Sunday, July 25, 2010

S'more bars

When I think about summer quite a few things come to mind; sun, street festivals, poolside cocktails + s'mores. I really like s'mores, unfortunately I don't have the best track record around open fire. I've had quite a few instances where flaming marshmallows or other burning particles have wound up stuck on my body, clothing or hair. I even lit my sleeve on fire once while enjoying table-side s'mores at the supposedly safe Cosi restaurant.

These are a great alternative for those of us who are prone to catching fire. They taste just like a s'more only better. Instead of a plain old graham cracker the marshmallow + chocolate is nestled between an almost brownie like consistency of graham cracker delight. They are best eaten when they are still a bit warm, while the chocolate + marshmallow is still gooey. Enjoy!

S'more bars
adapted from Cooking with my Kid

1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 king sized milk chocolate bars (I used milk chocolate chips instead)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Use an electric mixer to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Set aside. Meanwhile,whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture until combined. Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the dough, enough to create an even layer of chocolate. Spread marshmallow fluff over chocolate (I heated the fluff for easier spreading). Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (roll out the dough in flat pieces and lay over the fluff, it's ok if its not perfectly even). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Be sure to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monster Cookies

Monster cookies seemed appropriate for my new monster kitchen. Ok, well maybe it's not monstrous, but it's definitely a huge upgrade from my last kitchen. It's bright, with big windows, a functioning stove and an inordinate amount of cabinetry. I even have a pantry! (Can you tell I'm excited?) Either way, these cookies were the perfect experiment to learn my way around my new kitchen. Also, apologies for my lack of posting, as Krissy has reminded me, over the last seven weeks. But now I'm all settled in, ready to bake.

These cookies are adapted from the illustrious Paula Deen, and they combine everyone's favorite parts about standard cookies: chocolate and peanut butter. These are super easy to make (I never even broke out the mixer) and are sure to please everyone.

Monster Cookies
Adapted from here

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar (light or dark both work fine)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup M&Ms
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raisins (optional, I omitted these)
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick oats (NOT instant)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or your handy Silpat (which I love and comes in real handy if you just want to keep using the same cookie sheet for baking each batch. Krissy - best birthday present ever!).

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugars (Confession: I mixed everything by hand with a wooden spoon and it turned out great. No need to dirty beaters for this recipe). Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter and butter. Mix well. Stir in the baking soda. Mix well. Then add the M&Ms, chocolate chips, raisins (if using) and oats. Mix until oats are completely covered.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. These cookies will spread out. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (I would err on the side of 10 minutes), but do not overbake. Let cookies rest for 3 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack.

Makes about 5 dozen.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Classic Birthday Cake

Summer is the hardest time of year to bake. After walking around in 90 degree weather all day, the absolute last thing anyone wants to do is hang out in a 100 degree kitchen. That being said, it takes a lot for me to actually bake during the months of June, July and August (which explains my recent lack of posts).

Anyway, with yesterday being Dan's 26th birthday, I decided to brave the heat and make him a birthday cake from scratch. My apartment only has one tiny window air conditioner in it, so when I say my blood, sweat and tears went into this cake, I mean it... with a big emphasis on the sweat.

Moist Yellow Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting
adapted from here and here

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a small bowl and whisk to get ready of any lumps or chunks.

Place butter into a bowl and mix on a medium or high speed until fluffy and light in color. Add in sugar and vanilla, and beat until thoroughly creamed and mixed in. Add egg yolks one at a time, letting each egg yolk mix fully in before adding the next. Add the whole eggs one at a time as well, allowing 1 minute of mixing between additions. The mixture should be very pale in color at this point.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture and mix until incorporated. Add in half of the milk and mix until incorporated. Continue to alternate adding in the dry ingredient mixture and milk until all ingredients are thoroghly mixed in and the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter between two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans. Be sure to butter them thoroughly before filling with batter! Bake until the cake edges slightly pull away from the pans and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry with just a few crumbs, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove the pans from the overn and let cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
3 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
2 2/3 cups of powdered sugar, sifted (VERY IMPORTANT!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

Beat the butter with a mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

Stop the mixer and add the powdered sugar in stages until it is fully incorporated. Add in the vanilla and chocolate and beat on a medium high sped until the frosting is light and airy.

