Friday, December 25, 2009

Cookie Eleven: Matzo Toffee Brittle

So here we are on Christmas Day and posting cookie number... eleven? It appears that we have failed at reaching our goal of posting 12 delicious, easy-to-make baked goods before the holidays. While the intentions were true, it seems the holidays got the best of us- and kept us out of the kitchen. From flying cross-country, to dashing to the mall for gifts, to assisting mothers and aunts with holiday party preparations, there were more than enough distractions to keep us from hitting that wonderful number 12. Okay, well Nikki baked all of her cookies. Some people are just a little more organized than us Mack girls. :o)

Enjoy this last cookie! And more than anything else, enjoy the holidays! Spend some quality time with your family and friends, and take a moment to relax.

Cookie Confessions will be back in 2010... stay tuned!

Katie, Krissy and Nikki

Matzo Toffee Brittle (adapted from here)

-3 1/2 sheets unsalted matzos
-1cup unsalted butter
-1cup firmly packed light brown sugar
-1cup semisweet chocolate morsels
-1/3cup finely chopped toasted slivered almonds

1. Line a 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with nonstick aluminum foil. Arrange matzos in prepared pan, breaking as necessary to fit and completely cover bottom of pan.

2. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Carefully pour mixture evenly over matzos in pan, and spread over matzos.

3. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. (Mixture will start to bubble at about 10 minutes. Continue to bake to 15 minutes.) Carefully remove pan from oven to a wire rack. (Mixture will still be bubbly.) Let stand 1 minute at room temperature or until no longer bubbly. Sprinkle top evenly with morsels; let stand 1 minute or until morsels soften. Spread morsels over brittle. Sprinkle with almonds; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Place pan in refrigerator; chill 30 minutes or until chocolate is firm. Break into about 20 pieces. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week in refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cookie Nine and Ten: Peanut Butter Kisses and Peanut Butter Thumbprints

I came up with our idea to do the "12 cookies of christmas" and I will be the first to admit that it did not go as planned. I have been completely overwhelmed in the past couple of weeks with work, holiday parties, a wedding and entertaining some visiting friends. Tonight, I needed to make two more cookies before Christmas so I decided on a quick but tasty holiday cookie - the peanut butter kiss. This cookie is nothing fancy but its a no-fail recipe, straight off the Hershey Kiss bag. I ended up running out of chocolate kisses and decided to fill the rest of the cookies with jam to make a sort of pb&j cookie. It turned out to be quite the time saver, one dough for two deeelicious cookies. Holiday cookies in a flash...

Peanut Butter Kiss/ Jam Thumbprints
From Hershey'

1/2 cup butter, softened (the original recipe uses shortening)
3/4 cup creamy Peanut Butter (I used jif)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tap vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat together butter and peanut butter. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Add sugars to peanut butter mixture and beat until fluffy. Mix in the egg, milk and vanilla, beat well. Stir in the flour mixture. Scoop dough into 1-inch balls and roll into granulated sugar. Bake for 8 minutes. Immediately after removing from the oven press a Hershey kiss into the center, let cool.

For the thumbprints:
Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheet. Using your thumb gently press into the center of each cookie to make a small indentation. Bake for 8 minutes. Once the cookies have cooled pipe or spoon jam into the center.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cookie Eight: Fried Crullers

Watching Grandma Wanda in the kitchen is like watching an artist. Even though she thinks she's lost her touch, she's mistaken. She moves through the kitchen like she's been doing this every day of her life. The technique for her is second nature, and I was truly grateful to learn this old family recipe from her. After some debate, my dad and I decided that the recipe was a family secret, but we also wanted to share it with others. Our compromise was that I would only post what was written on the recipe card. I'm convinced that you couldn't follow the recipe and come out with the same finished product because most of the technique is absent. For instance, Grandma Wanda uses a 70-year-old cast iron skillet that I'm positive produces the most delicious Crullers on the planet. Any other pan just won't do. If you can produce an equally amazing Cruller by just following the recipe, please let me know. I'll have to send you a prize.

Fried Crullers

From the kitchen of Wanda Girard

1/2 tsp salt
3 egg whites
1 whole egg
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of mace
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp cream
2 cups sifted flour
Powdered sugar for topping

Add salt to eggs & beat lightly. Stir in sugar, mace and butter. Add cream and flour, then mix until smooth. Knead dough on floured surface until dough no longer sticks to your hands. Chill thoroughly. Separate dough in half. Roll to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut in 7x1 inch strips, cutting ends diagonally. Make a lengthwise slit in center of each strip and pull one end through slit.

