Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Coconut Cake

I had a request for this cake - and I must admit, it was on my list of things to make.  It just looked so nice in the cookbook, and Martha Stewart has never let me down on a recipe so far.  I happily got to work making this cake on a long day of baking.  The cake part is really easy, the whole cake is actually.  A vanilla coconut cake with a marshmallow frosting covered in coconut.  I kind of wish that I made one for myself while I was at it.  If you are a fan of coconut anything I highly suggest you try this. 

I wish I got to make more cakes - it's hard to divide them up among the taste testers - I guess that's why I always make cupcakes and only do cakes if it's a request from someone. 

Coconut Cake
makes one 9" layer cake

3 sticks butter, room temp plus more for pans
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup packed sweetened, shredded coconut
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 large whole eggs, plus 4 large egg whites
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
Seven Minute Frosting
Coconut curls or shredded coconut for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 9x9x2 inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Butter parchment paper, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside.  Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir shredded coconut into the flour mixture until combined; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the whole eggs, egg whites and vanilla; beat until fully incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the coconut milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.
  3. Divide batter between prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula.  Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes.  Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment.  Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up. 
  4. Using a serrated knife, trim the tops of the cake layers to make level.  Place one layer on a cake plate, and spread top with 1 1/2 cups frosting.  Place other cake layer on top, cut side down.  Using an offset spatula, spread remaining frosting over entire cake, swirling to cover in a decorative fashion.  Sprinkle entire cake with coconut curls or shredded coconut.  Cake can be kept in the refrigerator, covered with a cake dome, for up to 3 days. 
Seven Minute Frosting

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
6 large egg whites
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine sugar, corn syrup,water and the egg whites.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat the mixture on high speed until glossy and voluminous, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla.  Use immediately.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mint Hot Chocolate

I love Hot Chocolate, always have and always will.  To be more specific, I'm a fan of Hot Chocolate with a ton of marshmallows floating on the top.  I can remember being a kid and sitting at the kitchen counter with my Kermit The Frog mug full of hot chocolate and asking for more marshmallows.  When I buy a Hot Chocolate mix, it's always with marshmallows in it if it's available.  A couple of years ago my Mom found this recipe and we have been hooked ever since.  I share it with everyone since it's so easy and delicious.  I warn you now that you will become addicted and soon no other Hot Chocolate will work for you.  The only thing that could make this more perfect for me would be if I still had that Kermit The Frog mug to drink it from.  Whether you have kids or not, this will quickly become a favorite of yours.  I hope you enjoy it. 

3 large cups of the best
hot chocolate ever
Mint Hot Chocolate
makes 6 regular size cups

12 York Peppermint Patties, unwrapped
2 cups Half and Half
2 cups Milk
pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan, put all 12 peppermint patties and 1 cup of Half and Half; heat over medium heat.  Stir until smooth and all of the peppermint patties have melted.  Add the remaining Half and Half, milk and salt.  Stir and heat until slightly bubbling.  Pour into mugs and top with favorite toppings. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chocolate-Mint Creams

Flipping through my many cookbooks, I came across this one while I was on the hunt for something easy to make as a thank you for the mailman and garbage pick up men.  I didn't have the mint kisses it calls for, but I figured I could melt some of the peppermint candy cane bits that I have a lot of.  I made the dough and let it chill while I went out and played treat fairy.  When I got home from delivering, I rolled the dough into 1" balls and baked them off.  Things were going so smoothly until this part.  I took the cookies out of the oven and placed a little mound of the peppermint candy cane bits on top of each cookie and returned them to the oven for them to melt.  Except this part never happened.  On top of the cookie should of been a melted swirl of mint goodness and I had just a clump of candy bits, same as when I had put them into the oven.  Fail.

The chips wouldn't melt at all
I gave in - my idea didn't work.  So what's left to do but melt up some chocolate and drizzle it on top so the peppermint part would stay. 

not the prettiest thing
The chocolate set nicely and the peppermint bits stayed in place.  Happy that this worked, I packed them up in cute bags and handed them out.  I would highly suggest sticking to the recipe with this one and not doing what I did.

