Category Archives: Sweet Things

Black and White Red Velvet Cookies

The dreaded staff meeting. Due to the nature of my job, staff meetings with the entire staff occur only once every few months. And this one was a biggie. My boss was passing the torch to a new boss, and none of the staff but the three of us knew about it. So, my old boss’s idea to ease the blow was to…bake cookies. Thankfully, right up my alley. Since my boss decided to make snickerdoodles, I knew I couldn’t just make any cookie. I remembered seeing some red velvet black and white cookie recipe on Joy the Baker. I also remembered that I first tried a black and white cookie at a deli when I lived in NYC and it was terrible. I wanted a redo – a chance to relive that awful black and white cookie experience. And the red velvet seemed like a nice touch.

So, I gathered all of the ingredients.

You know, the usual suspects: sugar, flour, cocoa, vanilla extract, eggs, butter salt. Also: Buttermilk, corn syrup, chocolate chips (the recipe actually calls for baking chocolate), powdered sugar and red food coloring.(FYI: the recipe below is doubled from the original.)

In a medium bowl, mix together 2.5 cups flour, 2 tbs cocoa powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda. The recipe calls for “sifting” them together, but despite my recent kitchen expansion, I don’t have a sifter. So, I used a whisk to fluff the ingredients a little bit. From my understanding, sifting mixes and adds air.

In a mixer, blend 1 cup 2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature, with 1.5 cups granulated sugar until fluffy. This took about 2-3 minutes.

Oo. Blurry action shot.

Beat in two eggs, then add 2 tsp vanilla and 1-2 tbsp red food coloring, depending on the color you’re aiming for the and type of food coloring you’re using. I had the gel kind, and one tablespoon of that was plenty.

Look at that gorgeous red color. Fear not – it will NOT be this red once you add the flour mixture. Add the flour mixture a little at a time, alternating with adding 1 cup of buttermilk. Then watch your roommate training the kittens to sit.

Believe it or not, it works! At least, it works if you have a treat in your hand. They will dutifully sit if they see a treat in your hand. 🙂

Anyway, after that break, it’s time to transfer the cookie dough to the parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Black and white cookies are traditionally large. I was making them to put in little bigs to give to teachers, so I made them small. But you can scoop 1/4 cup of dough onto the cookie sheets if you desire big honkin’ cookies. I used spoonfuls. You then want to smooth them down with a knife. Not until flat, but enough.

Pop them into a pre-eated 350 degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes. Take them out and let them cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to finish.

In the meantime, make the icings (these were not doubled).

In a small to medium bowl, mix 2 cups powdered sugar with 1 tsp light corn syrup, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons hot water. I’ve also made this icing without corn syrup, in case you don’t have that laying around, though I think it was helpful for the chocolate icing. The recipe calls for a whisk, but I find it much easier to use a fork. Less obnoxious clumping.

To make the chocolate icing, melt 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips) with 3 tbsp butter in the microwave for 1 minutes or so. Take it out and stir to finish all the melting, then add 1 tbsp light corn syrup. Mix until smooth.

Once the cookies have cooled, ice half of each cookie with the vanilla glaze, and have with the chocolate. Put into the fridge to set the icing. Share and enjoy! They were a bit hit.

Red Velvet Black and White Cookies (from Joy the Baker via Rachael Ray)

makes 10 large cookies
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
For Vanilla Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons hot water
For Chocolate Glaze
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or grease and flour the pan well so the cookies don’t stick. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
Using a mixer, mix 5 tbsp of butter with the granulated sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, food coloring and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk until smooth.
Place 1/4-cup scoops of batter 2 inches apart of the prepared baking sheet, spread the batter out with a butter knife, so they’re not completely flat but spread out a bit. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies sit for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.
In a bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon of corn syrup and 2 tablespoons hot water, until smooth. That’s your vanilla glaze.
In a separate bowl, melt the butter and the chocolate in a microwave for about 1 minute. Add the corn syrup and stir until smooth. When cookies are cool, spread each glaze of half of each cookie, and put into the refrigerator to cool.
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Best. Cookies. Ever. (And easiest!)