Fry in lard at 370 degrees F until delicately brown.

Drain on absorbent paper.

Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar after cooled and serve. Makes about 45 Crullers.

Cookie Seven: Spritz Cookies

Even though Spritz cookies aren't my absolute favorite, they are a holiday must. They're very easy to make and a lot of fun to decorate. If you have more time than I did, you could get very creative with your decorations. We have a Wilton Spritz Cookie Press, but you can use any cookie press you can find at a baking supply store. I'm sorry I don't have more commentary tonight, but I'm busy packing for Christmas in Chicago. Cross your fingers for snow!

Spritz Cookies
From Wilton

1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Thoroughly cream butter and sugar. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract; beat well. Stir together flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing to make a smooth dough. Do not chill. Roll dough into a long, skinny piece to easily slide the dough into Spritz cookie press. Press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown on bottom. Decorate with colored sprinkles or add food coloring to dough before it is baked. Makes about 6-7 dozen.

Cookie Six: Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

I'm a very big fan of shortbread cookies, these however are much different then other shortbread I've made. As I was perusing looking for some holiday baking inspiration I came across these "melt in your mouth shortbread cookies", a highly rated recipe. My mom looooved them, I thought they were a little dry by themselves so I made them more festive by dipping them in chocolate and sprinkling them with either crushed peppermint or toffee bits, everything is better with chocolate. Enjoy.

Shortbread Cookies
adapted from

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Whip butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Stir in the confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and flour. Beat on low for one minute, then on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Drop cookies by spoonfuls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Watch that the edges don't brown too much. Cool on wire racks. Once cooled, dip into melted chocolate and sprinkle with toffee bits or crushed peppermint (I liked the toffee ones better).

*Baker's note: my cookies only baked for about 10 minutes, the edges browned very quickly- so keep an eye on them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cookie Five: Peppermint Bark

In the spirit of the busy holiday season, my mom suggested that I make a treat that is extremely easy to make and doesn't take much time at all. These also make great gifts, if you bundle them up in a festive candy bag and tie with a cute ribbon. My gift to my coworkers this year is five extra pounds of insulation since it's been so cold in Atlanta (better them than me!), so I brought bags and bags of Peppermint Bark to work. We picked a few of our favorite allstar coworkers from different departments and went forth spreading holiday cheer. Nothing says we appreciate all you do for us like a minty fresh delectable.

Peppermint Bark
1 lb. white chocolate, in bricks/blocks/discs
1/4 lb. green and red peppermint chips

Spread a large sheet of aluminum foil across your counter. Melt 1 lb. white chocolate over a double boiler over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until completely melted. Mix in about 1/4 lb. green and red peppermint chips until chips are covered in chocolate (you can edit this amount to your liking, depending on how pepperminty you want your bark). Remove from heat and pour the mixture over the foil. Use your wooden spoon to spread the mixture out to create a thin layer. Allow the mixture to harden, then break into large pieces to serve.

Clean-up hint: When cleaning the white chocolate out of the pan, use a paper towel to completely wipe out all of the chocolate first. This will take a few paper towels, but it's well worth it! Otherwise, the instant the water hits the chocolate, it will harden and take much longer to clean.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cookie Four: Decorated Sugar Cookies

Decorated sugar cookies are must at Christmas time. I recently had a lovely opportunity to help decorate Christmas cookies at a nursing home. It turned out to be quite the adventure with one resident who forgot to wear her hearing aids forcing everyone to talk wayyyy louder than neccesary, another resident who was decorating the cookies faster than a 20 person assembly line and demanding more cookies and frosting. Lastly, there was a little nugget of a lady who I immediately loved. She was super fast zipping around on her walker, she was really happy to be there and she later used chocolate chips to create male private parts on her gingerbread man stating "and one for the penis". She was my favorite.
Anyway, we had a great time and the residents at the nursing home were able to enjoy some fabulously decorated cookies.

Here is a good sugar cookie recipe I have used to make cut-out cookies. Colorful buttercream works great for decorations!

Sugar Cookies:
Adapted from

1 1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6 to 8 minutes and cool completely. Use colored buttercream frosting for decorations.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cookie Three: Kringles

One thing that I love most about my family is our ability to take everyday things, normal things, and put our family spin on them. I discovered just how good we really were at this while I was researching my next cookie assignment.

