Sunday, December 23, 2012

Orange Coconut Cremes

Yeah! The final post in my week-long blog challenge! I was able to write a blog post every day this week, and this is the last one!

Here's another quick and easy treat to put out on your Christmas platters or give to friends and family. Personally, I find the combination of orange and coconut absolutely irresistable. Add in chocolate, and you're golden.

Are these sweet? Yes. Are they incredibly sugary? Yes. Are they addictive? So much so that you will eat one or two too many and make yourself feel sick. I don't often feel inclined to try more than one item of whatever I've made, but I definitely caught myself sneaking into the fridge to snag a couple before having to give them all away. Oops!

Yield: 108 servings (I halved the recipe, no way I need over 100 of these babies!)
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (1 kg) powdered sugar
1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
2 teaspoons orange extract
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons shortening

In a small saucepan, combine milk, butter and salt. Warm over low heat until the butter is melted.

Place powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add condensed milk and butter mixture, and beat until smooth. Add coconut and orange extract, and mix well. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheets lined with waxed paper. Refridgerate until firm, about 1 hour. If the mixture is too soft to hold it's shape, add more powdered sugar or refridgerate for awhile, as the mixture will be warm from the condensed milk mixture.

In a microwave, heat chocolate for 30 seconds, remove and stir. Continue to heat chocolate on 20 second bursts, stirring in between until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in shortening and mix until fully incorporated. Dip balls into chocolate; remove by placing a fork underneath and lifting, allowing excess chocolate to drip off. Place on waxed paper and either let stand until set or refridgerate to set more quickly.

Source: slightly adapted from Taste of Home Pin It

Saturday, December 22, 2012

White Chocolate Topped Gingerbread Cookies

I don't have much to say about these cookies, other than that you can never, ever go wrong with soft, sugary gingerbread cookies. Soft gingerbread/molasses cookies are one of my favourites of all time, yet I hardly ever enjoy them! There's the very odd occasion that I purchase one of the ginormous ones from Starbuck's, but that likely equals once, maybe twice a year.

Simple. And perfect.

I halved the recipe and managed to get about 2 dozen. The ingredients shown below are for a full recipe, so I think it's safe to say it will produce somewhere around 4 dozen cookies.

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 oz. white chocolate

Combine flour, ginger, cinammon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.

Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla, and beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well combined.

Press dough in a thick flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until edges of cookies begin to brown. Let baked cookies rest on baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Store cookies in airtight container for up to 5 days.

Source: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody Pin It

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nordic Christmas Sugar Cookies

Welcome to part II you could say, of my sugar cookie extravaganza. I apparently don't think that one beautiful set for Christmas is enough, and have to do an entirely different set. Actually, that's not the reason at all; it's just that I had so many ideas and was able to narrow it down to 2, but unfortunately not any further. I just couldn't decide which I liked better: the Winter Wonderland theme or the I'm not sure what to call this but let's go with Nordic Christmas theme. Which one do YOU like better? Cast your votes now! My Winter Wonderland cookies can be seen here.

The 4 at the bottom, starting with the branch, then the pine cone, birch trees, and the pearly ornament were my absolute favourite of the whole batch.

As promised, here is the chocolate roll-out cookie dough that I promised to provide the other day when I posted the Winter Wonderland cookies. Let me just say, when I was handling this dough, I actually said out-loud "ooh this dough is just dreamy." Sean asked me "dreamy?" and I explained that it held together and rolled out like a dream. This was in comparison to the only other chocolate sugar cookie dough I've used before, which you can check out in my post on Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies. While that dough was crumbly and a bit of a pain to roll out, it really did taste fantastic in the end. This new recipe tasted good too, but I think perhaps I may have added a bit too much flour as they were harder than what I'm used to, and Sweet Sugar Belle described them as on the softer side. So I'm a bit disappointed they didn't turn out as I hoped, but I'll definitely be trying the recipe again in the future.

1 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup cocoa
3 OR 3 1/2 cups flour

Cream butter, shortening and sugar together in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Add eggs and vanilla, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add baking powder and salt, and mix again. Combine the cocoa powder until well blended. Add flour 1 cup at a time. If you are going to bake cookies right away, add 3 1/2 cups flour. If you are going to chill the dough, or wait for another few hours or even a couple days, stop at 3 cups.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface, and cut out desired shapes. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 6 1/2- 7 1/2 minutes.

Source: Lila Loa

Because I'm on day 5 of my week long challenge (whooo!) I'm going to provide a quick re-cap of what I've done so far:

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Caramel Popcorn

Day 4 in my week long challenge! Whew, and can I say I am feelin' pretty good now because I have 95% of all my Christmas baking done, so it's smooth sailing from here on! Just in time too, because I'd love a day or two of relaxation before the Christmas craziness starts.

I actually made this caramel popcorn about a week ago, to bring to a Christmas party for my fellow MSW classmates. It's a very adaptable recipe- you can really throw anything in it to make the holiday or event you're going for. I added some red and green mini m&ms to give it a more Christmasy feel. This is definitely a sweet and addictive treat. Betcha can't eat just one. ;)

P.S. If you're wondering where the 'healthy eats' part of my blog is lately... it's non-existent. I'm slightly embarrassed to say that my meals outside of dessert have been atrocious lately. The past 2 days I had a can of soup for lunch. It was a low point. My only excuse is that the last week I've been very busy with baking, and the couple weeks prior I was absolutely swamped with final assignments for school, so spending time on food was my last priority. I hope to get back on track in the new year!

1 cup unpopped corn kernels
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
mini Christmas m&ms

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a popcorn maker, pop your kernels as directed. Be mindful of using 'gourmet' kernels; apparently they pop larger than other kernels and therefore amount to more. I ignored this fact despite reading it beforehand in the instructions, and because my popcorn popper has a lid on it and the popcorn pops upwards... well let's just say Tucker got a good few treats on the floor that day. Place kernels in a large bowl, and make sure to pick out any unpopped kernels. You'll have to stir the popcorn, so you may need to use 2 bowls (I had to because I had so much popcorn).

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt. Heat until melted and begins to boil. Once boiling, pour in sweetened condensed milk and stir continuously for 5 minutes, to prevent burning. Take this step seriously; again I didn't because apparently I thought I knew everything, and yes, you guessed it, I had to start all over again when I noticed bits of brown floating around.