To frost:
Make sure the cake is thoroughly cooled before frosting. The frosting should be at room temperature for frosting, but don't let it get too soft or else it will become runny and won't hold on the cake.

I assume most of you know how to frost a cake, but if you don't, click THIS fantastic link for a video tutorial.

Monday, July 12, 2010

decorating tutorials + mint buttercream

Cake decorating is an art. Some people have a wonderful ability to create beautiful (and delicious) cakes with fancy decorations and designs. I'm slightly challenged in the decoration department but my Aunt Kathy is a natural. We have all seen her showpieces from the Girard Family Cake-Off, but this weekend we in Chicago had an opportunity to watch the master at work.

She worked quickly, eh... not exactly quick but diligently. She confidently frosted the layer cake like an old pro sharing tips + tricks with her captive audience along the way. After perusing the food coloring options + piping tips she choose to decorate the cake in a beautiful rose petal pink. I always have fun with Aunt Kathy, we laughed a lot. Enjoy the photos.

{she showed us how to use a decorating triangle}

{A closer look at the final product + intricate details}

Lastly, I made a few cupcake varieties with the left over cake batter. Here is a recipe for mint buttercream. It's delicious on a chocolate cupcake served cold with a glass of milk.

Mint Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon mint extract
green food coloring

Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add the sifted powdered sugar, milk, and peppermint extract, beat until combined. Add green food coloring until frosting reaches desired color.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chouquettes Aux Pepites de Chocolat

As I was sitting outside enjoying a day in the sun something about the warm breeze + smell of summer reminded me of Europe. I miss the beautiful beaches, amazing architecture, delicious food + wonderful people I met. Wishing I could magically teleport myself to a cafe in France where I could sit + read while enjoying a delicious pastry I decided to bake something so I could at least pretend.

A while back I read David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris and marked a recipe for Chouquettes aux pepites de chocolat or chocolate chip cream puffs. These seemed like the perfect recipe for my afternoon activity.

They were super easy to make + truly deee-licious. Enjoy these little guys outside, close your eyes + pretend you are in France.

Chouquettes Aux Pepites de Chocolat
From David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris

1 cup water
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 tsp sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup flour
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup pearl sugar*

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a small saucepan heat water, salt, sugar and butter until butter is melted and water starts to boil. Remove from heat and add to flour. Stir rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the bowl. Allow the dough to cool for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat. Briskly beat in eggs one at a time until the paste is smooth and shiny. Let cool completely to room temperature, then stir in chocolate chips. Drop mounds of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 teaspoons each. Sprinkle each generously with the pearl sugar. (David recommends using a lot + really pressing into each pastry). Bake for about 20 minutes or until puffed and well browned.**

*I bought my pearl sugar at Fox and Obel in
Chicago, I also hear it can be purchased at some Ikea stores. It's great.
**Note: the original recipe says bake for 35 minutes but mine were brown + ready to go around 20 minutes in.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Key Lime Pie.

Wow. It's July 2nd already. Summer is really flying by (as it usually does). We decided to take a month off from Cookie Confessions as we have all been extremely busy with work + various summer-time activities. Both Katie + Nikki have recently moved so we can look forward to their contributions from their new kitchens.

It's hot in Chicago. I've been having some trouble coming up with summery sweets to try because as I've said before, I always want chocolate. Trying to steer away from chocolate I made a Key Lime Pie a couple weeks ago. I used a recipe from Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump's private club in Palm Beach FL. I saw this recipe on Oprah a while back, I'm glad I tried it- it's reallllly delicious. I'm not usually a huge fan of Key Lime Pie but it was cool + tart, exactly what you need on a hot summer night. Enjoy.

Key Lime Pie
Mar-a-Lago via

Gramham Cracker Crust:
3/4 pound graham crackers
4 tbsp. sugar
2 sticks butter, melted
1/4 tsp sea salt

4 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice
1 lime, grated zest

1 cup heavy or whipping cream, chilled
2 tbsp confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

To make graham cracker crust: Preheat the oven to 325°.

Break up the graham crackers, place in a food processor and process to crumbs. Add the melted butter, sugar and salt and pulse until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan, forming an even layer on the bottom, sides and edge. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool.

To make filling: While the crust is resting, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until fluffy, or 5 to 6 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to whip until thick, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice until incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, and then refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To make topping: Whip the cream, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until nearly stiff. Evenly spread the whipped cream on top of the pie, and place in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to serving.