Kringles are my absolute favorite Christmas cookies, and my Aunt Judy serves them each year to her anxious guests busily brushing up on their talent for Santa. My Uncle Ernie has an in with Santa, so he pays us a special visit on Christmas Eve with a sack full of presents. In order to receive your presents though, Santa requires a kind of toll; you must perform for the rest of the family. If you are humorous/good/young enough, there's a possibility you may not get heckled. Only the lucky few (and by lucky, I mean worst) get last year's leftover ribbons and bows thrown at them. Clearly, we are a loving family.

So loving, in fact, that we have given our own name to Kringles. Indeed, as I was rummaging through a cookbook last week, I came across a recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. I was highly confused because these cookies looked like Kringles, but they just couldn't be. We've been calling these cookies Kringles for thirty-plus years; they couldn't possibly have another name! But the recipe was just too similar and yielded too many Google hits for it not to be true. So, I offer up my family's version of this classic recipe. You may know it by a different name, but I guarantee ours tastes better.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 squares Baker's chocolate, unsweetened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Melt 4 squares Baker's chocolate according to the directions on the box. In a large bowl, mix vegetable oil, melted chocolate and sugar with a wooden spoon until combined. Add one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, and mix well. Add flour, baking powder and mix well. (I found the dough difficult to stir at this point, but just give it a little elbow grease). Wrap dough in parchment paper, and refrigerate overnight.

After ample refrigeration, roll a tablespoon of dough into a ball, and then roll in the powdered sugar until the entire ball of dough is covered. Place on cookie sheet about two inches apart, and bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until cookies have expanded and look like the powdered sugar has crinkled. Yields approximately four dozen cookies, depending on how big you roll the dough balls and how much batter you eat while you're rolling the dough in powdered sugar.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookie Two: Italian Christmas Cookies

I will be the first to admit that keeping up with the "Twelve Cookies of Christmas" idea has been quite difficult. Between work, holiday parties, shopping and everything else in between, I can barely find a moment to place even a toe in the kitchen, let alone hours to bake tasty treats. Luckily, this Sunday turned out to be quite a lazy day, thanks to a late night out celebrating this great beauty blog.

Looking for inspiration this morning, I perused the web for a cookie that was visually stimulating. I stumbled upon Italian Christmas Cookies on, which looked colorful, bright and happy in the post.

Excited to be back in the kitchen, the dough was a breeze to make, but the glaze on my cookies did not have the thick, opaque texture I was hoping for. I dreamed of cookies that looked and tasted like homemade animal crackers; the end result was more like a kindergarten class's group project with Play Dough and confetti. Please see the turtle creature below. Credit for that one goes out to Dan Rainwater.

Moral of the story: skip these cookies. But here's the recipe if you think you can salvage the little treats.

Italian Christmas Cookies (adapted from here)
1/2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick) softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 teaspoons anise extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
rainbow sprinkles

In large bowl with mixer on low speed beat margarine or butter with sugar until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until creamy. At medium speed beat in eggs, vanilla and 1 teaspoon anise extract; constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour and baking powder occasionally scrapping bowl. Dived dough into 4 parts, wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze at least one hour or refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On lightly floured surface divide 1 ball of dough into 9 equal pieces, keeping remaining dough refrigerated. With lightly floured hands, roll each piece of dough into a 7 inch long rope. Shape the cookies into your desired form (I did little pretzels, but twists looked pretty as well).

Place cookies on a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Bake cookies 10 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool. When cookies are cool, prepare glaze.

To create the glaze, mix confectioners’ sugar with 1 teaspoon anise extract and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl. Brush top of cookies with glaze. Add sprinkles. Set cookies aside to allow glaze to dry. ***If you are going to make these, I would think about researching a thicker, more delicious glaze to top the cookies. This one was definitely not tasty.***

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cookie One: Raspberry Ribbons

Again, apologies for the terrible photo quality. Camera was nowhere to be found and iPhone had to suffice.

Raspberry Ribbons, the pretty little melt-in-your-mouth cookies. I think these could be one of my favorite treats that are served during the holidays, with their slight tangy flavor and small size. I am definitely a one-bite cookie kind of girl.