Remove from heat and pour directly over popcorn, stirring until coated evenly. Stir in desired amount of m&ms. I did so before baking because I wanted them to stick to the popcorn; however, be aware that they do melt a little bit.

Spread popcorn evenly on baking sheets, and place in preheated oven to bake for 45-50 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes to cook evenly.

Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then break into pieces and let cool completely.

Source: Cookies and Cups
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Wonderland Cookies

Today is my third blog post in my week-long blog post challenge! I absolutely love the look of these cookies; not to toot my own horn, but they turned out fantastic! I love the colours, love that they have a silver sheen to them- thanks to my new Wilton Color Mist, and I love the delicacy of the snowflakes and all the ornaments!

You may have noticed that there are actually 2 different cookie doughs in the picture. I'm going to be posting the recipe for the Brown Sugar cookie dough today, and the Chocolate in the next few days! I really liked the flavour of the Brown Sugar cookie dough; it tasted like a mild gingerbread with a hint of orange.

For my recipe and directions on royal icing, check out my post on Baby Shower Cookies.

Yield: about 2 1/2 dozen
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk, half and half, or orange juice
2 teaspoons extract (I used orange and vanilla)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each egg. Add extract and milk, and mix until just incorporated. Sift together dry ingredients a cupful or so at a time until all of the dry mixture is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not sticky. If it is sticky, add flour little by little until it isn't.

Divide dough into two parts, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out dough to desired thickness (I aim for 1/4 inch) and cut into shapes. Dust lightly with flour as needed. Set cookie pans in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before baking to help prevent spreading. However, I noticed that with this recipe despite chilling it before baking, the dough still spread quite a bit.

Bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes. Cool on baking pan for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired.

Source: Sweet Sugar Belle
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peppermint Patties

Wow! These 'holidays' are flying by! Seems like it's not much of a holiday, every day is jam-packed! This morning my little man was brought to the vet to have his manhood removed- poor little guy. Tucker did just fine through the surgery. Post-operation instructions were to try and keep him as inactive as possible, but guess what happened when he got home? He went crazy! And I mean bouncing off the walls with energy crazy! However, I think after his energy burst the after-effects of the anesthesia started kicking in because he began acting pretty odd, not to mention falling asleep while he was sitting up, poor boy :p.

Back to these peppermint patties, if you thought making caramel sauce from yesterday was easy, ok maybe you didn't because it can be sneaky and totally screw you over when you think you're doing everything right, these peppermint patties are significantly easier! No baking, no cooking, just some mixing, cooling, and dipping in chocolate! The most time-consuming part is the coating in chocolate, and depending on how large you decide to make your patties, even that can go fast!

These are definitely a no-fuss and yummy treat. If you like the whole mint and chocolate combination, give these a try! The sweetness of the peppermint filling is nicely balanced by the bittersweet chocolate, and if you make the patties into bite-sized pieces, it's perfect!

Yield: depends on your size preference, anywhere from 20 to 40
3 1/2- 4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoon waters
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
2 tablespoon vegetable shortening, divided
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup peppermint candies or candy canes, crushed

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar together with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract and 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening until just combined. The mixture should not be wet, and stiff enough that you will be able to form it without it losing it's shape. If the mixture is not firm enough, add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it becomes nearly crumbly (not quite that dry).

Dust a work surface with a small amount of powdered sugar. Empty the mixture onto work surface and knead and form into a ball. Shape dough into a log; how small or large you want the patties to be will determine the size of the log. I made mine about an inch in diameter and over a foot long. Wrap the log in parchment paper and refrigerate until firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Remove dough and slice into rounds using a sharp knife. If the dough begins to soften, refrigerate again or simply reshape the patties into a circle. Place rounds onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze until firm, around 10-15 minutes.

While dough is chilling, melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals. Stir thoroughly after each time in the microwave; mine took 3 bursts in the microwave. Combine 1 tablespoon shortening into the chocolate until melted completely. Cool the chocolate slightly.

Cover another baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove patties 3-5 at a time from freezer and submerge into melted chocolate. Coat quickly and allow excess chocolate to drip off. I used a fork to lift the patties out, but this did not prevent chocolate from ending up all over my left hand. Place patties on parchment paper and sprinkle with crushed candies.

Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour at room temperature or 5 minutes in the fridge. Store in fridge, between wax paper in an airtight container.

Source: adapted from Blue Eyed Bakers

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

You know what's great about the holiday season? Being able to give and share things with the people you love. And while I love giving gifts (Lord knows I've overspent myself this year), there's something special about giving something home-made.

So over the next week, I'm challenging myself to write a post every day with goodies that I'm giving to friends and sharing to family. I mean... I gotta make up for the severe lack in posting over the past couple months... right? Actually, a big part of it is also to see if I can actually do it; it will definitely be a challenge because I am very busy this week!

Can you see all those vanilla bean flecks? YUM! I think this vanilla bean caramel sauce is one of the most fantastic things to give to friends. Who can go wrong with caramel sauce? Warm it up and top some ice cream with it, drizzle it on cookies or brownies, heck- eat it out of the jar (I have been known to do so, and I'm not ashamed). This is a wonderfully easy caramel recipe to make, and if you've had difficulties with caramel in the past, try this one!

Check out my post on Apple Caramel Cake to see where I've used this caramel sauce before!

Yield: about 2 cups or 10 4 oz. jars (although I only filled them with 3 oz.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or the seeds from 1 1/2 vanilla bean pods

If you've ever done canning before, you know you need to boil the jars and lids you're using to not only sterilize them, but to keep them hot so that when you fill them with whatever you're using (ie. caramel sauce, jam, salsa, fruit, etc.) a proper seal can be created. The seal is what keeps air out and helps preserve the filling (amongst other things). So, before you start with the caramel sauce, fill a large pot of water with 10 mason jars, with the lids off. Make sure that they are completely submerged under the water. In another smaller pot, cover the lids and screw tops with water. Bring both pots to a boil and keep the jars and lids in the pots until you are ready to fill them.

For the caramel, in a medium saucepan with high sides, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/2 cup water. Stir the mixture gently so you don’t slosh any of it up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high, stop stirring, and allow the mixture to boil. Once it begins to turn a rich caramel color (if you don’t want to eyeball it, take the caramel to 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer), remove it from the heat quickly and add the cream slowly. While adding the cream, make sure to whisk the mixture constantly, but be careful, as it bubbles up ferociously. Once the bubbles have subsided, add in the butter cubes and stir until butter is melted. Add in the vanilla bean paste and stir until thoroughly combined.

