Friday, October 31, 2014

Pistachio Cream Cheese Cookies

I found this on a blog where it was listed as a Christmas cookie, but I decided that this contained perfectly normal ingredients and there was no need to wait until Christmas to make these. I also had some cream cheese left over from some of the frosting that I have made recently, so these were great. The original recipe called for walnuts, but they aren’t my favorite so I used pistachios instead.

These mix up quickly in the mixer, and the original recipe said to chill the dough for 10 minutes. This dough is incredibly sticky and there was no way that they would be ready to bake in just a few minutes in the refrigerator. I refrigerated the dough for a few hours and it really helped. The cookies do spread and get golden brown around the edges (since they contain so much butter/cream cheese). I flattened some of the cookies before baking and didn’t flatten other ones, but they came out of the oven looking the same.

This recipe makes a bit more than two dozen, so it isn’t the largest batch. The pistachios that I used were roasted and salted, which worked, but some might think these are too salty. With such a simple cookie, the flavors shine through clearly. You definitely taste the tang of the cream cheese and the salty flavor of the pistachios. 

Pistachio Cream Cheese Cookies
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
½ cup pistachios, toasted and finely chopped

In a large mixer bowl, beat the sugar, butter, and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour and chopped pistachios. Do not over mix; the dough will be very sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15-16 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Picture Perfect Meals

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting

I was invited to a Halloween party and we were supposed to bring something so I decided to make some cupcakes. I had bought some decorative Halloween cupcake liners and this was the perfect excuse to use them. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to bake. I didn’t know most of the people at the party so I didn’t want to make anything too exotic. My husband sent me the recipe below, which sounded just great. Chocolate with a little bit of spice and cinnamon frosting? Great!

I did edit the recipe a bit. Although the only thing I changed about the cake was that I made it into cupcakes. I changed the frosting to be cream cheese, as mascarpone is very expensive. These were supposed to have whipped cream based frosting, but I changed that to a powdered sugar based frosting, which I thought would travel better. My husband also suggested filling the cupcakes with cherry pie filling. 

You might look at this cake recipe and think, “What is she thinking?” The cake does contain some unexpected ingredients like cayenne pepper and balsamic vinegar, but trust me, it works. The cake mixes in one bowl, which was super easy. That makes up for also having to make the frosting and filling the cupcakes. It was fairly easy to core out the cupcakes; I hadn’t really done that before so I wasn’t sure how smoothly that would go. All assembled, these looked fabulous and they were well liked at the party. Some people couldn’t believe that they were homemade, but that’s because they didn’t know me!

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup butter, room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons milk
Cherry pie filling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a regular-sized cupcake pan with paper liners. You’ll need about 18 liners.

In a large bowl, combine the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, pepper and salt. Whisk to combine, making sure that the brown sugar isn’t lumpy. Add the milk, oil, egg, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla and mix with a spatula until combined. The batter should be fairly smooth.

Fill each cupcake liner ¾ full of batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting: in a large mixer bowl beat the cream cheese and butter until light. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until smooth. I added 3 cups. Stir in the cinnamon and vanilla. Add milk and/or additional powdered sugar to achieve spreading consistency.

Assemble the cupcakes: if desired, with a sharp knife core out part of the center of the cooled cupcake and fill with about a tablespoon of cherry pie filling. Spoon the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe the frosting on the cupcake. 

Inspired by/cake recipe from Baked Bree

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Cake with Caramel Frosting

This month’s theme for the What’s Baking group was pumpkin or squash. There are so many options for this theme that I was almost overwhelmed with what to make. I chose this cake for a number of reasons: it used exactly the amount of pumpkin puree that I had in the refrigerator and I needed a great looking cake to take to work to celebrate October birthdays. This cake fit the bill!

Now, pumpkin isn’t my favorite flavor, but I was very excited to try this cake, since I hadn’t ever seen a chocolate pumpkin cake! I figured that the pumpkin wouldn’t be a strong flavor, but I figured it would add great texture and moistness to the cake. Caramel is such a popular flavor at work that I knew the frosting by itself would be a hit. The original recipe also included a layer of chocolate ganache, but I thought that would just be too much.