If you do not like peanut butter, do not proceed – UNLESS you know someone who would appreciate some delicious, scrumptious damn-near-perfect and miraculous gluten-free peanut butter cookies. That take almost no time to make. Longer in the oven than in the hands. Seriously.

So here’s the line-up:

peanut butter cookie ingredients

Peanut butter (duh), eggs, 2 kinds of sugar and baking soda. That’s all! 4 ingredients!

Take a cup of peanut butter:

A cup of Peanut Butter

And mix with 1 cup of sugar (1/2 cup of each kind, brown and white) till blended.

Mixing Peanut Butter Cookies

This took less than 2 minutes with a stand mixer. Longer, I’m sure, by hand. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE my new baby? Baby red stand mixer? Aw. So cute. *ahem* Anyway…add one egg and 1 tsp baking soda, and mix till gooey and well blended. It will all start sticking to the mixer blade, that’s how you know.

Remove the blade, resist the urge to lick it (or not…). Roll little balls and place onto a greased cookie sheet (I used parchment paper for the second round, and they came out just fine), press down with a fork for the traditional peanut butter cookie appearance (see below) and place into a 350 degree preheated oven for 10 minutes.

(Ignore the weird smile on my face. I don’t know what’s up with that.)

Pull out of the oven, and let cool. And lo and behold, I was able to cool my cookies properly with my brand spanking-new cooling racks:

I drool over kitchen tools, can you tell?

These cookies are simple, easy and gluten-free, and yet I got more compliments on them than I’ve gotten from most my other recipes. People demanded the recipe, people raved, people started parades down my street…ok, maybe not that last part. 🙂

Yanked from Joy the Baker.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies (makes 2 dozen, approximately)

1 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with butter. In a mixer combine peanut butter and sugars until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add egg and baking soda and mix for another 2 minutes. Roll into walnut sized balls and create a criss-cross pattern with a fork. If you’d like, add a few chocolate pieces to the top of the cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a baking sheet for two minutes.

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Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake

(Sorry for the photo quality – the lighting was not so great last night when I made this. I blame it on the snow.)

So, I subscribe to an organic veggie and fruit delivery. Every two weeks, a box (recyclable, of course) appears on my doorstep full of local, organic fruits and veggies. This past week, I received two full bags of carrots. What does one do with that many carrots, aside from feed them to rabbits? Why, carrot cake, of course!

So I went in search of the perfect carrot cake recipe. I found one by Alton Brown that I still want to try, because it included yogurt, which sounds healthy. However, I didn’t have any good yogurt, so I went with a recipe from Epicurious that promised to be the best I could find. I love Epicurious, so I figured I’d give it a shot. It turned out to be delicately sweet, deeply moist and truly decadent. I recommend!

Step one: Peel and grate a LOT OF CARROTS. 3 cups, to be exact. This, for me, was about 4 or 5 hefty carrots.

Carrots

That’s a serious amount of carrots.  Put them aside.

Combine 2 cups flour with 2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt. This cake turns out moist but not terribly fluffy, at least at high altitude. Next time, I will add at least a half cup more flour, but it still turned out really well, regardless. To the flour mixture add spices of your choice. The recipe calls for cinnamon, but I added nutmeg as well, and I just eyeballed these. I definitely put in more cinnamon than the recipe called for. Allspice would also be a nice addition. The recipe also calls for grated ginger, and since I didn’t have any, I added a dash of ground ginger. It really adds a nice touch. Mix the flour and additions till blended.

In a large bowl, add two cups sugar. To that, add 1 1/4 canola oil (I used vegetable).

IMG_2353

I like action shots. 🙂 Blend well. Then, add 4 eggs, one at a time.

IMG_2358

Add the flour mixture a little at a time. I usually add it 1/3 at a time, but since the flour mixture isn’t terribly large for this recipe, I added it 1/2 at a time.

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The add the carrots, a little at a time. There were enough that splitting it into 3rds made sense.