Carefully pour desired amount of caramel sauce into each jar. Wipe the tops of the jars to ensure that there is nothing in the way to prevent the lids from sealing properly.

If you don't can the caramel sauce, you can save it,  tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to several weeks (not sure on an exact time line, I've had it up to 3 weeks later and it was completely fine). Unfortunately, as this is the first time I've canned caramel sauce, I'm not entirely sure how long it lasts, or if it needs to be refrigerated. I'm refrigerating mine to be safe, but I imagine that while the seal remains unbroken, it should last for quite a long time.   Pin It

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Brown Butter Pumpkin Caramel Cupcakes

Hey everyone! Oh how I've missed having the time to spend on this blog! Likely I could be spending my time more wisely right now, but what the heck, it's almost 10:30, and I'm gonna whip out this post and then go to bed! Such is the life of a graduate student... all work no play these days. But, with much anticipation, bubbling feelings of pure joy, and more excitement than I've had in awhile, I WILL BE DONE my first semester of grad school by this Friday!!!!!! One more paper to go, some finishing touches on a take-home exam, and then freeeedom!

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to having some time off after these past few weeks. Time that I can put towards visiting my friends and family, baking delicious Christmas goodies, cleaning (yes, I said I'm looking forward to cleaning- Sean says I'm slightly anal when it comes to keeping things clean and tidy, however I can tell you that has NOT been the case the last few weeks), and relaxing! Not to mention I can't wait for Christmas to be here, and Sean's birthday! For those of you who don't know, his birthday is on Christmas day, which frankly I can't think of one good thing about the timing of that other than it's a guaranteed time to be with family.

I actually made these cupcakes a couple weeks ago for one of my last classes. They were very yummy, albeit a little dense; I would recommend filling the liners only 1/2-2/3 so that in the end there is a good balance between cake and icing. I topped the cupcakes off with hard caramel. It's simple enough: you make caramel syrup as you normally would and then set it aside for a few minutes to cool and harden. Once it's at the consistency of honey, you can dip a spoon in and flick, drizzle, dollop- whatever design you want onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let it harden and then peel it off, as good as that!

P.S. I apologize for the poor picture quality (not that mine is fabulous in the first place), but with having limited time I was only able to snap a few pictures very quickly in the evening when there was no natural lighting anymore :(

Yield: 14-16 cupcakes
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4-1/3 cup caramel sauce, store-bought or home-made
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

*This makes quite a bit of icing for 12 cupcakes. I multiplied it by 1.5 to frost 24 cupcakes, and there was still extra, so unless you love tons of frosting (and I mean lots!), I would cut the recipe by a quarter.
*For a good recipe on caramel sauce, check out my post on Apple Caramel Cake.
*The caramel used for decorations is not quite the same as this recipe. 1) You don't need nearly this amount, so you can cut it significantly. 2) You stop before adding the heavy cream or butter, that changes it from caramel syrup to sauce.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Add the butter to a medium saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted it will bubble and get a white foam on top. Eventually this will reduce and the butter will turn brown and smell nutty. You may begin to see brown bits sitting at the bottom, this is good and you want to use those for the cupcakes. However, watch it carefully, for it can turn from brown to burnt quickly. Once it's complete pour the butter into a small bowl and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In a second larger bowl mix the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and cooled brown butter. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until just combined.

Divide the batter among the liners, filling each about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until when tested with a toothpick it comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks and let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes in the pans before removing them to the racks to cool completely.

For the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy with the paddle attachment. Gradually add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time (unless you want it to explode all over your counter- ahem) until you reach your desired consistency. Add in your caramel, vanilla and salt and beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. If frosting is not firm enough, simply add more powdered sugar or refrigerate until firm.

Frost and garnish cooled cupcakes as desired.

Source: Tracey's Culinary Adventures

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Toffee Pumpkin Whole Wheat Pancakes

Wow, it has been an outrageous amount of time since my last post, my sincerest apologies! Things have gotten really crazy around here, and I just haven't had the time or energy to not only write a post, but also actually make some interesting and new dishes. I've been stuck making things that are easy, convenient, and not necessairly always the healthiest. Between massive amounts of school work and intense assignments (getting close to the end of the semester), the pup, getting a cold (although minor), dealing with iron deficiences (partly my fault- I'm terrible at consistently taking my iron pills), and attempting to work through some interpersonal problems, my life has been pretty hectic! When I have some time to relax, I usually veg-out in front of the tube.

But enough of that, here's something really delicious! If you like pancakes, and if you like pumpkin, this is totally up your alley! Simple, healthy (for the most part), and appealing to your sweet tooth with the toffee bits... you gotta make these! They're also do really well frozen and reheated as a quick breakfast option- but the absolute key to reheating frozen or refridgerated pancakes is you MUST toast them. This brings back the crispiness of the pancake so you're not left with something dull and floppy. That's just gross.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup canned or pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix from the can)
1 large egg
2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
toffee skor bits to taste (optional- trust me though, you want to include them)

In a medium bowl, combine your flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In a seperate bowl, mix together your pumpkin, egg, buttermilk, vanilla and oil.

Combine your wet and dry ingredients until just mixed (do not overmix, it's ok if there's some clumps left).

Heat a skillet to medium low heat and spray lightly with cooking spray. Spoon batter into skillet, and sprinkle a small handful of toffee bits on top of pancake prior to flipping.

Cook for a few minutes until the pancake fills with bubbles and the edges start to dry and appear lightly brown. Flip and cook second side for 1-2 minutes. Pancakes will be fairly solid and easily moved when done.

Pancakes can be served immediately, but also store well in the fridge or freezer. Let cool completely before adding to a freezer style bag to store.

Source: slightly adapted from Love From The Oven Pin It

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's a Monster Mash!

I was working in the lab late one night, When my eyes beheld an eerie site. For my monster from his slab began to rise, And suddenly to my surprise... He did the mash! The monster mash!
Happy Halloween everyone! I know it's tomorrow but I couldn't resist posting these cookies today. I finished them in the nick of time, which definitely placed a strain on my school work (for those of you who have made royal icing sugar cookies, you know they are extremely time-consuming). I certainly could have chosen more simplistic designs; instead of doing all the monsters you see I could have kept to the spider web, tombstone, pumpkin and a few others. But, what fun would that be? Then we wouldn't have a monster mash for Halloween, and everybody knows there HAS to be monsters at Halloween.