Chocolate-Mint Creams
makes about 48 cookies

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 tbsp butter
1 tbsp water
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 egg
1/2 to 3/4 pound pastel colored cream mint kisses

  1. In a small bowl combine flour and baking soda; set aside.  In a medium saucepan cook and stir brown sugar, butter and water over low heat until butter melts.  Add chocolate pieces; cook and stir until melted.  Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl; let stand for 10-15 minutes or until cool.
  2. Beat egg into the chocolate mixture.  Stir in flour mixture until combined (dough will be soft).  Cover and chill dough for 1-2 hours or until easy to handle.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Place balls 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpats.  
  4. Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately top each cookie with a mint kiss.  Return to oven and bake about 2 minutes more or until edges are set.  Swirl the melted mints with a knife to frost cookies.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool until mints are firm.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chocolate Caramels

We all know that 2 of my most favorite things in this world are chocolate and caramel.  And when you put them together, watch out.  It's Rolo season at my parents house right now - they don't last very long between my dad and me.  I saw this recipe and my first thought was I'm going to be in trouble when I make it and love it.  And I was right.  This is like a Riesen candy.  Chocolaty, caramely and chewy. 

hello my new friends!
This is really easy to make, which is a bonus. All you need is 20 minutes of your time and a candy thermometer.  Use a medium size saucepan - it does boil up and takes up most of the pot once it gets going.  Pour it in a pan and let cool fully and then cut into bite sized pieces.  I packaged mine up in fun holiday bags to give out to people in.  Everyone loved it - I'm pretty sure I need to make it again for my parents who didn't get any. 

Chocolate Caramels

Line an 8" square pan with foil and brush with oil.  Melt 2 sticks butter in a saucepan, then add 2 cups sugar, 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup, a 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk and 1/4 cup cocoa powder.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees, about 15 minutes.  Pour into prepared pan and let cool.  Cut into squares. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vanilla-Peppermint Cupcakes

I was on the hunt for a fun, festive cupcake.  I was impressed when I found this one and printed it out immediately.  It comes from Sprinkles Cupcakes so I knew it was going to be good.  I mean a Vanilla-Peppermint Cupcake sounds light and minty.  That's exactly what it is.  A fluffy vanilla peppermint cupcake with a peppermint frosting.  The peppermint doesn't overpower at all, it's a nice balance between the two.  And it gave me a chance to use up some of the peppermint candy bits I had (and still have, I bought 2 bags, a little goes a long way with them). 

I baked them off, let them cool and frosted away.  Topped them off with the candy bits and was good to go. 

festive wrappers too!
Once they were all frosted, I stuck fun holiday toppers in each one (we all know that I can't really decorate).  I can't wait to bring them to my taste testers today.  Heays came home at lunch yesterday and got to bring some back to her coworkers and everyone loved them.  I finally had one last night.  I must say, this cake is pretty damn good.  It's super soft and fluffy and tastes amazing.  The frosting is the perfect mix of peppermint and sweetness.  I will absolutely be making these again.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bailey's Balls

This is my adaptation of Rum Balls.  I made these for the first time over 5 years ago.  I was surprised at how easy they really were, and tasty.  Then I got the idea to switch out the rum for other types of alcohol.  I've found that Kahlua and Bailey's work the best.  And who wouldn't like a fudgy little brownie ball that's been soaked in alcohol?  Perfect for those holiday parties or as a gift.  Once you make these for the first time, you will see that they are that easy and delicious and will be a repeat offender in your baking.  I made them one time for Heays coworkers over a year ago and they still talk about them to this day.  The best part is that you can roll them into whatever colored sugar you want - so they can go with the seasons/holidays.  Being festive, I rolled mine in a mixture of white, green and red. 

festive and delicious
First you make a batch of brownies, let them cool fully.  Then you break them up into chunks, toss it into a bowl, add the alcohol and mix until it comes together and then form into balls, roll in colored sugar and chill. 

balls ready to chill
The size you make them is up to you, but a 1" ball works the best. 

Bailey's Balls
makes 4 dozen

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, cut into pieces
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp Baileys, Kahlua or rum
coarse sanding sugar for rolling
Pam cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 12"x17" rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. 
  2. Melt butter and chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally.
  3. Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl.  Stir in chocolate mixture, then fold in flour.  Pour batter into prepared baking sheet.  Spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until top is shiny and a cake tester inserted into center comes out with some crumbs attached, about 10 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Break up brownie into small pieces; transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  With machine on low, pour in the alcohol and mix until crumbs start to come together to form a ball.
  5. Shape into 1" balls and roll in sanding sugar to coat.  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper; refrigerate, uncovered, until cold, about 2 hours.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.  Balls can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