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Blend till carrot is evenly distributed. Pour the batter into two, 9 inch round cake pans, buttered and floured. I did not have 2 cake pans, just one larger cake pan, so I poured the whole thing in there. This means it took longer to cook, but it still worked well. Either way, put your pan(s) into a 350 degree oven for about 40 min (longer for just one pan).

In the meantime, make the maple cream cheese frosting. Regular cream cheese frosting would work, but the addition of the maple syrup really adds something extra to the whole result.

Take one package of regular cream cheese at room temperature and 5 tbsp butter, also at room temperature (unsalted!). Blend together until fluffy. I used a hand mixer. Add 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time and mix together till well blended. Then add 1/4 cup pure maple syrup.

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(I’m mixing this on my stovetop because the ONLY outlet not taken up by the microwave is next to the oven. Because that makes any sense. That’s what happens when you live in a house built before electricity was common. There’s even a coal chute in the basement.)

Once the carrot cake it done, let it cool for at least 15 minutes. I know, I know, you want some NOW! But the frosting will melt into an obnoxious mess if you frost it too early. Patience is a virtue, my friend. Once frosted, slice and enjoy! It will amaze you.

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups grated peeled carrots
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger

Icing

  • 10 ounces cream cheese (such as Philadelphia), room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and ginger. Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off waxed paper; cool cakes completely.

For icing:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until well blended. Beat in maple syrup. Chill until just firm enough to spread, 30 minutes.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 3/4 cup icing. Top with second layer. Spread remaining icing over entire cake. Arrange walnut halves around top edge. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)

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Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I found this recipe on Pinch My Salt and was very pleased with how it came out.

I was having a pumpkin carving party at my house, and of course wanted some pumpkin-inspired desserts to go along with the carving fest. I was drawn to this recipe because it was much healthier than traditional cake recipes: it uses no butter, less sugar, yogurt and therefore cuts down on the fat and empty calories that desserts usually have. I don’t usually try to make desserts healthier, but since it was already there, I figured I might as well try! Because the frosting is sweet, you don’t really miss the sugar. My boyfriend helped me make these the day of the party, and was concerned that they would be quite bitter after watching the brown sugar, cocoa and yogurt go into the bowl. However, they were great! Don’t expect them to have a significant pumpkin flavor, but there’s definitely a kick of something. Also, the recipe calls for mini chocolate chips, but I used regular ones and it was fine. Little ones might distribute better, though.

For the decorations, go nuts! My roommate saw some cute pre-made Halloween cake decorations a the grocery store and bought them for me, and they certainly made the cupcakes draw a lot of attention (even from the cats, who stole no less than 5 cupcakes throughout the course of the party – don’t worry, we caught them before they ate any).

Decorations

 

They were a hit! Just in time for Halloween (and a snowy one here in Colorado!)

 

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2/3 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cups plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1 3/4 cups canned pumpkin (15 oz. can)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly-packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.
  • 2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together; set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the yogurt, pumpkin, vinegar, and vanilla extract, set aside.
  • 3. In a large mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Alternately beat in the flour and pumpkin mixtures in thirds (for example, beat in 1/3 flour mixture followed by 1/3 pumpkin mixture and repeat until everything is combined). Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  • 4. Working quickly, spoon batter into cupcake cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Place cupcake pans in the center of the preheated 350 degree oven and bake approximately 25 minutes. Cupcakes are done when they spring back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes then remove cupcakes from pans and let cool completely on the wire racks.
  • 5. While cupcakes are cooling, prepare cream cheese frosting (recipe follows). When cupcakes are completely cool, spread with frosting.

Halloween Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4. tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If frosting is too soft, chill in fridge for 15-20 minutes.

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‘Tis the season: Candy Apples

I realized recently that I’ve never actually had a candy apple. Sure, I’ve seen them. And I’ve definitely had caramel apples, but I’ve never consumed a bright red apple with a candy shell. So my roommate and decided to have a pumpkin carving party at our house, and I decided to make candy apples for the occasion.