Actually, I admit that choosing these characters was out of sheer creative laziness. I bought these fantastic cookie cutters through Avon a month or two ago, found here, and when it came down to using them or my equally new Wilton Halloween cutters that I got for my birthday, I chose these because the design was already there. I think my brain was zonked from writing a community needs assessment paper, and so I picked the easy way out. However! I would like to note that just because these were easier doesn't mean they took less time; quite the opposite in fact!

The Frankenstein definitely turned out to be my favourite out of the bunch (as I'm sure most of you gathered from seeing my Instagram preview). I love the different facial expressions he got with the addition of big bushy eyebrows. Sean pointed out that the mummies looked like a possessed (my addition) Michelin man. Nottt exactly the look I was going for, but I still like them. Speaking of Instagram, for those of you who wish to follow me, my username is michelleliehmann, and I'm slightly ashamed to say that I had to track down my phone to figure that out. I ALSO have to put in my email address every time I log into Twitter (which isn't too often) because I forget my username there, which is michellelieh3.

You can't really tell from the pictures, but I used lustre dust for the first time on the ghosts, collars of the Draculas capes, and some of the bats wings. It was the first time I used lustre dust and I think it added a really special touch; just a bit of shimmer to take things up a notch. I actually really liked the tombstones too, I thought the textured look of the stone added some interest (this may or may not have been because the icing was too thick to flood and looked like crap, and I was too lazy to thin it, so instead I got creative and dragged a toothpick through to make it look like rough stone). I'm actually glad it happened that way!

For those of you who are interested in making sugar cookies with royal icing, check out my post on Baby Shower Cookies. Have a spooky and safe Halloween everyone!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Chocolate Covered Marshmallows

Chocolate covered marshmallows have to be one of my most favourite treats. I'm not talking about covering store-bought marshmallows with chocolate, I'm talking about the kind that comes individually wrapped for special holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day. You can't go wrong with a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate balanced out with a soft and fluffy sweet marshmallow filling.

If you're like me, these treats are for you! The recipe is very simple, but putting it all together is a bit of a challenge due to how quickly marshmallow starts to set. Ideally, you should have a helper who can smooth out the marshmallow in the molds as you go along and fill them. If not, you just have to work verrry quickly!

I only bought 2 chocolate molds, like the ones here and here, and still had enough marshmallow left over to fill an 8x8 pan. I didn't want to spend the money on more molds, but it would have been nice so I could have made more chocolate marshmallow lollies! For this kind of treat, you want to look for molds that are relatively deep, so that you can get a good amount of marshmallow in there!

Baker's semi-sweet chocolate, chips or wafers (I wouldn't recommend white chocolate after trying it) anywhere from 1/2 cup- 1 cup depending on how many molds you have
1-2 teaspoons vegetable shortening
candy/chocolate molds and lollipop sticks

4 1/2 teaspoons unflavoured gelatin powder
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
orange gel food dye (or preferred colour)
classic coating (3/4 powdered sugar, 1/4 cornstarch)

Place 1/2 cup of chocolate (cut into even small chunks if using baker's chocolate) in a heatproof bowl with 1 teaspoon vegetable shortening. Heat for short bursts in the microwave, starting with 30 seconds on 50% power. Stir after heating, and continue to heat on 50% power for 15 second bursts, stirring after each burst, until chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Spoon a small amount of chocolate into each mold and cover all of the surfaces. I found that using a silicone brush worked the best for this task. If using a clear mold, lift the mold tray above your head towards the light, and any spots that have too thin of a chocolate layer will show through. You don't want the layer to be thick, but you do want it to be thick enough to hold the marshmallow without breaking. Once finished, set aside in the refrigerator to firm up.

For the marshmallow, lightly coat an 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray (if using between 2 and 5 molds).

Whisk together the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl and let soften for 5 minutes. In a medium saucepan over high heat, stir together the sugar, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup, water and salt. Boil, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F. Meanwhile, pour remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Microwave the gelatin on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds. Pour it into the mixer bowl and set on low speed.

When the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, slowly pour it into the mixer bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes. Beat on the highest setting for 1 to 2 minutes more and beat in the vanilla; the finished marshmallow will be opaque white, fluffy and tripled in volume. If colouring the marshmallow, add in dye at this point and beat until thoroughly mixed through. Scoop some of the marshmallow into a large piping bag fitted with either a plain round tip or left empty. Remove the mold trays from the refrigerator, and pipe a small amount into each mold. This is where it's handy to have a second hand if you're filling a lot of molds. Insert lollipop sticks and quickly smooth the tops of the marshmallows with an offset spatula to create a nice even surface. *You want to leave a little room at the top to cover with chocolate. Set aside for 1 hour.

With the remaining marshmallow, pour into the prepared pan and smooth with an offset spatula again. Sift classic coating evenly and generously over top (about 1/4 cup). Let set for at least 6 hours, uncovered in a dry, cool place. Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan and invert the pan onto a coating-dusted work surface. Cut into whatever sizes or shapes you prefer, and dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more coating, patting off the excess.

To finish the molds, repeat the melting of the chocolate process described earlier. Spoon a small amount of the melted chocolate over top the marshmallow, smooth over while ensuring to cover every part of the marshmallow. Return to the fridge for at least a half hour to set. To remove the chocolate marshmallow lollipops, push on the underside of the mold to pop them out, like you would with ice cubes in an ice cube tray.

Source: marshmallows from Marshmallow Madness by Shauna Sever

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Apple Caramel Cake

This is truly a phenomenal cake. I saw it on Pinterest a month or two ago, and knew immediately that it was what I would be making for my birthday cake (several weeks ago now). When Mom asked me what kind of cake I would like her to make, I stated quite firmly that there would be no cake-making on her part, as I had something special in mind. Her initial protests of 'but it's your birthday!' shortly turned to 'well that's wonderful, I don't have to make something then!' were fine by me!

