Tuesday, July 31, 2012

S'mores Cookies

Hello friends,

Can you believe that I am having even more ingredient mishaps? Though truth be told, the molasses ended up being an ingenious addition to the Oatmeal Creme Pies. But this is another matter entirely. Why is it that as soon as I want to make these S'mores Cookies from Kevin&Amanda that I've had pinned for weeks, all of a sudden these Mallow Bits are absolutely nowhere to be found?!

Thank goodness my Mom had bought them awhile back, but there was barely any left of the entire container by the time I got my hands on it. Naturally I needed a whole cup of these adorably tiny marshmallows, which was most certainly not how much was left. Luckily, I managed to split the recipe in half, though it sadly yielded only one dozen cookies. Seriously, when are 12 cookies enough for anyone? But I guess it's better than the horror that would be no cookies.

I've become quite good at halving recipes, usually with positive results, though I am always a bit wary of measuring out half an egg. If you are too, InKatrina'sKitchen has some lovely tips and tricks that will help you halve any of your favorite recipes that only call for one egg. The other ingredients were easy enough to cut down and included what one would expect for a S'mores Cookie: crushed graham crackers and lots of chocolate chips. Brown sugar is always a nice touch too.

So I have to come clean. I do love s'mores, but a lot of the desire for making these cookies came from the image of the cookie dough I pinned to Pinterest. Case and Point: Don't you just want to reach in and eat all of that beautiful marshmallowy mess as is? I really really wanted to, but remember I had to cut the recipe in half because of those blasted marshmallows. So no dough could be snatched by frivolous fingers and eaten happily by yours truly. Better luck next time I guess.

I'm glad I waited. My only complaint is that my cookies did not spread anywhere near as much as the original recipe appeared to, but regardless they are chewy, wholesome cookies with marshmallows and chocolate in every bite. It's like the chocolate chip cookie got jealous of s'mores and decided they should team up to make one awesome super cookie. Oh and the other complaint (I'm sorry I know I said I only had one) is that there weren't enough!! I better see those Mallow Bits back on the shelves ASAP because these cookies will not last long.

Until next time,

Happy Baking!

S'Mores Cookies Via Kevin&Amanda

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, finely processed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mini (or regular) chocolate chips
1 cup Mallow Bits

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spray parchment paper with cooking spray.
2. Cream butter and both sugar until well incorporated. Beat in egg and vanilla. Meanwhile in a separate bowl sift together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add dry ingredient mixture to wet ingredient mixture and stir until dough comes together. Stir in chocolate chips and mallow bits.
4. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving space between for spreading.
5. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: roughly 2 dozen cookies

Friday, July 27, 2012

Oatmeal Creme Pies

Hello friends!

Have any of you ever tried using molasses in your recipes?

Have you noticed it smells absolutely awful?

Because it does. I've always assumed it would smell warm and spicy, but as I opened this bottle my nose was assailed by a scent I can't even really describe. Let's just call it unappealing. I would've loved to switch it out for honey, which the internet told me I could, but what if this ingredient was the ingredient to push these oatmeal creme pies over the edge, into the realm of "yum" ? I found these on BakedPerfection and I thought to myself 'it has been awhile since I've whipped up anything resembling a whoopie pie, over six months in fact.' Waiting that long sounds like such a crime, don't you think?

However, between the overwhelmingly weird smell of the molasses and the fact that the dough looks like oatmeal someone left on the counter for six hours, I must admit my hopes were not high. But then the oven did its magic and in 10 short minutes I had these! Add some frosting that tastes just like a melted marshmallow, sandwich two cookies together with it, and ta-da!

Little Debbie eat you heart out.

So I guess molasses is important to the recipe. I'll just have to suck it up and bear with the strange odor it holds because these cookies are too yummy to not make again and again.

