Friday, September 26, 2014

Chewy Ginger Snaps

I love that fall has arrived and I can start baking apple desserts, spice desserts, pumpkin desserts and all of those other classic fall flavors. I love ginger cookies, and I’m always up to trying a new one. A little while ago, I got a text from my friend asking if I was familiar with products from The Ginger People. I’d seen their products in baking supply stores and had used their crystallized ginger before. 

She was asking as she saw the crystallized ginger chips at the store and figured I could make excellent cookies with them. She thought the recipe on the package looked good; I agreed and that’s what these are. You could certainly use finely diced crystallized ginger in this recipe, but the ginger chips make the recipe a lot easier to put together. Chopping crystallized ginger can be very difficult!

I made these cookies and refrigerated the dough overnight. I like to give spice cookies time for the flavors to come together. I think it is difficult to get all of the flour mixed in when I make spice cookies, why I have that problem with this type of cookie and no other type baffles me! This recipe makes about three and a half dozen. I rolled most of mine in orange sanding sugar because it makes the cookies more festive. I rolled some of the cookies in plain sugar, as my husband doesn’t like sanding sugar, and they still look great. I love these cookies: strong ginger flavor, chewy on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside.

Chewy Ginger Snaps
2-1/4 cups flour
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
3-1/2 ounces crystallized ginger chips
Coarse sugar, for decoration

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Mix on medium until light and fluffy. Add the molasses and the egg and stir until combined. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture. Stir just until the flour is incorporated into the dough. Stir in the crystallized ginger chips. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

Shape the cookies into 1-inch balls and roll in coarse sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 8-9 minutes, cookies should still be soft when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from The Ginger People

Friday, September 19, 2014

White Chocolate Macadamia Bars

I think one of the most classic combinations is macadamia nuts and white chocolate. This combination is so very popular in cookies that you can buy in coffee shops and the like. Years ago when I baked a lot, long before I had a blog, one of my signature cookies was a white chocolate espresso macadamia nut bars. I got the recipe off of the package of white chocolate chips that I bought at Costco. I’ve lost track of that recipe, but I went searching for something similar and found this classic cookie.

In all honesty, I was really surprised that I’ve never made a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie! So I figured that this one would be great since it is so straight forward. I started back at work this week, so it’s the perfect cookie for me as I’m not quite adjusted to my being-at-work schedule yet. These bars are fairly simple, the only complexity being that you melt the butter and brown sugar together first, similar to a browned butter cookie.

I will say that the dough/batter for these bars is a little strange. Perhaps I didn’t let the butter/brown sugar cool and that was the cause. It’s a very wet batter, but don’t worry, they do bake up fine. My batter was so warm that when I stirred in the white chocolate it started to melt. Oh well. The looked great when they came out of the oven and when I cut them they are great, just a touch soft in the middle. I’d rather have under baked cookies than ones that are dry! These are very nice and very classic.

White Chocolate Macadamia Bars
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1-1/4 cups coarsely chopped macadamia nuts, divided
1-1/2 cups white baking chips, divided
1 teaspoon shortening

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer the cooled butter/sugar mixture to a large mixer bowl. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat on medium until smooth. With the mixer running on low, add the flour and baking powder. Stir in 1 cup of the macadamias and 1 cup of the white chips into the batter. Spread evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup macadamias and ¼ cup of white chips.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and the bars are set. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. 

Melt remaining 1/4 cup white chips and the shortening in the microwave. Remove the bars from the pan and peel away the foil. Drizzle with the melted white chocolate. Allow the drizzle to set before cutting into bars. 

Recipe from Betty Crocker

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes

Last week when I was picking out cookies to bake, my husband had suggested that I use gingerbread Kahlua in the brownies I was making. I thought that sounded good, but then that would have been for my Christmas baking. He suggested that I could make Kahlua Nanaimo Bars, and that he would find some recipes. One of the recipes he sent me was this one, for Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes. Since this was the very first recipe that I pinned when I joined Pinterest, I figured that it was finally time to make them.

These are quite similar to Nanaimo Bars, although they don’t contain graham crackers. These are just a chocolate cupcake base, with nuts and coconut added to the batter. The original recipe called for almonds, but I always use pecans in Nanaimo Bars so that’s what I used here. The filling in a Nanaimo Bar uses Bird’s Custard Powder, and that is used here in the icing. I love custard powder and am happy for any opportunity to use it.

I wasn’t sure how many cupcakes this would make, but I was able to make 24 regular-sized cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes. I had a little batter left over and probably could have made another 6-9 mini cupcakes but I figured I had plenty. I only had enough icing for the 24 cupcakes and some of the minis, but I like lots of frosting. While these don’t taste exactly like Nanaimo Bars, the flavors are really close. I love the frosting especially; the custard powder really adds something! So it took me a couple of years to finally make these, but they were worth the wait!

Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes
2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
3 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1-1/2 cups coconut

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup whipping cream
¼ cup vanilla custard powder (Bird’s)
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. You’ll need at least 24 cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. in a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium for three minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. With the mixer running on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture and the remaining milk, and then the final 1/3 of the flour. Stir in the pecans and coconut.

Fill the cupcake liners ¾ full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the icing: In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter, whipping cream, custard powder, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix on medium until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add additional whipping cream. Add more powdered sugar if the icing is too thin.

Spread or pipe the icing on the cooled cupcakes. If desired, sprinkle with coconut and chocolate curls/decoration.

Recipe from BS’ In the Kitchen

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kahlua Brownies

My husband came across this recipe and set it to me. It looked like a great classic brownie with a twist, so I thought they would be great to try. I actually thought about changing these into a Christmas cookie, using the gingerbread Kahlua that I have. In the end, I decided that I’d just follow the recipe as it was. I do need to think of some recipes to use the gingerbread Kahlua!

These brownies use chocolate chips as the chocolate, which is a bit unusual. Luckily, I have lots of chocolate chips, so that was easy. This isn’t quite a one bowl brownie, but it’s fairly close. You melt the chocolate and butter in one bowl and then mix the rest in the mixer. I was thinking that this makes a lot of dough for a 9” square pan, but in the end you get nice, thick brownies. I didn’t brush additional Kahlua on the brownies when they came out of the oven, mainly because I forgot. I’m sure that would add even more to these brownies!

The frosting I first made as the recipe specified, but it was way too thick. I added some milk and it was better, and in the end I added about 2 tablespoons milk to get the frosting to a workable consistency. I cut the bars into 25 squares, but they are pretty large as the brownies are so thick. I think I should have cut them a little smaller. The Kahlua flavor is fabulous, and it’s just right paired with the fudgy brownie.

Kahlua Brownies
1 cup butter
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup Kahlua
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons Kahlua
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk, if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9” square baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt the butter and chocolate chips in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler.  Allow to cool 5 minutes. In a large mixer bowl, beat the brown sugar and eggs on medium. Stir in the Kahlua and the chocolate/butter mixture. Stir until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and salt; stir on low just until the flour is incorporated into the dough. Spread into the prepared pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. If desired, prick the brownies with a toothpick and brush with additional Kahlua.

Make the frosting: in a large mixer bowl beat the butter and Kahlua on medium. Add the powdered sugar, first beating on low and then increase the speed to medium. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk. If the frosting is too thin, add additional powdered sugar.

Remove the brownies from the pan and peel away the foil. Frost with the Kahlua frosting. Cut into bars.

Recipe from Wallflour Girl

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spiced Pear and Pistachio Bread with Maple Cream Cheese Drizzle

It’s starting to be more fall-like weather in the Seattle area, although we have a couple of cool, cloudy days and then its 85 degrees for a couple of days. At least it gets cooler at night, which means that the house doesn’t get so warm. I’ve been seeing so many pumpkin and Halloween recipes, but I’m not quite ready for that yet. I do have a couple of ginger and fall cookie recipes on the horizon, but not quite yet. This bread, combining pear and spices, is a first step towards the fall baking direction.

I have pistachios that I would like to use before they become stale, so I did some searching for pistachio loaf recipes. I was looking to find a pistachio and chocolate chunk loaf, but I didn’t really find that. I suppose that wouldn’t be too hard to create based on other recipes! I did find this recipe for pear and pistachio bread, which sounded great.

This, like most quick breads, was very easy to put together. I used to have trouble with loaves baking properly, but I have a heavy gauge loaf pan now and that seems to help a lot. I also test the loaf with a thin knife, which really tests the center of the loaf for doneness. My only challenge was the cream cheese drizzle. The original recipe didn’t call for any powdered sugar, and maybe that can work but it didn’t in my case. I ended up whisking in about a cup and a half of powdered sugar. I had LOTS of drizzle, but that’s not really a bad thing. I liked this bread quite a bit, although I think I would add even more spices.

Spiced Pear and Pistachio Bread with Maple Cream Cheese Drizzle
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk
¼ cup heavy cream
2 medium pears, peeled, cored and diced    
⅓ cup pistachios, chopped

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” x 5” loaf pan with foil, allowing the foil to overhang the sides of the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, egg, sugar, and vanilla on medium until smooth.  Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low. Add the milk and heavy cream, continuing to beat on low. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low until the flour is incorporated into the batter. The batter will not be completely smooth. Fold in the pears and pistachios with a spatula. Spoon into the prepared pan.  

Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a thin knife inserted into the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Once the loaf has cooled, make the drizzle. In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese, maple syrup, powdered sugar, and butter and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled loaf. Refrigerate the loaf for 30 minutes to set the drizzle.