Candy can be a very intimidating thing to try to make. You need to have all the right equipment and everything adequately prepared beforehand, and you need to pay attention, because the instant it goes to the wrong temperature, everything can go amuck. (Amuck, amuck, amuck!, Ok, that word gets weird when you write it over and over again.) But, it’s really far simpler than it seems, and once you try it, you find you want to make more and more things!

So, you need a candy thermometer, a saucepan, popsicle sticks or wooden skewers, something to place the finished apples on (I recommend something flat, like a cookie sheet), aluminum foil (to put on the cookie sheet), pastry brush (to wipe away sugar crystals with warm water) and a wooden spoon. It is best to have all these things out and ready before you begin to make the candy so you’re not rushing at the last second.

Next, pick out some good apples. The firmer, the better. It’s also great to have tart apples to counteract the sweetness of the candy. I used Granny Smith, Gala and Honey Crisp. Many kinds would work, but I’ve heard that Red Delicious aren’t firm enough to make satisfactory candy apples. Choose wisely. It has also been recommended that if you use store-bought apples, flash-dip them in boiling water before making the candy to wipe away the wax coating, and then refrigerate them. I did not do this, and they turned out just fine, but next time, I will probably try this, or buy apples from a farmer’s market.

To make the apples, first rinse them, remove the stems and skewer them, like so.

Apples

Make sure the apples and the sheet to put them on when they’re done are easily reachable from the stovetop, to make the finish much smoother.

In a small/medium saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, dissolve 2 cups of sugar into 1/2  cup light corn syrup and 3/4 cup water. Add some red food coloring to reach the traditional color. I also added a cinnamon stick to the mixture to give a stronger flavor. Just let the cinnamon stick sit in there the whole time the candy boils and then remove before coating the apples. Do NOT remove with your fingers (Yes, I made that mistake). Tongs. Tongs are GREAT things. Plus, it’s hard to coat the apples and ice your finger at the same time.

Candy Apple Stage 1

Be sure to stir dissolve the sugar completely before letting the mixture boil, or you may get some crystallization. At this point, it wise to use the pastry brush to brush any stray sugar down the sides. The less crystallization, the smoother and better the candy.

Bring the mixture to a boil and STOP STIRRING. Have the candy thermometer attached and ready before you boil. And then, just watch the thermometer.

Candy Apple Stage 2

The recipe I used recommended 290 degrees as an ending point. I would recommend a little lower or a little higher. As it was, the results were beautiful but very, very difficult to eat. A slightly harder, more brittle candy might be better (between 300 and 310, hard crack stage – you will need to cool the pan in a larger pan of cool water for this) or a softer candy might be better so it’s easier to chew. I’m not sure of an ideal temperature to cook the softer candy to – I’ll have to experiment and keep you posted. (My gut says maybe 250 degrees, or the firm ball stage, like caramel.)

If you DON’T have a candy thermometer, get one. However, if you can’t, you can use the cold water test to figure out when to stop.

When the thermometer starts getting close to your desired temperature, keep your eye on it! Sugar is very temperature sensitive. When it hits the final temperature, immediately remove it from heat (gas ovens are convenient here) and start coating your apples, working quickly! Grab an apple, coat it in the mixture (tilting the pan or using a spoon are helpful here) and put the finished apple on the aluminum foil-coated pan. Continue.

Candy Apple Final 1

Candy Apple Final 2

And soon, voila, you have some beautiful, sweet, candy apples. (Notice the last couple of apples here – the candy starts to thicken as it cools, and it becomes MUCH harder to coat the apples, this is why working quickly is important!)

Candy Apples Done

Happy Halloween season!

Candy Apples:

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup water

1/2 tsp red food coloring

cinnamon stick (optional)

8 clean apples

Add ingredients to saucepan with a candy thermometer over medium-high heat. Allow sugar to dissolve and then bring to a boil, stopping any stirring once candy boils. Boil until it reaches 290 degrees, then immediately remove from heat. Coat apples one by one and place onto a coated tray or cookie sheet. Put apples in a refrigerator to cool. Eat within 3 days of making.

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