I found a recipe for Peppermint Snowballs and it sounded really good, but I thought I would change it up a bit.  The best part of this is that you can use either store bought sugar cookie dough or make your own (I made my own).  Simple and delicious, and who isn't a fan of that?  Once you have your cookie dough ready, just add some crushed peppermint candies, peppermint extract and confectioners sugar and mix it all together.  Then this is where I went a little different.  I didn't roll them into balls and instead just used my cookie scoop and scooped them out onto the sheets so they would be normal flat cookies.  Once baked and cooled, I made a chocolate ganache and then spread some on top and sprinkled with more peppermint candies.  That sounded much better to me than rolling them in confectioners sugar and topping it off with peppermint candies. 

don't they look tasty?!
These are a great festive holiday cookie.  The fact that they're easy to make is a bonus. I found out that Andes Mints makes a peppermint bit candy - much easier than buying candy canes and crushing them, and they are tasty.   Enjoy!

Peppermint Sugar Cookies
makes about 36 cookies

1 package (18 oz) refrigerated sugar cookie dough, room temperature, or your favorite from scratch sugar cookie recipe
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/3 cup crushed peppermint candies, plus more for garnishing
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
Chocoalte Ganache
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
  2. If using store bought dough, cut cookie dough into 8 pieces and place in bowl of electric mixer.  If you're making your own, make the cookies as you normally would.  Once the dough is ready, add the peppermint extract, peppermint candies and confectioners sugar and mix until combined. 
  3. Scoop out dough using either a cookie scoop or a teaspoon and place on prepared sheets.  Space 2" apart and bake until set, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool fully on cooling racks.
  4. Once cooled, make the ganache.  Melt 6 tbsp butter, 6 oz semisweet chocolate chips and 2 tsp light corn syrup in microwave safe bowl.  Stir together until smooth and let stand 5-10 minutes or until it thickens slightly.  Spoon a little on top of each cookie and then sprinkle peppermint candies on top. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Egg Nog Cupcakes

My search for an Egg Nog quick bread was going badly, and then I finally found this recipe.  I knew that this would be a winner.  And is it ever.  Soft, fluffy and full of deliciousness.  It is meant to be a loaf or mini loaves, but I figured why not put it into a cupcake?  Just a smaller version - quicker time in the oven, but still turned out amazing.  And it's a quick bread recipe - that means it's so easy.  I mean who doesn't love a good quick bread?

I have a feeling I will be making these again.  I dropped some off to my taste testers and one always dives right in to what I bring her.  I have to say, I do love seeing her try things, her facial expressions are the best.  Needless to say she was a fan of these.  I also left one for each of my sisters to try.  Heays was an instant fan.  Ween agreed - I was told by both of them that these should make a repeat appearance.  You can make these as cupcakes, a loaf or mini loaves.  If you do the loaf/loaves, make sure to grease the pan(s) and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

Egg Nog Cupcakes
makes 24

2 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups egg nog
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
(1) 3.4 oz package instant french vanilla or vanilla pudding
1 cup confectioners sugar
1-2 tbsp egg nog
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tins with paper liners.  In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; set aside.  In a large bowl, with an electric mixer beat the eggs.  Add sugar, egg nog, butter, rum and vanilla extracts.  Add the flour mixture and mix well.  
  2. Add the instant pudding and mix well.  Fill each cupcake 2/3 full.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire racks.  
  3. Make glaze to desired consistency - you're looking for a pourable consistency.  Drizzle over tops of each cupcake.  Let glaze set before you store them in containers. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Delights

We all know by now that if I see a recipe that's got chocolate and caramel in it that I'm going to make it - so shock of all shocks here's another one! This was really easy - a chocolate thumbprint cookie with caramel in the middle and then chocolate drizzled over the top of each cookie.  Sounds good right? That's what I thought when I read it. 

Once you make the dough, time for it to chill.  I did the dishes, watched some tv and got things ready for the next part of the cookie.  I don't know why I like it when cookies need to chill, the break part is nice.  The dough is really mushy - so dip your hands in water so it doesn't stick to you.  Once you have rolled the dough into balls, stick your thumb in each one and make an indent.  Bake away - the cookies will need to be indented again once you take them out of the oven.  Then make the caramel and fill each hole and let set.  Once all set - drizzle the chocolate on top and you are good to eat them. 

