Monday, December 8, 2014

Baking Monday – Mint Chip Sugar Cookies

It's December ... time for all things minty! These mint sugar cookies are super yummy. I had in my mind that pink cookies would be more festive than green, but didn't go quite pink enough, so they ended up a weird salmon-y tint instead (of course, they'd be perfectly fine without the dye, but I think it's good to give some kind of visual indication that they're not plain chocolate chip cookies. Expecting one and getting the other could be an unpleasant surprise!) They'd probably be good rolled in sanding sugar, too. Happy December!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Baking Monday – Double Chocolate Cookie Bars

Today's dessert was experimental. I mixed up these favorite drop cookies but was running a wee tight on time for baking. I wondered if they would be just as good in bar shape?

Verdict: They were still good, but not great, and I think it was because of the texture. They looked very brownie like, but maintained their cookie texture. Which works for a chocolate chip cookie cake, because the taster knows what to expect. But when you're thinking "brownie," but it tastes and feels "cookie," maybe that takes away from the desserting experience? Hmm. Anyhow, they were still good, but I'll take the extra time to mini scoop them from now on! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Baking Monday – Candy Bar Blondies

This isn't my first time recycling Halloween candy into baked goodies, but it is a new recipe. These bars had a mix of Baby Ruth and Butterfinger bars.

Easy to make, disappeared quickly!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

(Not So) Spooky Halloween Pudding Cups

Elementary school in the fall means ... it's party time! The parent who planned this year's fall party sent out a suggestion to make these cute desserts for the second grade. 

I make little paper faces as a template. After dropping one into a cup, I stacked another cup inside to keep it straight, then traced with a Sharpie. This worked really well, especially when making them for a crowd!

While the dessert gets lots of oohs and aahs, guess what? Kids don't really like vanilla pudding (and I agree!) I tried to make it as yummy as possible by adding a top layer of chocolate pudding under the crushed Oreo cookies. But I'd say that 75% of the kids scooped off the top layer and the rest went in the trash. Which is kind of what I expected, so no worries.

Dora came up with suggestions for making faces on a chocolate version, like using stickers or googley eyes. My grade on these treats would be C for taste (unless vanilla pudding is totally your thing) but A for cuteness!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Baking Monday – (Not) Red Velvet Cupcakes

I had avoided red velvet cake for years, because of the crazy amount of food dye, something that I try not to use too much of. Then last year, I had an order for red velvet cupcakes and realized: Hey! These are pretty tasty! and wondered how they'd turn out without the dye.

A bit of history ... the "red" in red velvet occurs as a reaction between the cocoa powder and acidic vinegar and buttermilk, that would naturally turn the batter a reddish hue. "Brown Velvet Chocolate Cake" was apparently popular back in the 1940's (I'll have to look up that recipe sometime!) It's unclear who eventually decided to pump up the color with lots of food dye.

Of course, they are just as tasty without any extra coloring. The cake is not as spectacular as traditional red velvet, and not the deep brown of chocolate, but nice looking just the same! A nice in-between cupcake ... not super chocolatey, but not plain vanilla!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Baking Monday – Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

My birthday fell on a very busy weekday this year. Our evening was filled with homework, cub scouts, and curriculum night at school. Mr. Hotcakes and I wrapped up the evening with takeout from Chipotle on the couch, watching shows. Friends wanted to know who bakes my birthday dessert … this year, I did! Even though the evening was busy, my day was very peaceful and relaxing, and part of that day was spent baking. 

I'm always up for a new chocolate/peanut butter dessert combo, and these cookies were great … a perfect birthday treat!  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Baking Monday – Candy Corn Cupcakes

We went to two pumpkin carving parties this weekend, so fall treats were in order! I used the Rainbow Cake recipe to make some candy corn themed cupcakes.

