so I went ahead & decided on Eggnog Pound Cake & Pumpkin Bread. When we were at Central Market, I picked up some decorative paper molds. Now, the difficulty was trying to find a recipe which would be compatible with the volume of these molds. And of course, the second obstacle...I only needed about 4 mini loaves. The instructions that came with the molds specified to fill them about 1/3 - 1/2 full & to reduce baking time as deemed necessary. Boy...that's a lot of different things to consider & definitely took a little extra creativity on my half.
The adventure begins: I split the Eggnog recipe into one-third and halved the Pumpkin bread recipe. Tricky indeed, as messing with a perfectly good recipe can always end in disaster. How it ended (partially): the pumpkin bread turned out beautifully, only in the looks department, as taste testing would be highly inappropriate for a loaf. The receiver may just notice. The eggnog cake didn't turn out as beautifully domed as the cupcakes/muffins, but at least they did not completely sink in the middle. Same applies with taste testing of course. I'm not quite sure what went wrong, it may be the amount of baking powder & other oddly measured/estimated ingredients, or I over filled the molds, which is likely my personal culprit. Both for the pumpkin & eggnog, the molds were about 3/4 full.
Pumpkin Bread w/ Walnuts & Raisins
3/4 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
dash of ginger

1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 4 ounces
1/4 cup vegetable oil (coconut/canola)
1 egg, beaten
1/8 cup H20 (rice milk, 1 ounce)

1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/8 cup chopped raisins
  • Preheat oven to 350F, 325F if using dark decorative molds. Prepare mini loaf pans, set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, sift & combine together dry ingredients.
  • In a larger bowl, combine together wet ingredients.
  • Add dry ingredients into the wet mixture & mix until barely combined, DO NOT OVERMIX.
  • Fold in walnuts & raisins.
  • Divide evenly among 2 - 3 mini molds.
  • Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until an toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean & the bread is evenly golden brown.
  • Remove from oven & transfer to cooling rack.
  • Makes 2 - 3 mini loaves.
Eggnog Pound Cake
1/4 scant cup raisins, roughly chopped
2 tsp dark rum

5 tblspns + 1 tsp (1/3 tblspn) butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1 large egg

1 cup AP flour
6/8 scant tsp baking powder (lil' less than 6/8 tsp, near 6/9)
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1/3 cup eggnog + 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Sugar glaze, optional
  • Soak the raisins in dark rum for about 15 minutes.
  • Adjust rack to lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare mini loaf pans. Set aside.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add sugar, orange zest & beat till light & fluffy, about 4 - 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides & bottom as needed to ensure even mixture.
  • Add egg & beat until combined.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
  • At a very slow speed, add dry & eggnog + vanilla, alternating a few times times, starting & ending with the dry ingredients (dry + eggnog + dry + eggnog + dry), scraping bowl as necessary. Do not overmix.
  • Fold in raisins w/ rum.
  • Divide among three mini loaf molds & spread evenly. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean & edges are lightly golden.
  • Remove from oven & allow to cool.
  • If desired, drizzle top with sugar glaze (confectioner's sugar + H20)
  • Makes 2 - 3 mini loaves.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Attempting to Adapt

I wanted to replicate the subtle oatmeal chewiness from Spiked Cookies, but using a chewier cookie base. It didn't quite turn out as anticipated. The dough was a little crumbly & the resulting cookie was soft, definitely not cake-like, but wasn't quite chewy either. Just a soft, buttery, ORDINARY cookie. I considered giving the rolled oats a quick whizz in the food processor, but was too lazy once I thought about all the dishes I had to do! - may need to put in the extra effort next time. Definitely yummy, but didn't quite meet my high expectations. That's the problem with expectations, you can easily get disappointed...especially when you have a rigid preconceived notion. When you're unsure, you accidentally end up being more open-minded, which can't be a bad thing at all.