Not only did the flavours completely appeal to me, but the complexity of the recipe did. Complexity isn't exactly the right word... it wasn't a difficult cake to make, but very time-consuming with all of the components needed- IF you're making them all from scratch. Which of course, I had to. And boy I'm glad I did. This was one of the best cakes I have ever tasted. I try to stay away from saying those extremes so they don't lose meaning, but I do believe I enjoyed it more than my lemon blueberry cake filled with lemon curd (which you didn't get to see because it fell apart in transit- boo).

This cake had me begging for seconds. Because it was so tall, and with eating it not too long after Thanksgiving dinner, even the thinnest piece was more than enough for me. It was actually terribly disappointing to not be able to have a second piece due to honestly being too full. This would have been one time where I felt no shame in taking a second slice.

The apple flavour was a little more subtle than I would have liked, but it was definitely still there. Rather, the cake had more of a spiced cake flavour (probably due to all the spices!) which was perfectly fall-appropriate. By adding a layer of caramel to each cake layer, combined with the caramel buttercream really had the caramel shining through, but not in an overpowering way. Actually, I kind of wished I had put just a little more caramel on the cake layers. The cake itself was dense and wonderfully moist. All in all, I adored this cake. I'm thrilled that I have a little bit left stored in my freezer for later.

I would highly suggest making this cake! And if you have the time, make each component yourself. It's actually quite doable if you spread it over 2-3 days by making the apple sauce the day before, and the caramel can even be made a couple days before (as long as it's brought to room temp before using). The apple sauce was divine; because I made the full recipe of apple sauce and a smaller recipe for the cake, I had about a cup left over. I'm pretty sure that cup was gone before the sauce was even cooled it was that good! It tasted like apple pie. I would probably make the apple sauce again just on its own. The caramel was delicious, but how can you go wrong with caramel? Oh wait, there are lots of ways to go wrong in the cooking process! This however, was the first recipe where I didn't botch it at all, and it turned out perfect. I haven't seen the use of corn syrup before, so maybe that made a difference, I'm not sure. Either way, the leftover caramel syrup didn't last long in my house either because I was busy putting it on ice cream, dipping apple slices into it and [I'm not even ashamed to say because it was so good] eating it by the spoonful. MAKE IT! And the Italian Meringue Buttercream I shouldn't even have to speak to, because you should all know by now that with how many times I've used it, it's my favourite!

For the Applesauce:
3 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and quartered
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 cups apple cider
3/4 cups apple juice
2 tablespoons of brandy (optional)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, bring the apple cider over medium-high heat to a soft boil. Boil the apple cider until it reduces down to about 1/4 cup. This may take anywhere from 35-50 minutes (took mine about 45 minutes). This produces an intensely flavoured apple cider concentrate.

In a medium-large saucepan, combine all ingredients, and stir to combine. Cover the saucepan, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a potato masher or a hand blender to your desired consistency. Chill sauce to room temperature before adding to cake batter (see recipe below).
For the Cake:
4 cups all-purpose flour          (3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking soda         (1 1/2 tsp)
1 teaspoons baking powder     (3/4 tsp)
1 teaspoon salt                         (3/4 tsp)
1 teaspoons cinnamon            (1 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice  (1/4 + 1/8 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves   (1/4 + 1/8 tsp)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature  (1 cup + 2 tbsp)
2 1/2 cups sugar                      (2 cups minus 2 tbsp)
2 large eggs                             (2 eggs)
4 cups homemade applesauce (see recipe above) or store-bought unsweetened applesauce (3 cups)

Preheat the oven to 325-degrees. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans (or if cutting recipe down, then use 6-inch pans) using butter or shortening, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and grease the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves together into a large bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined.

Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

*Note: The original recipe produced 3 thicker 8-inch layers. I anticipated the same result by cutting the recipe down; however, the recipe still produced a huge amount of batter. Each layer was high enough that it required quite a bit longer than 45 minutes (if I remember, closer to an hour) to bake, and also they needed to be cut in half before assembling. This produced 6 perfect sized layers; however 6 layers would have made the cake just a little too high and so I only used 5 and made a mini cake with the 6th layer and the remaining frosting.

For the Caramel Sauce:
Yield: about 2 cups
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 ½ cups heavy cream

In a medium saucepan with high sides, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/2 cup water. Stir the mixture gently so you don’t slosh any of it up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high, stop stirring, and allow the mixture to boil. Once it begins to turn a rich caramel color (if you don’t want to eyeball it, take the caramel to 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer), remove it from the heat quickly and add the cream slowly. Be careful as it bubbles up ferociously. Once the bubbles have subsided, add in the butter cubes and stir until butter is melted and thoroughly combined.

You can save the caramel sauce, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to several weeks (not sure on an exact time line, I was still eating it nearly 3 weeks later). 

For the Caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream
2 1/4 cups sugar, divided (1 cup 2 tbsp each)
6 tablespoons water (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp)
6 large egg whites, at cool room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

Over medium heat, bring water and 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of the sugar to a boil. Cover the pot and let boil for 2-3 minutes to wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pot. Remove cover and cook until the sugar syrup reaches 248 degrees, F.

In the meantime, fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. On medium speed, whip egg whites, salt and lemon juice until foamy. Add the reserved sugar and beat to medium-stiff peaks. Try to time this so the sugar water and the whites are ready at the same time.

When the sugar has reached 248 degrees, F and the whites are at medium-stiff peaks, with the mixer on medium-high, carefully pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream down the inside of the bowl. Whip until cool, about 8-10 minutes.

Feel the mixing bowl, it should feel like it's room temperature. Add the butter 2 tbsp at a time, whipping until each piece is completely incorporated before adding another piece. The icing might start to look a little curdled, or conversely, feel like soft marshmallow fluff, but it should come together nicely by the time you have added all the butter. You should be able to see the consistency start to change, and the magical change occurs when you've reached the right combination of butter and time (sometimes I'm able to get away with not adding in all the butter required). Once the frosting has changed consistency to beautifully whipped, add in 1/3 cup of the caramel sauce that was made earlier (or store-bought). Give it a taste and if you decide you'd like a bit more caramel, go for it!