I hadn't used this recipe for cupcakes before, so I wasn't sure how full to make the cups. These pictures are of batch #2 … the first cups were filled too full, and they exploded out of the top of the pan. (Happily, they ended up getting mixed with vanilla pudding and turned into candy corn trifle!)

Lesson learned: fill the cups only halfway! I used two mini scoops of batter for the orange bottoms then two more for the yellow. The recipe makes about twenty very yummy vanilla cupcakes.

Each was frosted with vanilla buttercream (one stick butter, four cups confectioner's sugar, one-half teaspoon of vanilla and gradually add milk to piping consistency) and decorated with a candy corn. Theo is very happy because he's been requesting that our decorative fall dish be filled with candy corn for two weeks now. I'm happy because cupcakes! 

Both parties were so much fun. We are very lucky to have found such a great group of friends in our town. Neither of the boys were super into carving pumpkins … because it was a beautiful day, they were much more interested in running around outside with friends. So, Dora and I did the carving work this year, and opted to go traditional – a cat and a ghost. Looking forward to one more week of fall fun leading up to Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baby Shower Cookies – Pink Hearts!

We celebrated a triple baby shower in our family last month, for two cousins and my sister. All three mamas are expecting girls, so my aunts who planned the event wanted everything pink, pink, pink!

These cookies were my contribution. I wish I had taken more pics of the decorations. The party was held on the outdoor deck at my aunt's home in Maryland and everything looked beautiful. My favorite part? All the guests were asked to wear pink, and it was such a great idea. It was like another layer of decoration that tied everything together - plus all the photos turned out fabulous!

My aunt served each of the guest of honor's favorite desserts - red velvet cupcakes, gluten-free peanut butter cakes and a chocolate cake/cheesecake/ganache treat that was amazing. Looking forward to welcoming three new arrivals to our family! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Baking Monday – Buckeye Brownie Cookies

Hello! I'm back! We really enjoyed a relaxing summer vacation and it always amazes me how quickly life moves once everyone goes back to school. I have not even yet begun to tackle my long to-do list, because the days have been full of more immediate tasks. And all the responsibilities that I've volunteered for at school all take place in the fall! Come October 25th, I'll have a little more breathing room. Unfortunately, blogging is one of the activities that has gotten pushed to the side, and the longer I stay away, the harder it is to get back into it. 

But I absolutely have been baking! These treats were for the first night of the new pool season, which happily I was able to go to, thanks to a visit from Grandma (who also helped me make these yummy cookies!)

Mom made peanut butter balls using the mini scoop, and I flattened them into pats before placing on top of each warmed cookie. The tops got a drizzle of melted chocolate chips. These cookies received great reviews. They are very rich and were a big hit! More to come … happy to be back!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Baking Monday – Rainbow Sugar Cookies

Goodness, I love rainbows. It's about the only trend that I loved as a kid and still love today. One of my Pinterest boards is devoted to rainbow-themed items that still make me squeee! (Entering "80s rainbow"  into the search bar sends me into a spiral of feel-good nostalgia. The shirts! Belts! Shoelaces! Stickers! I had them all!)

Doing a colorful dessert again was not the original plan ... just looking for an easy cookie to bring to Jeff's softball game.

The dough was tinted because I only had clear sugar on hand … but these would be just as adorable kept plain and rolled in differed color sugars.

I originally saved this recipe because I'm always looking for opportunities to use Princess Emulsion. It's gives the cookies a unique, unexpected flavor … something different from the usual vanilla and almond (which are both delicious, don't get me wrong!)

A few alterations to the recipe: butter instead of Crisco, 1 tsp of vanilla instead of tablespoon (that seemed like a LOT!), and chill the dough before baking. The dough would also work well as slice and bake. Bake until set, don't wait until browned … they turned out perfect!

What a great, simple, yummy cookie! And they make my rainbow spot happy! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Baking Monday – Rainbow Cake!

This is so exciting … I have been wanting to make a rainbow cake for awhile! But we aren't big cake eaters around here, so we waited for an occasion to share a cake with friends. We celebrated the end of Dora's summer theatre workshop with fellow actor friends, in color!