Happy Baking!
Oatmeal Creme Pies Via BakedPerfection

1 cup butter, at room temp
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups oats

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl and set aside.
3. In large bowl cream together butter and both sugars until well incorporated. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then finally add in the molasses and vanilla. Beat all until well incorporated.
4. Pour flour mixture into wet ingredient mixture and mix until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Stir oats in by hand with wooden spoon.
5. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough ont the prepared cookie sheets, leaving plenty of space for spreading. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until edges just begin to brown.
6. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Marshmallow Filling

1/2 cup shortening
1 7oz jar Marshmallow Fluff
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp hot water
1/8 tsp salt

1. Dissolve salt in hot water and let cool.
2. Beat together shortening, fluff, sugar and vanilla until fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add water and mix until well combined.
3. Spread filling on one side of a cookie, then place another cookie on top, pushing down slightly to sandwich them together.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

THE Best Banana Bread

Hello friends,

No, you did not misread that title. This is truly the best banana bread I've ever had the pleasure of baking and eating. I do love my Oreos, but after they inspired some kick-ass cookies and cupcakes, I was suddenly craving some serious warm, cozy, wholesome flavors that can only be administered by a well-baked banana bread.

But what recipe would ensure a satisfied craving? I began roaming through recipes, searching Pinterest and FoodGawker until I almost lost hope. Why does nearly every recipe I find have to be "Banana + other flavor I don't want detracting from my Banana Bread Bread"? Banana Coconut Bread, Banana Walnut Bread, I just want Banana Bread. Much like my feeling to carrot cake, I am a bit of a purist when it comes to this. Absolutely no nuts may permeate my bread, and I must really be in the mood for chocolate chips. No, when I bite into a piece of banana bread, I want pure, unadulterated banana flavor. No extracts or extras.

But then, on what I want to say was page eleven or twelve of my search on FoodGawker, I saw it. The Cook's Illustrated Recipe for Banana Bread. The link led me to "First Look then Cook" and wouldn't you know it, the method for preparing this bread sounded eerily similar to the preparation of a certain Banana Bread Snickerdoodle I attempted awhile back. My conclusion?

Microwaving Bananas, extracting the juices, then reducing them to a decadent banana syrup is by far one of the most awesome ideas I've ever encountered online. Merely mashing bananas? Please. Let's all step it up a bit here and take the sweet, syrupy plunge. It makes a world of a difference.

A side note though. After these photos, I've come to the realization that banana bread batter, unlike chocolate chip cookie dough or a fluffy vanilla frosting, does not look appetizing. At all. I could tell you what I think it looks like but, well, I'll leave that to your wonderful imagination.

Ah, that's better.

Do I dare tell you that I ate at least half of this loaf on my own, probably to the slight frustration of the rest of my family, also avid banana bread lovers? Do I tell you it is absolutely divine with a nice cup of hot coffee first thing in the morning? But I bet you already knew all of that...So bake, eat, enjoy; revel in the delicious flavor of this banana bread and share it (or not!) with all your friends. You'll be glad you did!

Happy Baking!

Cook's Illustrated Banana Bread
Via FirstLookthenCook

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
4-5 large, peeled, very ripe bananas
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease one 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with cooking spay.
2. Place bananas in microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 2-5 minutes, until the bananas give off about 1/3 cup liquid. Transfer bananas to fine-meshed strainer over a small saucepan. Let drain for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl and set aside.
4. Once bananas have drained, place bananas into large bowl and set the saucepan with the banana liquid over medium-high heat, allowing to reduce to about 1/4 cup (about 5 minutes).
5. Pour banana liquid over bananas and mash together until you reach a relatively uniform consistency. Whisk in eggs, butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.
6. Fold flour mixture into banana mixture, being careful not to over-mix. A few streaks of flour are okay.
7. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, sprinkle 2 tsp of sugar over top, and bake at 350 for 55-75 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
8. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Oreo Explosion Cupcakes

Hello friends,

What is it about Oreos that makes us all smile? Of course they're yummy, chocolatey (shockingly even vegan) but this little cookie manages to make my day that much better no matter how I am feeling. Example number one: The Oreo Cheesecake Cookies from last Friday. Stress + Jess = cranky mess. Stress + Jess + OREOS = no more stress. It's like magic, except if it were truly magic there would be no calories involved either. Maybe if I only eat six it won't matter...

or maybe I just won't look at the nutrional facts on the box for awhile.

