Christmas Cookie Madness!

When you’ve been having a tough week, it really helps though when you call your parents and they tell you that they got you the gift of your dreams! Something I’ve been thinking about getting for the past couple of years. They bought a KitchenAid Stand Mixer! OMGS, I essentially combusted due to the excitement!

Sooo of course, once I got home I had to bake up a storm. Also, my Pinterest has been flooded with so many delicious looking Christmas cookies, that I just had to try a few different ones. The three I decided upon were: itty bitty sugar cookie sandwiches, light gingerbread, and brownie cookies.

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First, let’s talk about the mini sugar cookie sandwiches. This is a Baker’s Royale recipe I’ve made a few times now, and I really love it! It takes no time to mix up, bake, and fill. Another plus is that this recipe is egg-free, so if you have an allergy or just don’t have eggs around, this is the perfect recipe for you! I made the dough, rolled it in various sprinkles and sanding sugars, and baked at 350 for exactly 8 minutes. Put the cookies in the freezer to cool completely, and in the meantime, make your favourite vanilla buttercream. Once cooled, pipe some buttercream onto the centre of each cookie, and squish together with another cookie of a similar size. These are a classic at my house, now!

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The gingerbread cookies are actually more like gingerbread-spiced shortbread cookies. They have a very light spice flavor, while the shortbread texture and taste really comes through as well. I received this recipe from a family friend, and it was originally published in a children’s picture book called Gingerbread Mouse. I’m not a huge fan of legitimate gingerbread cookies, so these were perfect! I had some leftover buttercream from the sandwich cookies so I spread it on, and topped the cookie with green sanding sugar and a star sprinkle.

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Now for the masterpiece: Brownie Cookies! This recipe is modified from Bakerella’s “Comfort Cookies” post, and is honestly the best combination of brownies and cookies I have ever had. Go ahead and add any combination of nuts and chocolate chips, because the more stuff that’s in it, the better it will taste.

All three of these cookies make great gifts, tea time treats, and would be great to leave out for Santa!

Have a great Holiday Season, and see you soon!

-G

Itty Bitty Sugar Cookie Sandwiches

Source: Baker’s Royale

Makes 36 sandwiches

1 cup butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup icing sugar, 1/4 cup plain white sugar

1 tbsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups all purpose flour

Sanding sugar, or sprinkles, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Cream butter, sugars, salt until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat.

3. Add flour and beat until just combined.

4. Scoop by tsp and roll  into balls. Roll around in sanding sugar or sprinkles.

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until bottoms are golden.

6. Fill with buttercream (use any recipe you like), and make sandwiches.

Gingerbread-spiced Shortbread Cookies

Makes 24 large cookies

2 1/2 cups All purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon OR pumpkin pie spice

1 3/4 sticks butter (14 tbsp)

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1. Mix up dry ingredients.

2. Beat butter and sugar until creamy; then add egg and vanilla.

3. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out dough and chill until firm.

5. Use cookie cutters to make shapes, and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Brownie Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, mix flour, cocoa, soda and salt using a wire whisk and set aside.
  • In another bowl, cream butter, sugars and peanut butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and mix until combined.
  • Stir in dark chocolate chips.
  • Roll cookie dough into 1-1/4 inch balls. (If desired, roll balls in chopped pecans.)
  • Place on parchment paper covered baking sheet.
  • Bake 10 minutes.
  • Place cookies on cookie rack to cool.
  • Makes about 30 2-inch cookies.

Chocolate Pudding Mini Trifles

Bonjour! I’m supposed to be working on my Thesis Committee meeting presentation…buutttt instead, I made these Chocolate Pudding Mini Trifles. Okay, I’m not THAT bad, we’re having a holiday lunch tomorrow at the lab, and I said I would bring dessert. I am trying to convince myself that my procrastination is justified. It may or may not be working…

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Anyways, back to pudding! Pudding was my favourite lunch treat back when I was a child. But, of course, it was always from the little plastic cups. This was my first time ever making pudding, from scratch. There is no powder with unpronounceable chemicals involved! Only real ingredients like whole milk, chocolate, and love. This trifle has four simple components: chocolate pudding, vanilla whipped cream, brownies, and strawberries.

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To make the pudding, just go ahead and follow the tutorial on The Kitchn (http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-chocolate-pudding-from-scratch-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-195012). SUUUUUPERRR easy! Don’t be frightened! The recipe says it will feed 8, but because of all the extra stuff I added, I got 16 servings.

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For the bottom layer, I baked brownies, and crumbled them up. Feel free to used a mix here, that’s what I did. I know, I know.

I found these cute little plastic wine glasses at the dollar store (don’t judge), and thought they would make a perfect presentation! The first layer was a spoonful of brownie crumbs, then pudding, followed by strawberries, and whipped cream. I topped off each trifle with grated chocolate for some panache!

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This is a great treat for a potluck, or Christmas party.

I hope you try it, and let me know how it goes!