If desired, tort each cake layer in half, and level off the tops if needed. Put a thin layer of caramel sauce on the layers and then spread caramel buttercream on top. Next, add another layer of cake and frost as you did with the first layer. Place the last layer on top bottom side up. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the entire cake (crumb coat) and place the cake on the fridge for 20 minutes, or until the buttercream has become firm. Remove the cake from the fridge and use the remaining frosting to ice the top and sides. An easy technique for getting beautifully smooth sides when using buttercreams, particularly Swiss or Italian Meringue, is to run your spatula under hot water, then dry it off before smoothing the frosting. The heat from the spatula slightly melts the buttercream, creating a smooth surface. Rinse and dry the spatula frequently. Use the remaining caramel to drizzle over the top. Add chopped peanuts, if desired.

Source: Apple Sauce, Caramel Sauce and Cake taken from The Great Cake Company, Buttercream from my post on Strawberry Cupcakes

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Glaze

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but one of my favourite fall flavours is pumpkin, tied with apple caramel and then maple syrup. I've been looking forward to being able to bake with pumpkin all year, and was so excited to try using it with cinnamon rolls! This was in large part due to the fact that I have never made cinnamon rolls before, and have been waiting for a good time to make them, as I can't very well make 12 rolls for just Sean and I! (Although I've come up with a plan, to be discussed shortly)

These rolls were fantastic, and perfect for brunch! They were light and fluffy, and definitely had me going back for seconds. I didn't find that I could taste the pumpkin flavour that much, and so because I really enjoy that flavour I'll use just a tad more pumpkin pie spices in the mix to enhance it. And this is the type of breakfast that you don't need to feel [too] guilty over- it's almost half whole wheat and has over a cup of pumpkin puree in it. I mean, it's practically healthy!

It was really fun making these. I've made several bread doughs before, but never experienced what it was like to roll out dough and really work with it. It's quite the unique experience for those who haven't tried it! I'm not sure how to describe it, but there's something really special about getting your hands on a warm fluffy mound of dough and then smashing the air out, followed by rolling it out with a pin. I can't wait to try it again!

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
scant 1 cup pumpkin puree (if using store-bought, make sure to buy the plain puree and not the pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 tablespoon dry yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups while flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (for those of you whole can't find pumpkin pie spice, or when you do realize it's stinkin' expensive, it's very simple to make. You can find a recipe through Annie's Eats)

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2-1 cup brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract
pinch of salt

Combine butter and milk in a sauce pan and heat on low until butter has melted. Once butter has melted, add sugar and stir well to combine, until sugar is melted. Remove from heat to let cool.

Add yeast to 2 tablespoons warm water (make sure it's not too hot, just warm to the touch). Let the yeast dissolve into the water.
Once butter, milk and sugar has cooled down to warm (not hot), combine it with the yeast and water mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add in pumpkin puree, flour, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir to combine; you may need to work the ingredients together with your hands to fully incorporate flour.

Once combined, set bowl, covered with a towel, in a warm draft free spot for 1-2 hours to rise. I find the most effective way to do this is to heat your oven for 1-2 minutes until it has just warmed up. Then, place a small bowl of boiled water directly underneath the bowl with the dough in it (in the oven). Heat and moisture creates the best environment for dough to proof.

After dough has risen (it should double in size), punch it down and prepare to roll it out. Cover your work surface in flour and set dough on surface. Knead dough six to seven times. Roll out with a rolling pin into a large rectangle. If dough is sticky, add a bit of flour to it, as well as your rolling pin.

Once dough is rolled out, brush softened butter over dough. Sprinkle on cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice followed by brown sugar.

Tightly roll dough up, starting from edge furthest from you. (Roll tighter than mine if you can!)

Continue to roll until you've reached the end. Slice cinnamon rolls into 12 even pieces.

Set cinnamon rolls in a greased 9x13 pan. At this point you can bake your rolls, cover and refridgerate for 24 hours, or place in the freezer to be used later. The latter is what I did. I individually wrapped each piece in saran wrap, and then put it into a freezer bag. If using from frozen, remove from the freezer and let thaw for at least an hour and a half to two hours. You want them to be at room temperature and starting to rise a little bit again, so it may take over an hour. If using from the fridge, take them out about 30-45 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the cinnamon rolls for 18-25 minutes, until tops are golden brown and centers look firm. Remove from oven and let cool for approx. 5 minutes.

While the cinnamon rolls are cooling, mix up glaze by combining milk, powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla and maple extracts, and salt in a bowl and mix well. The glaze should be pourable. If it's too think, add a little bit of milk at a time.

Pour the glaze over cinnamon rolls. Serve immediately or allow to sit. Store covered.

Source: slightly adapted from Love From The Oven

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Lady Baltimore Cake

I was enlisted by my mother to make a Birthday cake for my Oma (grandma) recently, who just turned 89 years old! Wowza- and that's nothing if you compare her to my Opa, who is now 93! I have to admire them, they are still living in their home with not much support other than a house keeper and the occasional drop-ins from family. Unfortunately that doesn't mean they're doing great anymore, and so we cherish the times that we do have together.

I had a lot of things go wrong with this cake- so I can't honestly comment on how it might have turned out had everything go smoothly. For starters, the raspberry curd that I was going to use for the filling never thickened up as much as I wanted to. I attempted to thicken it further by cooking it down more and creating a slurry (mixture of cold water and corn starch) to add in, which seemed like it might have worked at first. However, for some reason later on clumps of cornstarch started appearing (despite my using the correct slurry) and you could taste the cornstarch. So if anybody has any hints or tips as to why this happened, you can let me know. THEN, I didn't read the directions properly and failed to whip the egg whites (added them into the butter-sugar mixture), which is what contributes to a light and fluffy cake. And lastly, about 5 minutes into baking the cake I accidentally turned the oven off without realizing it until 20 minutes later, so I'm not sure how that affected things. Regardless, the cake tasted fine but was somewhat dense and a little dry- which I attribute to the non-whipped egg whites and the baking time.

ANYWAYS, I imagine that the cake would taste amazing if done correctly, so I'm still going to give you the recipe! I divided the original recipe to fit 2 6-inch pans (to make a 4 layer cake). You also can use really whatever you'd like for the filling, but I think something light and fruity works best. I used a Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream that I have used many times before, which you can find in my post on Strawberry Cupcakes. Simply multiply the recipe by 1.5 x if using a different filling for the cake, and you will have enough.

Yield: 1 9-inch cake
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
grated zest of one lemon
3 cups cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
6 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 9-inch cake pans with shortening or butter and line bottom with parchment paper. Grease on top of the parchment paper and flour lightly.

Cream butter, sugar and lemon zest together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl and set aside.