Oatmeal Cherry-Walnut Cookies
2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter (12 tblspns), melted & cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup quick cook rolled oats
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 walnuts, toasted & chopped
  • Preheat oven to 325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In medium bowl, whisk together flour, soda & salt.
  • With the mixer on low, combine butter & sugar. Beat in the egg, egg yolk & vanilla.
  • Slowly add flour mixture.
  • Fold in filling (oats, cherries, nuts, etc.).
  • Form dough into balls & place on baking sheet. Flatten cookies, the cookies did not spread a whole lot.
  • Baking at 325F for 15 - 17 minutes, until edges turn slightly light brown. Do not overbake for chewy cookies!
  • Allow cookies to cool before removing from the baking sheet. If the caramel has not hardened, stick the baking sheet in the freezer/fridge for a few minutes.
  • Makes 18 - 24 cookies.
**Chewy White & Dark Chocolate Oat Cookies

Chocolate Cookies

I attempted these double chocolate cookies as part of my X-mas baking for co-workers - they love chocolate. My cookies didn't turn quite as chocolaty & flavorful as preferred, but I didn't have dutch-process cocoa, plus I used white chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. I wanted a black & white cookie. For the melted 4 ounces of chocolate, I used a mix of semi-sweet & cappuccino chips, I also added about 1/2 tsp of instant espresso powder. The cookies were a bit fragile, but overbaking would have dried them out, so remember to take them out if they took like they're getting too dry. Crispy-chewy edges with a chewy center. I normally LOVE chewy cookies, but just not a big fan of chocolate...I think I'm allergic, otherwise I would eat it everyday if I could!

Chocolate w/ White Chocolate & Pecan Cookies
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 ounces white chocolate chips
1/3 pecans, toasted & chopped
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, & salt; set aside.
  • Melt 4 ounces chocolate chips with the butter in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; let cool slightly.
  • Put chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined.
  • Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.
  • Fold in white chocolate chips & pecans.
  • Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart.
  • Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces crack, about 15 minutes (cookies should be soft).
  • Let cool on parchment on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.
  • Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Peppermint Marshmallows

For the first time in my life, I made some homemade marshmallows! They turned out great! Soft, chewy, sweet, flavorful, delicious & light! I could eat the whole batch without even knowing it! Ok - I'm a freakin' sugar addict! Instead of using vanilla, I substituted equal amounts of peppermint flavor.
Peppermint Marshmallows
1 1/2 packages unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold H20

1/4 cup ice cold H20
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt

1/2 tsp peppermint extract
splash of vanilla extract
1/8 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 cup cornstarch, little less
  • Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
  • In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup & salt. Place over medium high heat, cover & allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan & continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
  • Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.
  • Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.
  • Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick & is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Add the peppermint & splash of vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pan as follows.
  • Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 8 by 8-glass inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line with parchment paper & spray again. Add the sugar & cornstarch mixture & move around to completely coat the bottom & sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

  • When marshmallow is ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar & cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours & up to overnight.

  • Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board & cut into 1-inch squares using a sharp knife dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
**More Marshmallows:
Cookie Baker Lynn
Baking Bites

Holiday Biscotti

This is my second year baking up these Holiday Biscotti's as part of my holiday baking. I've used the base recipe numerous times to make a mix match of flavors. I personally prefer the butter-based biscotti because I didn't like the 1 dry biscotti that I've eaten at a cafe. There's no point in creating a general bias because of ONE little experience, therefore, it's my mission to try at least one butter-less biscotti recipe before I quit baking as a hobby. Plus everyone's always on a diet, so I can say - this one doesn't have any butter! :) Wanna please all those loved ones in our lives! I made two batches this time since these are sooo good! Don't make the same mistake twice - do not leave out 1/2 tsp baking powder on accident, messing up is never allowed!
Holiday Biscotti
2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup, 1 stick of butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
2 large eggs

3/4 cup pistachios, chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Melted white chocolate for drizzling, optional
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Whisk the flour, baking powder & salt in a medium bowl to blend.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, until light & blended.
  • Beat in the eggs 1 at a time.
  • Add the flour mixture & beat just until blended.
  • Fold in the pistachio nuts & dried 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 at least 1 - 2 hours. (I like to cool overnight.)
  • Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated 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.
  • Once slightly cooled, transfer the biscotti to a rack & cool completely.
  • Optional: Stir the white chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. Drizzle over biscotti or dip half of the biscotti into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off the excess chocolate. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet for the chocolate to set. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes.
  • The biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to 4 days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in resealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.
  • Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Eggnog Again...