Today brings about example number two in the Oreos for a Less Stressful You project. Yes, I just came up with that right now as an excuse to eat way more Oreos than is nutritionally suggested. Don't judge me; I know you're all thinking it sounds like a great idea that should be supported nationwide.

Now these aren't just any Oreo Cupcakes. These are cupcakes with:

a) half an oreo on the bottom
b) oreo chunks suspended throughout vanilla cake
c) cream cheese frosting
d) oreo crumb topping
e) all of the above

I will admit I was just a tad worried that the ratio of Oreo to Cake was too high, but then I reminded myself that there is no such thing as too many Oreos. Ever. I can feel the stress floating away already. Do you have a favorite Oreo recipe? Does it help you de-stress on those day when nothing else can? If not, find one! I promise you, nothing can ease a stressful mind like an Oreo, or more accurately a cupcake overflowing with Oreos

Happy Baking!

Oreo Explosion Cupcakes Via Annie'sEats

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
24 oreo halves
20 coarsely chopped oreos

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners. Place one side of an Oreo cookie (preferably with the cream still attached) in the bottom of each liner.
2. In medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In large bowl cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in egg whites, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla.
4. Beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture on lowest speed until just incorporated, followed by 1/2 of the milk. Repeat, beginning and ending with the flour, beating until you reach a uniform consistency.
5. Gently fold in chopped Oreos.
6. Equally divide batter amongst cupcake lined pans and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
7. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese
6 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp heavy cream
Oreo Crumbs
1. Cream butter and cream cheese until well blended. Beat in vanilla, followed by powdered sugar.
2. Beat in heavy cream on low at first until fully incorporated then on medium/high for roughly 3-4 mintues until frosting is light and fluffy.
3. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes, then sprinkle with Oreo Crumbs.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

Hello again,

So after the disastrous donuts of earlier this week, I really want to whip something up that was simple, yummy, and stress-free. I've been thinking these past few weeks, as I near my 100th post on this blog, how much stress I've created in publishing on this. It shouldn't be that way. I shouldn't be freaking over how each cookie looks, how the lighting is crappy in my college apartment, how a kitchen experiment of my own creation seems to always go horribly wrong.

It should be, above all else, a stress reliever. I love baking, and I've unfortunately done a terrible deed in turning into something to stress about. Because I've had these dreams of opening a bakery...because I'm a perfectionist...whatever the reason, the reason no longer stands to justify the stress. It's time to de-stress some parts of my life. I wish I could de-stress all of it, but somehow I feel as though total de-stress would result in my gallavanting off to Europe to eat French bread and read novels all day every day.

Would you like to know a great recipe for de-stressing?

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies.

Yes, the name may sound intimidating, what with cheesecake being a dessert I never go near in my own kitchen, but these cookies are merely inspired by the creamy, decadent flavors of cheesecake and the crunchy, chewy cookie we've all come to know and love: the Oreo. So it's a wonderful de-stresser for numerous reasons. For starters, it only has about six ingredients. I like it already.

Two: the cookie dough is egg free. Translate: Though it may not be nutritious, the dough is absolutely safe to eat raw. Woohoo! I do offer a cautionary word though; this dough tastes very much like cheesecake, so sticking a finger in or two before getting the cookies onto the pan may be a bad idea. You could soon end up with a huge amount of cookie dough in your stomach, only to cause a considerable stomachache in a few short moments, and no cookies on the pan. So try to restrain yourself. Hopefully you are stronger than I am. My stomach ache wasn't huge but, well, I did need to let loose after all.