Combine milk, water and vanilla. Add a third of the flour mixture to creamed butter mixture, alternating with the milk mixture until everything is incorporated. Beat until just smooth.

Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff and gently fold into batter. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The cakes shouldn’t get very brown on top. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then transfer cakes to wire wracks to cool completely.

Source: Sing for Your Supper

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Birthday Specialty!

Happy Birthday to me! And to one of my best friends Jaylene! We share a unique bond. Can you guess what? Our birthdays are the same! Let me tell you a story. Jaylene and I met on the first day of University (not technically the first day), but the day that we were scheduled to move into our residences. We we sharing the same rez suite; I was lucky enough to have a single room and Jaylene had a double room with one of her best friends from home, who also grew to be one of my closest friends, Robyn. In the next days to come, we discovered that we shared the same birthday. Over the years we became closer and closer, and found more and more similarities between our families (primarily that both our mother's shared pretty much the same person and were kind of identical in most respects).

A bittersweet turn to the story happened just in the last few months. Jaylene and I (and Robyn) went our separate ways. Robyn stayed in Ottawa to work and continue schooling, I moved to London to do my Masters degree, and Jaylene moved back to her hometown (temporarily) before leaving to teach English in South Korea just last week! This is the first time in 6 years that we haven't been together for our birthday :(, but we are both doing such amazing things (although I think I'm more jealous of what she's doing now that I've got a crap load of work to do).

So I decided to celebrate (somewhat) online by making confetti cupcakes and sweet sugar cookies for our birthday. While Jaylene couldn't enjoy the spoils, she was able to see the pictures and my classmates got the spoils! P.S. Forgive my crappy picture taking, there may be several posts like this. Lately I'll finish something late at night and then only have a very short amount of time in the wee-early hours of the morning to take pictures, so lighting has been abominable.

The cupcakes were interesting- not in a bad way, they were very tasty! I may have kept them in the oven a minute too long, I'm not sure, but the tops of the cupcakes became a little crispy. Upon doing a quality control test Sean deemed that they were the best cupcakes he'd had because he liked the texture so much. They were topped with a sweet and airy simple American Buttercream... yum! If you're interested in making decorated sugar cookies, check out this post on Baby Shower Cookies.

Yield: 24 cupcakes
1 cup milk, room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Whisk the milk, egg whites, vanilla and almond extracts together in a medium-sized bowl.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed briefly to combine. Cut the butter into 6 pieces and add them to the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until the mixture is coarse and sandy. Add milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Scrape sides of bowl and continue beating for 20-30 seconds. Use a spatula to gently fold in the sprinkles.

Divide the batter evenly among the wells 1/2- 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and allow them to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream (American)
2 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Stir the heavy cream, vanilla extract and salt together in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on med-high speed until smooth. With the mixer on low, slowly add the powdered sugar until it is completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the heavy cream mixture. Increase the mixer to medium speed and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. If the frosting is too soft, simply add more powdered sugar, and vice versa if it is too stiff, add more heavy cream.

Sources: Cupcakes from Baking Bites and Frosting from Cooks Illustrated via Tracey's Culinary Adventures Pin It

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spiced Apple Pecan Oatmeal

I love love love dried apples, the kind seen in the background of the picture above. I remember my Opa (Grandpa for those not familiar with German/European languages) drying apples with some ufo-looking device when I was younger. And oh how I enjoyed those apple slices! Moist, chewy, almost gummy in texture, they're packed full of flavour and great for putting in oatmeal, or as I like them best, just alone as a snack!

This is a great breakfast that's very simple to make. It's the kind of oatmeal that 'sticks to your ribs', ie. meaning, it's pretty pasty/gummy. I don't mean that in an unappetizing way, some people love their oatmeal this way, including Sean. Personally it's not my favourite, I prefer the kind of oatmeal from Quaker  (ah-hem, yes, the instant oatmeal packages) where the oats are still in existence after cooking them. However, the flavour was great and it made enough to last Sean and I for the next several mornings.

2 tablespoons chopped pecans
3 cups apple juice
3 cups milk
2 cups uncooked regular oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apples
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (half cinnamon, half sugar mixture)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
brown sugar or maple syrup for topping

Toast pecans in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 5-6 minutes or until toasted. Remove pecans and wipe pot clean.

Bring juice, milk, oats, dried apples and salt to a boil in pot over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in cinnamon sugar, vanilla and toasted pecans. Serve immediately. If desired, sprinkle with brown sugar or drizzle with maple syrup for extra goodness. 

Source: Joanna L. Smith, Maylene, Alabama,  via My Recipes Pin It

Monday, September 24, 2012

Whole Wheat Cheese Bread


My head has finally made in into fall. Perhaps it's the turn of weather from beautiful, hot sunny days to absolutely freezing days (I don't exaggerate, this morning my thermometer said 2 degrees C). Regardless, one of the things I immediately think of when fall hits is warm homemade bread, and if that's combined with a hearty soup like corn chowder or chili, it's even better! The smell of freshly baked bread filling your house is amazing, and if it's cheese bread, you can smell it even more. This was one dish that I was so excited to cut into, and when I did, it definitely did not let down. It doesn't take a lot of work, just more time to let the dough rise, so it's perfect for a side to a dinner meal. The only tricky part is kneading all of those lovely chunks of cheese into the bread. Trust me, you'll want to use chunks and not grate the cheese, or else the cheese just kind of dissolves into the bread, and that's not what you want!!
Yield: 2 loaves
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1/3 cup oil (vegetable or canola)
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups old cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
extra Parmesan and cheddar cheese grated, for topping

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the water, yeast, oil and salt with a rubber spatula. Beat in egg, followed by Parmesan cheese. Stir in white flour until just combined. Add in whole wheat flour, and using the dough hook attachment for the stand mixer, knead at low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead just long enough to make the dough is soft and smooth, then shape into a ball.

Place the dough in a lightly greased glass bowl and cover with a tea towel. Heat oven to 350 degrees F for 2 minutes, then turn off, until oven is just warmed. At the same time, boil some water. Place boiled water in a small bowl, and then onto the lower rack in the oven. Place the dough bowl in the oven on the higher rack, directly above the bowl with steaming water (warmth and moisture produce the best environment for the dough to rise). Let the dough proof for 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Remove from oven and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in the cubed cheddar cheese until well distributed (because the cheese is cubed, this step is a little challenging). Divide into 2 equal portions. At this time, it is possible to wrap the dough up and freeze for a later date.