I also wanted to make it from scratch. This recipe is great!! I doubled it for this cake, which is enough for at least 20 slices. It would have been six layers … but I dropped the orange batter on the floor while mixing. I said a very loud word ("SH…UGAR!") before cleaning it up, which was a big PITA. Happily, not a drop fell on my white shirt. So the yellow layer was more orangey-yellow to make up for it. The directions call for salt but does not list it in the ingredients … I added 1/2 tsp salt to the dry ingredients (1 tsp total, since the recipe was doubled). Finding a recipe was a challenge, because I really wanted to find one that uses all-purpose flour and whole eggs. I also recommend disposable pans (unless you happen to have six identical cake pans laying around) coated with Cake Release. And Dollar Tree prices (.50 each) were much more reasonable than the grocery store ($7.00 for three!) The cake turned out very moist and yummy. This recipe would also be super scrummy with almond extract!!

Buttercream icing on top … two sticks of softened butter, one bag of powdered sugar, one teaspoon of vanilla, and milk until it was spreading consistency. That made EXACTLY enough! I don't like a super thick layer of frosting, so this was perfect. Look, all white and innocent looking … just a boring vanilla cake ...

But wait!!! Rainbows ahead!!! We were all SUPER excited to cut into this cake. The kids made a point of not telling our guests what was waiting inside!

Very yummy. Rainbows make everything better! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Baking Monday – Crunchy Nutty Muffins!

Clark saw this recipe in a Highlights magazine months ago and wanted to try them. Of the three kids, he's the one who most often helps out in the kitchen and enjoys baking with me. It took us awhile to get to making them … yay for summer vacation!

Walnuts are not my favorite, but I did enjoy these very much. They are buttery and moist, and I like the crunchiness (as promised in the title!) Plus cinnamon sugar makes everything yummy. Clark measured, poured, and mixed the ingredients and also filled the muffin cups!

I didn't get a great picture of him with the muffins, because he was excited to eat! He and a friend shared the first two and both gave them a thumbs up. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Zentangle Cookies!

So … while the kids were having their marathon decorating session, I snuck in and decorated a few for myself. I wondered if my new obsession with zentangle could be applied to cookies? 

Why yes indeed! I used a hybrid royal/glaze icing for the outlining, so the lines stayed very neat, with no blobbing or spreading. And though they were lovely as outlines, I really wanted to know what they'd look like in color ...

YAY! Love them! But super time consuming! I would MAYBE consider doing these for an order for someone very special. I used thinned out glaze for the color and a #2 tip to fill in (plus toothpicks for spreading).

I have a plan for the next round … stay tuned! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SAC – Watercolors

I broke out the watercolors last week. There are two mini square frames hanging in the bathroom that needed some new artwork. First I did a batch with straight up Crayola watercolors ...

… then mixed a batch of my own. (I liked those better.)

Then I made some some blobs … and embellished with some doodles.

It's really hard for me to let go of everything not being perfect, but the end result is charming!

Then I started with a watercolor base and added some zentangle doodles ...

… and then Prismacolors on top. I love the way it turned out!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kid Cookies!

Theo has two moods in the summer: Best Thing Ever or Worst Day Ever. If he is not currently doing a perceived Best Thing activity, he melts to the ground in Worst Day mode. He was having a Worst Day moment when I pulled out all the cookie decorating stuff. I had lots of icing leftover from an order so I baked one batch of random shapes just for them to decorate, and goodness … what a great job they did! 

I loved Dora's fireworks ...

… and Theo's (unintentional) 80's glam rock tribute.

Besides having a tray of beautiful cookies to share with friends, I also got an hour of sibling harmony. Dora and Theo had a great time decorating, and I even heard Theo say, "This is so much fun!" So happy that cookie decorating turned out to be a Best Thing.

I asked them to set aside three for me!