Destressing Moment Number 3: Pulverizing Oreo Cookies with a mallet. Do I even need to explain why this would be loads of fun?

And of course, the final stress-free moment: the glorious first bite into a chewy, Oreo covered cheesecake cookie. Friends, do you remember the Banana Bread Snickerdoodles? How I said we could achieve world peace with those cookies? Let's do care packages of those AND these, and I promise you we can make it happen. I think it's high time everyone in the world got a little moment of stress-free enjoyment.

So if you need a breather from the frantic mess of everyday life, why not whip up some of these to take the edge off? I know most people do that with a glass of wine (or three) at the end of the day, but I prefer a cookie...let's make that a cookie and an inappropriate amount of cookie dough.

Happy Baking!

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies Via PassthePlate

3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup oreos, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Then beat iin sugar and vanilla.
3. Stir in flour until soft dough forms (it will be sticky, this is ok!). Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Scoop out tablespoonfuls of dough, form into ball and roll in oreo cookie crumbs.
5. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes or until edges are just slightly browned and the center is puffy.
6. Let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to wire cooling rack.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Disastrous Donuts


I am still in shock. A mad attempt to fill donut cavities with a would-be Cinnamon Roll Donut Recipe turned quickly into smoke and cinnamon topping oozing out of my precious BabyCakes Donut Maker.

The Horror! The Absolute Donut Horror!

Sigh. Fortunately no one (other than my appetite, and that ever-sensitive ego) was hurt by this event. As much as I love my little Donut Maker, I have come to the realization that not every donut can be made in it; some require the stability of a donut pan. See, with a donut pan, one can move calmly and easily with the preparation of a donut batter. The pan is not hot to the touch, like the donut maker will be once it has preheated and stares at you mockingly, just ready to burn you and/or your precious donuts.

For multi-step donuts, as these Cinnamon Roll Donuts were, there is no mad dash to fill the donut pan with one liquid before quickly grabbing the second to pour over it. Over filling a donut pan just results in ugly, misshapen donuts, which can most likely be fixed by a little knife-work and a generous dollop of frosting or a simple glaze. Over filling in the donut maker means be prepared to witness smoke and oozing liquids that result in over-baked donuts, and a sad baker.

Baking, for me, should be relaxing. It's fun. It's delicious, and it brings smiles to the faces of the friends I share my sweets with each day. This was neither fun nor delicious, and stamped quite the unattractive scowl on my face while I scraped burnt cinnamon sugar off the Donut Maker.

Lesson Learned? Absolutely. The donut maker may sound like a shortcut, but it's not one that's actually going to alleviate stress or result in a better end-product. Take the plunge; invest in a few multi-sized donut pans, and bake away. I know I will.

Until next time,

Happy Baking!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Experiencing Macarons at Sophie's French Bakery

Hello friends,

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July! I know we did. It definitely was not a typical one here though. My brother and Dad were off for the week to a baseball tournament which meant my Mom and I got some much needed girl-time. Besides meandering around our favorite shops like anthropologie and Williams Sonoma, Mom and I drove over forty minutes for....


Not the most patriotic way to celebrate, I know, but I do think that supporting small business is quite American, so I'm pleased to say scarfing down some Key Lime and Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons was a perfect way to cap off the mom/daughter time.

Sadly I have no recipe for French Macarons, but I just really wanted to share with you all this gem of a French Bakery we've come to love here in Florida. It's called Sophie's French Bakery and it's in an adorable part of Tampa known as Hyde Park.

We discovered this bakery while visting the Hyde Park Market that occurs on the first Sunday of every month and features artisan foods, handmade jewelry, and fresh produce. After walking around in the blistering heat, we decided to stop into the bakery to grab a bite to eat and cool off.

Little did we know we'd fall head over heels for their out-of-this-world macarons.These were the first macarons my mom and I had ever encountered in real life, only having seen them all over Pinterest and drooling over them if caught on camera by Food Network. Meringue never came across to me as appetizing, but how could a cookie sandwich that cute taste bad?