These were light, not too fluffy, not too sweet, not too buttery & probably perfect with some tea.
A delicate & tasty treat. These went over to my aunt's house. I halved the recipe and made a dozen cupcakes.
Eggnog Pound Cake
1/4 cup dried raisins, roughly chopped
1 tblspn dark rum

1 stick unsalted butter (8 tblspns), room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 tsp orange zest
1 1/2 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup eggnog + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Sugar glaze, optional
  • Soak the raisins in dark rum for about 15 minutes.
  • Adjust rack to lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 325F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add sugar, orange zest & beat till light & fluffy, about 4 - 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides & bottom as needed to ensure even mixture.
  • Add egg & beat until combined.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
  • At a very slow speed, add dry & eggnog + vanilla, alternating a few times times, starting & ending with the dry ingredients (dry + eggnog + dry + eggnog + dry), scraping bowl as necessary. Do not overmix.
  • Fold in raisins w/ rum.
  • Divide evenly between muffin tin. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean & edges are lightly golden.
  • Remove from oven & allow to cool.
  • If desired, drizzle top with sugar glaze (confectioner's sugar + H20).
  • Makes 12 cupcakes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Spiked Cookies

It's always fun & definitely festive to spice up your holiday baking with some alcohol...the alcohol makes me all warm inside! For these cookies, I took my inspiration from Garrett's Brandied Cranberry & White Chocolate cookies. Garrett's recipe does not include oatmeal, & personally, I enjoy oatmeal in my cookies, but too much oatmeal can make a cookie too much like granola and/or a muffin top. I prefer just the right amount of oatmeal for the added chew factor. When I saw Nicole's post for Addictive Chocolate Chip Cookies, I knew this could possibly be what I've been looking for! These cookies are really yummy! I would not call this a really chewy cookie, but it's right in the middle of chewy, buttery, soft, cake-y, & crispy. After a day or two of storage, the crispy edges become soft, but they're definitely crispy right out of the oven. I love the fact that the oatmeal was not overpowering, but would like to add an additional 2 - 3 tablespoons next time, plus possibly a quick whizz in the food processor. Since I used dried cranberries & white chocolate, the cookies became a little sweet for my personal I plan on reducing the white sugar just a tad more next time. I was really tempted to add just a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg, but refrained since I did not want to mask or overpower any alcohol flavor. The brandy + rum + whiskey combo was definitely subtle, as it normally is in baking, but accented the cranberry's tartness in the slightest noticeable way. A classy, updated, adult holiday cookie that I will definitely make again!
Brandied Cranberry Cookies
2 cups AP flour
½ cup quick cooking rolled oats (2 - 3 tblspns more next time)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
¾ cup white sugar (less)
¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp brandy (used to soak cranberries)

3/4 cup dried cranberries (roughly chopped & soaked: 1 cup combo of brandy + dark rum + whiskey)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted & chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • Roughly chop dried cranberries & soak in a combination of brandy, dark rum & whiskey for about an hour.
  • Once soaked, drain cranberries & put aside. Reserve alcohol liquid.
  • Preheat oven 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, baking soda & salt.
  • With an electric mixer, cream together butter & sugar until light & fluffy.
  • Beat in egg, vanilla extract + 1 1/2 tsp reserved alcohol liquid until combined.
  • Slowly add flour mixture & mix until nearly combined.
  • Fold in spiked cranberries, toasted & chopped walnuts, & white chocolate chips until everything is evenly distributed.
  • If dough is a little too sticky, pop in the fridge for 15 - 30 minutes.
  • Drop by large (40grams) tablespoons onto baking sheet. 9 cookies per sheet, these cookies will spread. Gently press down to flatten into 1 1/2 - 2 inch diameter.
  • Bake 12 - 15 minutes, till slightly golden brown around the edges.
  • Makes ~25 medium-large sized cookies.
**Dried raisins or cherries would be a good substitution for cranberries. Pistachios instead of walnuts will make this even more festive.
**They're packaged up & ready to be delivered!**