-G

How To Make Chocolate Pudding from Scratch

Makes 8 servings (4 cups)

What You Need

Ingredients
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
2 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Equipment
Cutting board
Sharp serrated knife
Large heatproof bowl
Whisk
3-quart (or larger) cooking pot
2-quart storage container
Plastic wrap or wax paper

Instructions

  1. Chop the chocolate: Use a serrated knife to chop the chocolate into fine flakes. Set aside.
  2. Make a slurry: In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly whisk in the cream, a little at a time, until you have a smooth mixture.
  3. Whisk in the eggs: Whisk the eggs into the cream and cornstarch mixture.
  4. Combine the milk and sugar: Pour the milk into a 3-quart (or larger) saucepan. Add the sugar and warm over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Bring the milk to a simmer: Bring to a light simmer over medium heat. Watch for the surface of the milk to vibrate and for bubbles to form around the edges of the pot.
  6. Temper the egg mixture: Pour most of the hot milk into the bowl of cream and egg yolks. Whisk until well-combined, then pour everything back into the pot.
  7. Bring the pudding to a full boil: Warm the combined pudding mixture over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a full boil. (It should look like lava boiling up!) At this point, the pudding will look much thicker.
  8. Cook the pudding for 2 minutes: After the pudding starts boiling, cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly and vigorously. Get your whisk into all corners of the pot.
  9. Flavor the pudding: After 2 minutes, remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Then add the chopped chocolate and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes or until melted. Whisk vigorously until the chocolate is fully incorporated.
  10. Chill the pudding: Spread the pudding in a storage container and press plastic wrap or wax paper directly onto the surface of the pudding. Cover with a lid and chill. Best eaten within 3 days.

THE Vanilla Cake

Hiiii! I know I haven’t posted anything for a few weeks, and I am so sorry! Sooo to compensate, I have for you CAKE! We recently celebrated a big birthday, and thus, a special birthday cake was in order for my brother.

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Every single year, about a month before his birthday, I ask my brother what kind of cake he wants. I’m always hatching a plan for an extravagant cake, and he always asks for a plain vanilla cake. Just a white cake with white frosting. No fancy decorations or fun flavour combinations. Being a pizzazz-loving person, I cannot accept this, so we usually end up getting him a store-bought vanilla cake.

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This year, I thought I would finally give in to his demands, and bake the plainest cake of all time. Luckily, it just so happens that I found a new vanilla cake recipe, which claims to be the “best”. I’m constantly on the hunt for a better recipe, and mayhaps this is it. I used this recipe that I had pinned on Pinterest a while back: http://sweetapolita.com/2012/06/how-to-make-a-perfectly-delightful-vanilla-birthday-cake/. It was just perfect! I often find that homemade vanilla cakes never really turn out as fluffy and as moist as store bought vanilla cakes, but this one was just to die for.  I made a 6” two layer round cake by halving the recipe. To make sure it stayed extra moist, I made a simple syrup of equal parts water and sugar, and brushed it on both layers after they cooled.

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To decorate it, I frosted the outside of the cake with our favourite fluffy buttercream, which is literally THE BEST. Oh, by the way, if you ever make it, and it ends up a teensy bit runnier than you would like it, just throw it in the freezer for 10 minutes, and it will firm up! For the frosting in the middle, I wanted to try this cool effect I saw on Foodgawker. I made a plain jane vanilla buttercream, and a Nutella buttercream (the recipes are below), and I piped concentric circles of alternating frostings. You want it to look like a target, and when you cut it, you will get a cool effect!

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Now, for the glitz! I was at the baking supply shop, and I found this edible silver dust (http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=pg_pearldust)! I made a stencil of a symbol that my brother wanted on his cake, and just dusted the silver dust on the surface of the cake with a metal sieve.

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It was a special day and a great cake! I hope this cake makes up for my absence, and I’ll see you again as soon as I can!

Enjoy,

G

THE Vanilla Cake

Adapted slightly from: http://sweetapolita.com/2012/06/how-to-make-a-perfectly-delightful-vanilla-birthday-cake/

Yield: One 2-layer, 6-inch round cake

Ingredients

¾ cup milk, at room temperature

3 egg whites, at room temperature

1 whole egg, at room temperature

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 ¾ cup flour + 2 tbsp corn starch, sifted

1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

3 tablespoons vegetable shortening

 

Simple Syrup

¼ cup water

¼ cup sugar

Combine, and heat in microwave until sugar is dissolved.

           

Instructions

1. Grease, line with parchment and flour two round 6-inch pans. I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment and flour two round 6-inch pans. I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease.

3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir 1/4 cup of the milk, stir the egg whites, whole egg, vanilla. Set aside.

4. Sift flour and cornstarch. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low-speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.

5. Add the butter and shortening, blending on low-speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 1/2 cup of milk, and mix on low-speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 -1/2 minutes (90 seconds), but no more.

6. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk/extract mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

7. Pour 1/2 of your batter into each prepared pan spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife.

8. Bake cake layers in center of oven and 20-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.

9. Once cool, brush on simple syrup.

Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream

(Source: Baker’s Royale)

Ices 2 layer 6” Cake

Ingredients:

3 egg whites

¾ cup sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed

tiny pinch of salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1) Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl placed over simmering water. Bring mixture to 150 degrees F while whisking constantly.

2) Transfer mixture to stand mixer bowl, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until mixture cools and doubles in volume.

3) Add butter one piece at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. Add salt and vanilla and mix to combine.   The frosting may appear to look separated, keep mixing and it will come together (this commonly happens when making Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Vanilla Buttercream

¼ cup butter

1 cup icing sugar

1/8 – ¼ tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp milk

Beat all ingredients together using an electric mixer.

Nutella Buttercream

¼ cup butter

1 cup icing sugar

2 tbsp Nutella

1/8 – ¼ tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp milk

Beat all ingredients together using an electric mixer.

Happy Pumpkin Spice Latte Season!

Heyloo! I hope you’re having an amazing weekend! It’s fall! The leaves are changing colour, the wind is blowing, we finally get to wear our cute peacoats and scarves. I love this time of year! A lot of blogs are featuring pumpkin recipes right now, and I thought we would jump on the bandwagon with a recipe for Pumpkin Crumb Cream Cheese muffins, and a homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL).

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This post was inspired by a recent visit to the land of warm fuzzy feelings (ie. Starbucks). I had gone to get a bottle of Cinnamon Dolce Syrup (I realize my love for this drink is getting out of hand), and noticed that the PSL was back for the season. My whole family really enjoys pumpkin desserts, and my Dad loves the PSL, so I thought I would attempt to concoct them both myself.

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The muffin recipe is from Annie’s Eats Blog, and the latte recipe was found on The Kitchn website. I chose to omit eggs, and in their place add a ripe banana. If you would like to add eggs, just replace the banana with two eggs. The pumpkin muffin is quite fluffy and has a surprise cheesecake-type filling in the middle. Topped off with the cinnamon sugar crumb, it’s the perfect combination of sweet, spicy, and creamy.

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Honestly, now that I know how easy it is to make a PSL at home, I will never buy it again! All you have to do is heat up milk with pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice (recipe below), coffee, and sugar. Easy peasy! Oh and b-t-dubs, if you want to enjoy these everyday, you can scale up the recipe to include a large amount of pumpkin puree, sugar, and spice, and freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray. Once completely frozen, store them in Ziploc bags in the freezer, and pop one into your hot milky coffee whenever the mood strikes!

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You should bake these muffins on a chilly fall morning and enjoy them with a homemade PSL, it will make you feel so cozy and warm.

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Along with PSL season comes the great colours of fall, the deep oranges and red of the trees, the rich purples and blues that come back into fashion. Strolling in leather boots, the breeze running through your hair; I could go on and on, but you’ll get bored. So, I’ll leave you with this great recipe. Enjoy!

-G

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Source: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-pie-spice-ii/

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cloves

Mix up these spices, and store.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Modified from: The Kitchn

Serves: 1 “tall”

1 1/2 cup milk

2 tbsp pumpkin puree

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (see recipe above)

1 tsp white sugar

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp instant coffee

3 tbsp water

1. Heat milk, pumpkin puree, spices, sugars on the stove until they boil.

2. Blend the mixture until smooth.

3. Heat water, and dissolve coffee.

4. Pour milk mixture into a cup, top off with coffee.

5. Stir and enjoy.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Crumb Muffins

Modified from: http://www.annies-eats.com/2010/10/08/pumpkin-cream-cheese-muffins/

Serves: 12

INGREDIENTS

For the filling:
½ cup cream cheese, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 banana, mashed

1 tsp vanilla
1 cups sugar
1 cups pumpkin puree

½ + 1/8 cups vegetable oil

½ cup chopped walnuts

For the topping:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 20 mins.
  • To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the banana, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With a wooden spoon, add in the dry ingredients, and walnuts mixing just until incorporated.
  • To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 12 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (It may be hard to resist immediate consumption, but the cream cheese filling gets very hot!)

Zucchini Bread

The first time I heard those two words together, I was slightly disturbed. My dad loves growing veggies in our backyard and a couple of years ago we had like 50 zucchinis to eat. At a certain point you start needing new ways to use the suckers. So I looked online and realized that zucchini bread was a legit thing and decided to try it out. It ended up being delicious; it doesn’t taste veggie-like at all. It’s light and cinnamon-y, and all around tasty.photo-3

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This is perfect as a school snack or breakfast to go. Kids won’t even know they’re eating zuchinni.

So go ahead, try it out!

-S

Recipe from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/moms-zucchini-bread/

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 1/4 cups white sugar

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup chopped walnuts

  • Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  • Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  • Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.