Shape each portion into a loaf, and place seam side down in 2 well greased and floured 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan. Again, warm the oven momentarily and have boiled water ready so that the dough may rise for another 45-60 minutes, or until dough has risen above the top of the pan in the centre and corners are filled. Sprinkle tops of loaves with Parmesan and cheddar cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees F on lower oven rack for 30-35 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks. And do me a favour, cut yourself a slice while it's still warm, and top it with a bit of butter. Heaven.

Source: adapted from Robin Hood Pin It

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mini Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake

Please don't hate on me because it's now fall and I'm posting a very summery dessert;, scout's honour, I made this in August and it's just taken me awhile to post it. So many other food bloggers pounce on the first opportunity possible to make fall-inspired dishes (think apples and pumpkins). And while I too am eager for these flavours, particularly pumpkin (which I have been dreaming about since last fall), I'm equally reluctant to let go of summer days. In fact, I may still be in slight denial that it's now fall. Don't mistake me, fall is actually my favourite season next to summer, but right now it's inevitably making me think of winter, which is just downright depressing.

So, without much further ado I present the last summery dessert until next summer (*tear). These mini cheesecakes were absolutely delightful. A perfectly light and refreshing cheesecake, with a subtle tang from the lemon and raspberry. And if you don't get all cheesecake-crazed, they make for the perfect amount to last 2 days. However, I do know some people (*ahem- Sean) who would be glad to eat the whole cheesecake in one sitting. And if that's your style, go for it! I don't judge.

Yield: 2 4-inch cakes 
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 tablespoon sugar

8 oz cream cheese (1 package)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of 3/4 of a lemon
1 egg

1 cup raspberries, fresh
2-3 tablespoons sugar (depending on tartness)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar in medium sized bowl until combined. Mixture should be at the consistency that if you pinch it between your fingers, it stays together. If it immediately falls apart, it needs more butter.

Put 1/2 cup of the crust mixture into the bottom of 4-inch springform pans. Use your fingers or a flat instrument to help press and smooth the crust down. Bake the crust in oven for 5 minutes. Once finished, set aside and let cool completely.

In a medium sized bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy using a hand mixer. Add in sugar, and mix until combined, making sure to scrape down the sides. Add sour cream, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add in the egg and mix well, scraping sides again.

Take your cooled pans and wrap the bottom and sides tightly with foil. Use multiple pieces if necessary. This is to ensure that no water leaks through (trust me, soggy crusts aren't attractive-- although they usually firm up if you wait a day or two). Divide cheesecake batter in half and fill each pan.

Place pans in a 9 x 13 baking dish (or any other dish that fits both pans). Place the dish first in the oven, and then fill with hot water, about 1 1/2 inches (or 1/2 of the way up the springform pans. This helps promote even baking and less chances of cracking). Bake cheesecakes for 35 minutes or until set but still wiggly. If doubling the recipe and making a 9-inch cheesecake, bake for 70 minutes.

Once finished, carefully remove the entire pan from the oven. Leave the cheesecakes in the pan with the hot water still in it, until the water has cooled almost completely (by gradually cooling the cheesecakes, again there is less chance of cracking). Once water is cooled, remove cheesecakes and unwrap from foil. Cool cheesecakes completely, then refrigerate.

To make the raspberry sauce, use a mini food processor to blend the raspberries. Strain the sauce using a fine meshed sieve to remove any seeds. Place strained sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk in lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer and let sauce reduce for 5-7 minutes. Remove several teaspoons of sauce and place in small bowl. Whisk the cornstarch into the small bowl. Once cornstarch lumps no longer remain, stir the cornstarch mixture back into the saucepan. Stir constantly for another minute or two, until sauce thickens considerably. Remove and let cool completely.

Spoon cooled raspberry sauce onto cheesecakes, while still in the springform pan. Refrigerate cheesecakes for 4 hours, and upwards to 24 (cheesecake needs to rest and develop the flavours!).

To remove cheesecake from the pan, run a knife around the edge of the cake. Release the springform pan and force it to go larger. Carefully remove. Garnish with fresh raspberries and lemon zest swirl.

Source: slightly adapted from: Baked by Rachel

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Thursday, September 13, 2012


While I made these a few weeks ago, my mother's garden is still producing exorbitant amounts of delicious tomatoes, which she keeps attempting to pawn off on me. Don't get me wrong, I love free food, especially fresh produce, but after the 6th time being asked while still having a ton of tomatoes still in my fridge, I had no say no... multiple times. In an attempt to use some of them up, I had this amazingly flavourful and light bruschetta, clearly best served with fresh tomatoes!

On a different note, I just started classes this week! A little nerve-wracking after taking a year off and moving into a graduate program, but exciting nonetheless. It's going to be a ton of work, but worth it in the end when I get to write a 'MSW' beside my name. Yay!

3-4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped fairly finely
1 garlic clove, minced finely
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for later
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan, grated
salt and pepper
french baguette


Combine chopped tomatoes, minced garlic, basil, oregano, olive oil and Parmesan, and toss to coat. Let rest, covered in fridge for minimum of half an hour to let flavours meld.

To assemble: preheat oven to broil and set rack to the highest setting. Take sliced french baguette and brush top side lightly with olive oil, using a pastry brush. Place on baking sheet and broil for 3-4 minutes (watch carefully so as not to burn, as I did with one batch). Once toasted to a light brown, immediately top with fresh bruschetta mix. Serve while warm.

Source: A Sweet Treats & Healthy Eats Original (ideas taken from several different recipes).

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Doggy Cookies for Tucker!

So I had some leftover cookie dough sitting in my freezer that has been calling my name... and we just got the cutest darn puppy ever so why the heck not make doggy cookies in honour of him? I mean... how can I not make something for this little guy? Look at him!! Thanks to my older brother for producing some lovely photos of Tucker that I'm going to share now with you. He's a Toronto Wedding Photographer and does some really fantastic work!

AWW I just love the little monker so much! And am totally and completely jealous of my brother's natural gift to take beautiful photos. I know my cookies don't compare to the real thing... but I tried. If interested in making sugar cookies, check out this post. And yes, that's supposed to be him below, minus the pointy ears (which let's be honest, is his best feature).

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