Chocolate Caramel Delights
makes about 36 cookies

1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
16 vanilla caramels
3 tbsp whipping cream
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp shortening

  1. In a small bowl combine flour, cocoa powder and salt; set flour mixture aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar; beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg, milk and vanilla until combined.  Add flour mixture and mix until well combined.  Cover and chill dough about 2 hours or until easy to handle. 
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.  Shape dough into 1" balls.  Place balls 1" apart on cookie sheet and press your thumb into the center of each ball.  Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are firm. 
  4. In a small saucepan heat and stir caramels and whipping cream over low heat until mixture is smooth.  Spoon some melted caramel mixture into indentation of each cookie.  Allow to set.
  5. In a small bowl melt chocolate pieces and shortening in microwave, 30 seconds at a time until melted.  Stir until smooth and then transfer warm mixture to a plastic bag.  Close bag and cut a small part off one of the corners.  Drizzle cookies with chocolate and let set.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chocolate Almond Sugar Cookies

I'm one who loves cookies with almond extract in them.  You don't see them a lot, and it's usually around the holidays when you do see them.  When I saw this cookie, I knew I had to make it.  And that Ween would love it, chocolate and almond together?!  How could she not?  And let me tell you, she loves them.  So if you're a fan of chocolate and almond together, then this is your perfect cookie. 

These do make a lot of cookies, and are super easy to make (I'm a fan of easy cookies).  They come together quickly and before you know it they're baking away in the oven.  I didn't flatten mine, so they came out in a cute little dome shape.  But if you want to flatten yours, make sure to dip a glass in sugar and gently press the glass on top of each cookie to flatten.  I didn't think that they would of stayed in the shape I scooped them out in.  It very rarely happens and every time a recipe calls to flatten a cookie you really don't need to.  Well with this one you do.  Lesson learned for when I make these again. 

Chocolate Almond Sugar Cookies
makes about 72 cookies

4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
3 tbsp amaretto, coffee liqueur, creme de cacoa or milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.  In a large bowl combine flour and cocoa powder; set flour mixture aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl beat butter and shortening with electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and baking powder.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in eggs, amaretto and vanilla until combined.  Add flour mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2" apart on prepared sheets.  Flatten each piece of dough with a bottom of a glass dipped in additional sugar.  Bake for 7-9 minutes or until edges are firm.  Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Peppermint Meringues

I was so excited to make these.  I had always wanted to try these out, but was a little unsure about them.  They do take a lot of time, but not a lot of effort.  But once I started I really got into it.  These are easy enough, they just bake a long time - like an hour and 40 minutes long.  So once I got them all piped out on the sheets....

looks awesome, right?
......and into the oven they go for a low and slow bake.  I checked on them halfway through and had my first bit of bad luck - they were turning brown! My oven was acting up again! It hadn't done this since summer.  Not sure what to do I start texting my friend at Lettuce Eat Together with my mini melt down.  They still had like 30 minutes left in the oven and I just left them.  Defeated, I took them out when the timer went off, the white was a light toasted brown.  I put the second batch in hoping it wouldn't happen again - but it did. 

it doesn't look it, but the white part
has really got a tan going on
An hour and 40 minutes later, same thing happened to my second batch.  I was freaking out.  I had them in at the right temperature for the right time.  Clearly I'm not meant to make these in my oven ever again - to my parents next time where they have the nice ovens.  Once I got over the disappointment of the color, I tried are they good.  This gave me some hope and I moved on to making a chocolate ganache to sandwich two cookies together with.  Chocolate and peppermint - who doesn't love that?  I've done this part a thousand times - but sacrifice from the baking gods was hanging in the air all around my kitchen yesterday.  And man, they struck and they struck hard.  My ganache never set.  After waiting 3 hours for it to set, I finally gave up (I had stuck it in the fridge for over an hour and nothing) and added some confectioners sugar to it to make it somewhat thicker.  It worked and I started to pipe them on the backs of cookies to sandwich them together.  Then - disaster.  The ganache just started to slide and melt all over the place and the cookies wouldn't stick together.  By the end, I had chocolate all over myself, the kitchen counter and the sink. 

the prettiest, cleanest part of the
disaster scene
Defeated, I left them on the counter.  I didn't care anymore what happened to them.  I was contemplating throwing them out, but I knew that my sisters wanted to try them.  So I left them there, and every time I went into the kitchen they taunted me, shoving my massive failure in my face.  I finally boxed them up so I wouldn't really have to look at them.  And shock of all shocks, one of my sisters brought them into work with her today.  I apologize to those of you who got them, while tasty, not my best work by far.   So one day soon I will try these again, and hopefully have a better post out of these.  And when I succeed I will post the recipe.