The answer: it doesn't. It's one of the most delicate, heavenly llittle treats I've ever had, and after having just one lemon-flavored macaron from Sophie's, I knew I would be back for more. Now every time I come to visit my family in Florida, we make sure to take the drive and stop over to this bakery and sample whatever flavors they happen to have on that day. On the fourth, it just happened to be Key Lime and Strawberry Cheesecake.

Now the Key Lime was great, but the real show-stopper here was the Strawberry Cheesecake. The subtle yet distinctive flavor of strawberry from the shells combines with the creamy cheesecake filling to just melt in my mouth in one glorious bite. It had disappeared before I even realized I had eaten the whole cookie, and I found myself frowning at my empty hand, wishing if I closed my eyes another would appear between my fingers.

I have visited France before, but sadly I was only an awkward young teen and the word "macaron" did not exist in my dictionary. While enjoying a home-stay with a family in the French Riviera, we had stopped at the family bakery and were allowed to have whatever we wanted to sample. Naturally I went right to the baguettes, the scent of bread overwhelming me from any other thought. Now, looking back, I wonder if there had been macarons either in their shop or in the nearby market. Perhaps one day I will journey back there, and experience what a French Macaron in France tastes like...

Until then I will keep myself content with the macarons at Sophie's Bakery. Though I am sure the ones in France are phenomenal, I can't say I will be sacrificing much when Sophie's are just so delicious. Beautiful to look at and heavenly to consume, I can't wait to go back and find out what new flavors they decide to create.

Until next time,

Happy Baking!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Patriotic Fruit Pizzas

Hello friends,

Have I got a simple and super fun fourth of July treat to share with you all!

Who know sugar cookies could get such an upgrade?

Yes, fruit pizza - the sweetest of all pizzas, and the easiest fix for a patriotic dessert to impress all your friends. I opted to go with individual hand-sized pizzas, so that no one would feel too guilty about eating, say, six of them. Not that I did any such thing...

Start with some sugar cookie dough. You can use your favorite recipe, or go with this one I found from Julie Blanner . They are so soft and chewy that it has quickly become my go-to recipe for sugar cookies.

While the cookies are baking, whip up some delicious cream cheese frosting. Intead of adding vanilla extract, add a touch of lemon juice. It enhances, as opposed to overpowers, the fresh, sweet flavor of the berries.. Smear some cream cheese frosting on top of your completely cooled cookies, then have at it with whatever fruit your sweet tooth desires.

With the 4th of July less then twenty-four hours away, I thought it only fitting to work with blueberries and strawberries, which coincidentally happen to be my favorite fruits. You can, of course, use any other fruit you like. Raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, pineapple - that's what I love about this recipe: its versatility.

With a thick sugar cookie base, cream cheese frosting with the slightest hint of lemon, and fresh berries, these patriotic pizzas are sure to please at any party (I do love my alliterations don't I? Sorry friends, just coudn't help it).

Happy Baking (and Happy Fourth of July) !

Patriotic Fruit Pizzas Via JulieBlanner

Sugar Cookies:

2 1/4 cups flour
1 sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. Add egg, sour cream, and vanilla to butter mixture and beat until well incorporated. Gently fold dry ingredient mixture into wet ingredient mixture until dough comes together.
4. Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving space between them for spreading. With lightly floured fingers, gently flatten cookies to 1/4 inch thickness.
5. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes. Do NOT overbake. Cookies will look slightly underdone. That is okay.
6. Let cool completely on cookie sheets before removing to plate/wire rack.

Cream Cheese Icing:

8 oz softened cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

1. Beat all ingredients until smooth

strawberries, sliced
any other fruit of your choice

1. Top cookies with dollop of cream cheese icing. Using a butter knife or offset spatula, smooth icing so that it is flat.
2. Cover with berries/fruit of your choice. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.