That being said, these cookies aren't the easiest to make on your first try. This isn't because they don't taste right; it's actually because it's rather difficult to get them to look right. As I was getting ready to place the cookies in the oven, I noticed that they looked nothing like ribbons. In fact, they looked more like snakes that had just eaten a small child, with a huge bulge in the middle and extremely thin ends. I tried to smash them into shape, but it wasn't as easy as I thought. So I baked them anyway and trusted in the art of creative slicing to try and get the cookies to look somewhat uniform. As you can see from the picture, I did a pretty good job with the cutting, but the glazing and jam placement was a completely separate challenge for me... a challenge that I apparently lost.

But they still tasted delicious! That's half the battle, right?

Raspberry Ribbon Cookies
  • 1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam

  • GLAZE:
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.

  • 2. Divide dough into four portions; shape each into a 10-in. x 2-1/2-in. log. Place 4 in. apart on greased or foil-lined baking sheets. Make a 1/2-in. depression down the center of each log. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

  • 3. Fill depressions with jam. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes. Remove to a cutting board; cut into 3/4-in. slices. Place on wire racks.

  • 4. In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over warm cookies. cool completely.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Twelve Cookies of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, we decided to bake cookies. Twelve to be exact. Inspired by the holiday spirit and the ridiculously tacky decorations we all have in our houses, we'll be posting 12 recipes now through Christmas. These recipes are some of our family favorites, and without them, Christmas would mean nothing- can you tell we're a family who likes to eat? When we think of these holiday treats, it invokes warm memories of our family and friends who continue to mean so much to us and whose traditions we intend to pass on. We invite you to bring our holiday classics into your home this season. Happy holidays from Cookie Confessions!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Homemade Oreos

Well... they are not exactly Oreos, more a chocolate sandwich cookie that slightly resembles America's favorite cookie. They are absolutely delicious, chocolatey with a vanilla cream filling and are perfect for dunking in a glass of milk! These were a party favorite when I made them for a family birthday party... enjoy!

Homemade Oreos

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa (the darker the better)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

Vanilla Cream Filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
Heavy cream to taste/texture preference
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in the flour mixture until dough forms. Scoop dough onto a silpat and flatten with the palm of your hand. Bake for 8-9 minutes.

Beat the butter and salt until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and sifted confectioner's sugar. Once the cookies have cooled completely pipe a generous amount of cream in the center and lightly press cookie on top.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pecan Pie and Pumpkin Pie

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I was lucky enough to bake with all three of my grandparents. Nani Bird and Potchie held a pie bake-off and Grandma Wanda helped me to learn how to make her famous pie crust. I'm nowhere near the master she is, so I'll be calling her for tips for sure. The pies were so good that I recreated them for Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, my pies weren't as good as Grandma Wanda's Lemon Meringue Pie, but I'm still learning. I especially need to work on my crust crimping technique and making the crust look more professional. I can only hope my pies turn out like hers one day.

A clear winner couldn't be concluded for the pie bake-off, but I can tell you that the baking session included some bickering and attempted sabotage, Nani and Potchie style. I saw a lot of ingredients that were tampered with, but that's all I can divulge. Not wanting to get written out of either's will, I decided to remain neutral. You can make both pies and decide for yourself - both will soon be holiday season favorites!

Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from the kitchen of Joe Mayer

1 can condensed milk
15 oz. canned pumpkin
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs

Make your favorite pie crust recipe. Roll out crust and place in 9 inch pie pan. Freeze for 30 minutes. Do not blind bake the crust (produces a hard crust)!

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all above ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour filling into frozen pie crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before serving and top off with homemade whipped cream.

Pecan Pie
Adapted from the Food Network Kitchen

5 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
1 1/2 tbsp. bourbon (I prefer Maker's Mark)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Again, prepare your favorite pie crust dough and roll out into a 9-inch pie pan, and do not blind bake. Freeze crust for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stirring constantly, continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, bourbon and vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the beaten eggs into the filling until smooth. Put the pie shell on a cookie sheet and pour the filling in the crust.

Bake on the lower over rack until the edges are set but the center is slightly loose, about 40 to 45 minutes. (If the edges start to get too dark, you can cover them with aluminum foil half way during baking.) Cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, with either homemade whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Caramel Crumb Bars

It's been a busy busy week for me. I was in Vegas last weekend and returned home just in time to prepare for the hectic pie season at the bakery. We chopped thousands of apples and baked hundreds of pies; Thanksgiving came and went without a hitch. Now I'm finally back to baking...

I recently bought a couple of new cookbooks including the Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri. These caramel bars were the first recipe I've tried from it but it has so many helpful tips and ideas to make delicious baked items in easier, more accessible ways. Nick claims that these are his favorite bars/cookies in the whole cookbook!