This cake was fantastic. The pumpkin flavor was subtle, which I liked, and the cake texture was just beautiful. The frosting was so good, but you have to be careful when making it: if the caramel is warm, the frosting will be runny. Mine was on the warm side, so I had to refrigerate it to allow it to cool and set before assembling the cake. I took this very tall cake to work and it was great. The pieces are very large! Make sure you check out Carrie’s Sweet Life, this month’s host, to see this month’s other pumpkin/squash recipes. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Cake with Caramel Frosting
2 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups sugar
5 eggs
11 ounce package caramels
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup butter softened
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ½ cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray three 8” round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment and spray the parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin and vanilla.  In a large mixer bowl beat together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer running on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk mixture. Add an additional 1/3 of the flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk mixture. Add the final 1/3 of the flour and stir until incorporated. Divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes and then remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the frosting: in a microwave safe bowl or in a saucepan over low heat, melt the caramels with 2 tablespoons milk. Allow the caramels to cool for about 15 minutes.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until creamy. Stir in the salt and vanilla. With the mixer running on low, mix in the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Once you’ve added the powdered sugar, add milk as needed to achieve spreading consistency. Stir in the cooled caramel.

Assemble the cake: Place the bottom cake layer upside down on a serving plate. Top with about 1 cup of the frosting. Allow the frosting to set in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Top with another cake layer, right side up, and top with 1 cup of frosting. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Top with the final cake layer, and top with another 1 cup of frosting. (You may have extra frosting.) If desired, drizzle with chocolate syrup and swirl to make a decorative design. Refrigerate until serving.

Recipe from Lemons for Lulu

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rolo Oatmeal Cookie Bars

You usually see cookie recipes containing bits of candy after Halloween, since people usually have candy left over. We typically buy candy but rarely have and kids come to the door, so we usually have candy to spare. Somehow, it all eventually disappears, which probably isn’t very healthy. Oh well. This isn’t a recipe that uses left over candy; it uses the smaller Rolo Bites, which come unwrapped. That’s great because it would be a pain to unwrap that many Rolos.

These bars cookies are so simple to put together. You pretty much mix everything together, stir in the mix-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, Rolos) and then bake. The dough is extremely thick, and I ended up having to use my hands to spread the dough in the pan. Having the pan lined with parchment, and the thickness of the dough made it impossible to spread with a spatula.

I baked these for the longer of the time range given. They were soft when they came out of the oven and certainly golden brown around the edges. I knew that they would continue to set as they cooled, but these cookies are still fairly soft. I don’t think that baking them longer would have made much difference; they are just a soft cookie. I love the flavors: Rolos are always a favorite of mine and they pair nicely with the oats and pecans. 

Rolo Oatmeal Cookie Bars
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup Rolo Bites candy (already unwrapped)
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a  9” × 13” baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, and eggs. Beat on medium until creamy. Add the milk, vanilla, flour, baking soda, salt, and oats and stir on low until combined. With a spatula, stir in the chocolate chips, Rolo Bites, and pecans. The dough will be very thick. Spread the dough evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes; until browned along the edges and the bars are set, although still soft. Cool on a wire rack.  

Life the bars from the pan by the parchment and peel it away. Cut into bars.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Molasses Cookies

So fall is here, and I’m making sure that I hit the major fall baking flavors. I’ve made spice cookies, last week I made apple cookies and this week I am checking off the pumpkin category. I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of pumpkin. These cookies don’t contain a lot of pumpkin, and the pumpkin is combined with molasses and spices, which I like, so I figured I would give them a go. I was also interested in trying the Pumpkin Spice chips. I found them at Target and they are a seasonal specialty, but you could probably substitute cinnamon or butterscotch chips if you wanted.

This cookie recipe is simple, pretty much a chocolate chip cookie recipe with the added pumpkin, molasses and spices. Like most spice cookies, they need time for the flavors to come together, so don’t skip the refrigeration step. I ended up making the dough when I got home from work and then let them chill while we had dinner and watched a little tv. The dough was still sticky, but some dough is just that way. I like the flavor of these, but I don’t think that you can taste the pumpkin all that much. The chips taste like white chocolate chips with some spiced added. These are tasty cookies, and while they are perfect for fall, they don’t really scream pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Molasses Cookies
2-1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 10 ounce package Pumpkin Spice Chips
Additional sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the pumpkin puree, molasses, egg, and vanilla. Mix on medium until combined. The mixture may look a little lumpy. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture. Stir in the Pumpkin Spice chips.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

Shape the dough into 1-1/4” balls and roll in additional sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until set. Allow to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Nestle.