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Outrageous Caffeine Infused Brownies

These brownies seem to be very very popular. I've made them before following the original recipe - using just chocolate chips & walnuts. This time I had some left over caramel & thought it would be a great addition to this already fabulous brownie recipe. Instead of instant coffee, I used instant espresso & added some cappuccino chips.
Outrageous Brownie Variations:
Culinary in the Desert
Smitten Kitchen


Outrageous Brownies
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks)
8 oz + 6 oz semisweet chocolate chips, divided
3 oz unsweetened chocolate

3 large eggs
1 tblspn instant espresso powder
1 tblspn real vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

1/2 cup + 2 tblspn AP flour, divided (1/2 cup for batter & 2 tblspn in the chips)
1 1 /2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup walnuts, toasted & roughly chopped
1/3 cup caramel candy, chopped smaller pieces
1/3 cup cappuccino chips
  • Melt together the butter, 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips, & unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Allow to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9X13 pan with parchment paper, grease & flour. Set aside.
  • Stir together the eggs, instant espresso, vanilla & sugar. Stir in the liquid chocolate mixture.
  • Whisk together 1/2 cup of the flour, baking powder & salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture.
  • Toss the 6 ounces of chocolate chips, nuts, caramels & cappuccino chips with 2 tablespoons flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter.
  • Pour into prepared pan.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean.
  • Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan & the brownie dough.
  • Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well & cut into squares.
  • Makes 15 medium sized squares.
**I got to sample some the day after & these are fabulous indeed. I haven't had many brownies, but the texture is perfect, in my opinion. The brownies were not too fudgy & dense, they were the perfect balance of cakey & light, considering the small amount of flour used, with just the right amount of chocolaty. My only complaint?...when the chocolate/sugar hit my teeth, I think I got a slight sugar/caffeine rush! OUCH, I think I have a cavity.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Holiday Luncheon

I wanted to bring something festive to our holiday luncheon at work. I would normally make cookies, but decided I wanted something more directly related to the holidays - like fruit cake, gingerbread, peppermint, or candy canes. After endless hours searching on the internet, the final choices were gingerbread cookies, fig holiday roll, cherry-pecan loaves, or eggnog cupcakes. Honestly, I really wanted to try my hand at making a roll, but it seemed like way too much work for a weeknight! My co-workers like desserts spiked with alcohol, so the winner was...eggnog cupcakes. I haven't had a cupcake, but the batter seemed really thick. My oven was acting up, so the temperature was running way too high. I've never had to alternate adding the final dry & wet ingredients, so I think I accidentally over-mixed the batter. The cupcake seemed a bit tough, dense & not very soft & delicate. My cupcakes didn't turn out as dark as Cheryl's either. The odds are against me, I hope it tastes halfway decent!!! Oh well, what's done is done...I followed her recipe to the best of my ability. I thought the frosting recipe yielded a decent amount to frost liberally, but I'm normally conservative with icing. I decorated my cupcakes with holiday spice drops & some with a few red & green sugar crystals. **My predictions were correct, the cupcake was too dry! I'm never ever certain what goes wrong in the face of failure, but I would not consider these a success. I also found that there wasn't enough filling/pastry cream in each cupcake & the alcohol was not prominent enough. I also reduced the amount of sugar in the batter & frosting & the cupcakes weren't quite sweet enough. Oh well, wishing myself butter luck on my next bake date. I'm too lazy to re-type the recipe as I followed Cheryl's instructions.