I apologize for my lack of posting the past week. I promise I will get working on a festive holiday post asap!

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy.

Caramel Crumb Bars
Apapted from the Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour

1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tbsp light corn syrup
4 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper and butter it. Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat together the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the vanilla. On low speed add in 2 1/4 cup flour and mix until flour is just absorbed. Be sure to scrap sides of the bowl to fully combine all the ingredients. Take 3/4 of the dough and press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Do not press the dough too firmly in the pan, chill the dough. Take the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and add it to the left over dough, mix with your hands until a crumble forms, set aside at room temperature.*

To make the filling add the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, butter and corn syrup to a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Boil the ingredients, stirring continuously until it thickens and darkens in color (about 10 minutes). When the caramel is ready, remove from heat and allow it to cool in a stainless steel bowl for 5 minutes. Pour the caramel over the chilled dough and sprinkle with the crumble top. Bake the bars for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting.

*Bakers Note: I added brown sugar to the crumble for a little extra sweetness.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Birthday Cake Is Always Best When You Don't Make It Yourself

I find that I am always extremely critical of my own baked goods. No matter how good others say it tastes (never how it looks though; we all know my creations are too rustic to be complimented on appearance), I am always looking at how to improve. It is because of this self-criticism that I truly enjoy when others bake for me. I am lucky enough to be a mentor to the sweetest 9-year-old ever. For my birthday last week, her mom had me over for an authentic Mexican lunch, complete with an authentic Mexican tradition. As I was taking the knife to the cake, they all rushed to stop me. "Take a bite," Vanesa said. I told her that I couldn't wait to try it after I cut everyone a piece. She then explained to me that it is tradition that the birthday girl take the first bite of the cake before it is cut. So, rather than go against years of Mexican tradition, I bit into the cake.

Regardless of whether they tricked me into making a fool of myself, I loved every minute of it. Vanesa decorated the cake herself, and it was definitely one of my favorite presents this year.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I just realized yesterday that the Holiday season is right around the corner. Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and we all know what that means- the start of over a month of non-stop parties, gatherings, shopping, eating and drinking. Although Halloween season is my favorite time of year (yes, I know that I am strange), the Holiday season runs a close second in my heart.

To get myself (and hopefully all of you) into the Thanksgiving spirit, I decided to bake something that centers around some holiday flavors: ginger and cinnamon. These cookies are extremely easy to whip up and are perfect to pair with a post-Thanksgiving dinner cup of coffee. Pass the turkey, please.

*I apologize for the horrible picture quality. I didn't have a camera to use at the time and iPhone obviously lacks in the "zoom" and "focus" functions of its camera...


2 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
11 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup mild-flavored molasses
1 large egg, at room temperature

1. Stir together the dry ingredients.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter just until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat until smooth, stopping the mixer to scrape down any butter clinging to the sides of the bowl.

3. Stir in the vanilla, molasses and egg.

4. Mix in the dry ingredients gradually until the dough is smooth.

5. Divide the dough in two equal portions and roll each on a lightly-floured surface until each is about 2-inches around. Don't worry if they're not perfect; you can neaten them up in a second.

6. Wrap each in plastic wrap then roll them lightly on the counter to smooth them out. Refrigerate, or better yet, freeze the cookie logs until firm.

7. To bake, preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

8. Slice cookie dough into 1/4-inch rounds with a sharp knife. Leave a couple of inches between cookies since they'll spread while baking.

9. Bake for 10-14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during baking, until deep-golden brown. The cookies will puff up a bit while baking, then settle down when they're done. Bake on the lower end of the range for softer cookies, and more for snappier ones, depending on your oven.

10. Let the cookies cool two minutes, then remove them with a spatula and transfer them to a cooling rack.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Waffles with Warm Blueberry Sauce

Two of my jobs have the most opposite schedules; at the bakery I wake up super early and work all morning. The other, at a bar I start later in the afternoon and work until the wee hours of the night. My body is having a lot of trouble finding an efficient sleep schedule. I got to bed around 3:30 am last night and found that I couldn't sleep past 7:45 this morning. My inability to sleep in is how this delightful breakfast came to be.

These waffles were tasty and quick to whip up but the warm blueberry compote was the best part by far. It was an absolutely perfect breakfast for a chilly Sunday morning in Chicago.

Homemade Waffles

2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the waffle iron. Beat eggs until fluffy. Add in flour, milk, oil, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Stir until thoroughly combined, sprinkle in cinnamon. Pour mixture onto waffle iron and cook until golden brown. Serve HOT.

Warm Blueberry Sauce

2 cups fresh of frozen blueberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch (I didn't have any so I used flour)
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp cinnamon
lemon juice, to taste

In a saucepan over medium heat combine blueberries, 1/4 cup water, orange juice and sugar, stirring gently and bring to a boil. In a small bowl combine cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water. Carefully stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberries until the sauce reaches desired thickness (should coat the back of a metal spoon). Remove from heat and stir in almond extract, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Add additional sugar, cinnamon or lemon to taste.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Morning in the Kitchen

Happy Saturday All! I hope everyone had a great week. I know I promised some "healthy" recipes next, but I was distracted by macaroons and a craving for something with chocolate.

I've been wanting to try to make french almond macaroons for a while. It seems like every foodblog has been making them. I used a Martha Stewart recipe that seemed the least complicated compared to the others. I've read many horror stories about the macaroon disasters and the stressful process. The appearance of mine was pretty good, however the taste - ehh not so much. When they first came out of the oven they were good, but now they have hardened and I think the almond meal I used was not as fine as it should have been. Oh well, I'll try again. Click here for Martha's French Almond Macaroon Recipe

Now, to supress my chocolate craving I tried to make blondies, but they turned into brownies because I have the patience of a 5 year old. I was supposed to wait and let the butter cool to room temperature before combining it, but I didn't... and the chocolate chips melted turning the whole mixture brown. However, these little blondie-brownies bars were still deeeelicious.

Blondie-Brownies with Butterscotch Chips and Marshmallows

1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butterscotch chips and butter, stirring constantly until smooth. When the butter and chips are melted and smooth remove from heat and transfer the contents of the pan to a mixing bowl. Be sure not to over heat the butter and butterscotch chips or they will separate and look chunky or curdled. Cool the mixture to room temperature (this is the step I did not wait for - if you want the bars to be blondies follow recipe accordingly). Using an electric mixer beat the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and eggs into the butter and butterscotch mixture. You can add all the ingredients at once. Once ingredients are combined stir in the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared ban. Bake for 25 minutes. The center will feel a little soft, but will firm while cooling. Let cool completely before cutting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Raspberry Almond Coffee Cake

I've started reading a couple "healthy lifestyle" blogs, they are really interesting and inspiring. I'm feeling encouraged to attempt a healthier lifestyle. I guess this includes making healthy food choices, regular exercise, taking a multivitamin? (hm, maybe I have a little more reading to do)

I've decided this new lifestyle should include making some "healthy" baked items or maybe low-fat variations. It actually sounds like a great challenge. The following recipe does not fall into the healthy category, however you could consider it nutritional with its raspberry content. Fruit in any form is nutritious - right? So get ready kids, there will be some health-conscious baked goods in the near future. In the meantime, please enjoy this delightful recipe for Raspberry Almond Coffee Cake, with cream cheese and a crumble top. Full of caloric happiness :)

Raspberry Almond Coffee Cake
Adapted from

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, cold
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp almond extract

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup raspberry jam or preserves
1/2 cup slivered almonds*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 for convection oven). In a large bowl combine flour and sugar. Cut in cold butter until the mixture is crumbly. Remove 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Add in baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the sour cream
, egg and almond extract mix well. Spread mixture into a greased 9-inch springform pan. Beat together cream cheese, sugar and egg and pour over batter in pan. Spoon jam on top and cover with extra crumble mixture and almonds. Baked for 55-60 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes.

*Baker's note:
I didn't use almonds on the top, the crumble was enough crunch for us!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Big Love for Cakelove

Washington D.C. is quickly growing on me as one of my favorite cities in the U.S. It has everything you could ask for: stunning scenery, great shopping, amazing restaurants, and a very lively nightlife.

I was fortunate enough to visit D.C. this past weekend for a quick reunion with some friends. Although everyone else was happy just hanging around and chatting, I had one task that I needed to accomplish this weekend: visit at least one of D.C.'s well-known bakeries.

While shopping in Georgetown on Saturday, I made sure to allot time for my friends and I to make a stop at Georgetown Cupcake, one of D.C.'s only cupcakeries. Having read the bakery's backstory (two sisters quit their jobs and started their own little cupcake shop), I just knew I had to try one of their delicious little cakes.

Although we were tired, my friends and I walked a few final blocks to Georgetown Cupcake, spotting its cute black awning from down the street- only to be completely dismayed by the line to enter the store. It was literally wrapped around the block! We got in line and began to wait, but after about 15 minutes and barely any progress, we had to move on. I was a little disappointed, but I didn't let it get me down. There was another delicious baked good waiting for me somewhere in D.C.

The line at Georgetown Cupcake.

We woke up as early as we could on Sunday (quite difficult after a long night of, um, talking) and headed out to the next bakery on my list: Cakelove. Nestled in the fabulous U Street Corridor of the city, Cakelove is a bake shop that has grown from one location to six- and for very good reason.

We walked into Cakelove and were stopped dead in our tracks at the amazing variety of baked goods: cakes, bars, and cupcakes, all looking like absolute perfection. After going back and forth between the options, we decided on a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, a red velvet cupcake, a chocolate Boston creme cupcake, and a vanilla caramel cupcake.

The cupcakes were absolutely amazing! The frosting was some of the best I've eaten in my life (and that means a lot coming from me) and the cake was light and airy. Whatever they are doing over there, they are doing it right.

Moral of the story: if you are in or around Washington, D.C., get into your car/onto your bike/onto the Metro and get over to Cakelove. There is a cupcake soulmate waiting for you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Snickerdoodles and Stuff

What a long tiring week this has been. I went from working a couple days a week to working 3 jobs and over 45 hours this week, I'm a little exhausted. I finally had a day off and lucky for me it was 70 degrees and sunny here in Chicago, but unfortunately I was catching up on sleep (running on 3 hours from the night before) and woke up at 12pm and found the rest of the day had passed me by before I had any energy to be productive. Once I got up and moving I did some laundry, cleaned up a bit and decided to make some snickerdoodles.

I decided to try out the convection oven this time and boyyy was it great. The circulating heat baked the cookies perfectly even and in a quick 7 minutes. They came out of the oven crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside, the way a great cookie should be. I did a little research before baking the cookies and found that when using a convection oven the temperature should be lowered by 20-25 degrees. I can't wait for my next convection baked item!

Another baking device that I have grown to love is the ice cream/dough scoop. Cookie making has been completely revolutionized for me. Its no longer a hassle to spoon out balls of dough, now its a quick one, two, done. I bought a wilton plastic scoop from Michael's, it only cost me about $2.00, whatta deal...but it broke on my first batch of cookies (I should've guessed). So I have upgraded to a delightful stainless steel spring-loaded scoop from Sur La Table (a gift from mom) and let me tell ya - it is wonderful, please see the perfect scoops below!

Does anyone have any baking tools they can't live without? You can never have to much kitchen "stuff".

click here for the Snickerdoodle recipe I used. I'm still too tired (or maybe its lazy) to re-type the recipe.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mint Brownies

This was the first Saturday morning working at the bakery and as it turned out one of the head bakers was out of town and the decorator had to leave early so I was given lots to work on. I baked trays and trays of cookies, cupcakes, and I sampled my first ever taste of pumpkin pie (I had no idea what I had been missing all these years!). I was also given the task of making cream cheese frosting, when I added the sugar I forgot to change the speed on the industrial sized mixer and POOF it was an explosion of white cloudy sugar everywhere. Not only did I cover myself completely from head to toe but anyone who was standing within 5 feet of me as well. I learned my lesson.

I made these brownies for all my pals at Vertigo. They are verrry decadent and they helped pass the time on an extremely slow Friday night at the bar. They are best served cold and in small amounts. Katie's friend Michelle used to make these all the time back in the day, I couldn't find her recipe anywhere but I found a similar one online. Enjoy.

Mint Brownies
Adapted from

Brownie Layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mint Layer:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract or 1-2 tablespoons crème de menthe
green food coloring (optional)

Chocolate Glaze:
3 ounces (90 grams) semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9x9 inch pan lined with parchment paper (extra over the sides).

In a stainless steel (heatproof) bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Stir in the flour and salt and beat, until the batter is smooth and glossy, about one minute. Pour the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, edges should be slightly browned, inserted toothpick should come out clean. Cool completely.

To make the mint layer beat together all the ingredients until smooth. If the frosting is too thick add more cream. Spread the frosting over the cooled brownies and refrigerate for 5-10 minutes or until firm.

To make the chocolate layer use a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread over the mint filling and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate glaze starts to dull.