{Guest Baker} Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

 

I haven’t had much time for baking recently.  And even when I have made time for baking over the last several weeks, it’s been for a specific purpose and squeezed into a too-tight schedule, so taking pictures of the product (much less the process) has not been a top priority.

But my roommate, B, has been on a Christmas cookie baking spree this week, so I thought it would be fun to share one of my favorite recipes from the week.

Chocolate sandwich cookies filled with peppermint icing.

 

Oh. Yum. 

Seriously.  I have eaten WAY too many of these cookies, but they are SOOO good! 

And who ever said cookies didn’t make for a balanced and nutritious breakfast anyway…?

As much as I really do love to bake, I think I could get used to this way of baking…B mixes the dough, rolls out the cookies, watches the clock, and I just “assist” while sampling and taking photos.

Lest you think otherwise, though, I wasn’t a completely useless assistant.  I made the final decision regarding the appropriate shade of red for the icing…an important part of the process if I do say so myself!

Ingredients:

2 boxes Devil’s Food cake mix

4 eggs slightly beaten

2/3 cup oil

8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened

½ cup butter, softened

3-4 cups powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

Peppermint extract to taste

Red food coloring (optional)

 

Instructions:

  1. Beat cake mixes, eggs, and oil. Batter will be stiff.
  2. Roll dough into balls (or use a cookie dough scoop) and place on ungreased baking sheets (parchment paper on the cookie sheets is optional).
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes (do NOT over-bake).
  4. Immediately after cookies are removed from oven, flatten lightly with spatula, and move to wire cooling rack.
  5. In another bowl, beat cream cheese and butter.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and mix until smooth.  Add peppermint extract to desired minty-ness.  Feel free to add red food coloring to desired shade of red at this point as well.  Or not.
  6. Spread icing onto bottom of one cookie and top with another cookie.

 

These cookies are soooo good (and even better when made by your roommate while you “assist” in the kitchen…just sayin’)!

Enjoy!

Macaroons (aka: The Missing Post)

Remember this letter from exactly two months ago?  The one where I promised five posts that would be coming “soon and very soon”?

Well, as some of you may have noticed (or not…which is totally understandable…it has been two months), I have delivered on four of those five posts to date.  But whatever happened to the coconut macaroons?  The ones that I labeled as the “easiest/fastest dessert ever”?

 

Epic fail.  That’s what happened.

Okay, I suppose “epic” may be a bit harsh.  But seriously, my recent batch of these ridiculously simple treats just didn’t turn out as well as I would have hoped.  Oh, they tasted alright, but the texture was a little off, and the color was not the crisp-white-with-a-few-appropriate-spots-of-toasted-coconut that had resulted from my first successful batch a month earlier. 

But after a midnight brainstorming session with B (my roommate) in which we were both recounting our coconut recipe woes, I feel fairly confident that we uncovered a plausible explanation for the fail(s). 

The reason I attempted this recipe for macaroons in the first place was to use leftover coconut (from another recipe) that had been stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  But for this most recent attempt, I opened a brand new bag of coconut that had been stored in the pantry. 

So, it seems that the coconut stored in the fridge (which was probably significantly lacking in moisture compared to its fresh counterpart), may have worked a little better for this particular purpose. 

I intend to make the recipe again to test our theory, but for now, here’s the recipe that I have now used with a 50/50 success rate:

 

Coconut Macaroons

(as adapted from the Baker’s brand coconut bag)

Ingredients:

1 14oz pkg. coconut

2/3 cup sugar

6 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Instructions:

  1. Mix first four ingredients, then stir in egg whites and vanilla extract until well blended.
  2. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.
  4. Cool completely on wire racks.

 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling

A couple of weekends ago, I decided to experiment with a new cupcake recipe.  But not just any cupcake recipe.  After spending entirely too much time watching shows such as Cupcake Wars and DC Cupcakes, I decided to experiment with filled cupcakes for the very first time.

I had already bookmarked this recipe from Food & Wine for double dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling (say that three times fast…), so this seemed like an appropriate time to pull it out and give it a try.

 

 

Considering I had never made filled cupcakes before, I think they turned out pretty well!  My number one take-away lesson for next time, though: Add. More. Filling.

These cupcakes were a little involved, but totally worth it!

 

 

Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

3/4 cup & 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

½ cup boiling water

1 cup buttermilk

1 ¾ cups flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ sticks butter

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin cups.

2. Combine cocoa powder and boiling water.  Whisk until smooth.  Add buttermilk.

3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Then beat in dry ingredients alternating with cocoa mixture.

5. Spoon batter into liners (about two-thirds full) and bake for 20-22 minutes.

6. Let cupcakes cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then let them cool completely on wire racks before filling.

 

 

Peanut Butter Filling

Ingredients:

1 cup peanut butter

3 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup powdered sugar

 

Instructions:

1. Beat the peanut butter and butter until creamy.  Add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

2. Spoon filling into pastry bag with star tip (or if you’re like me, a plastic baggie with the corner cut off works just fine).

3. If you have a pastry bag, push tip into top of cupcake and fill.  If using a plastic bag, cut a cone shape out of the top of the cupcake, fill, then replace cone.

 

Chocolate Icing

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

 

Instructions:

1. In small saucepan, bring heavy cream to a simmer.

2. Off the heat, add semisweet chocolate to cream and let stand for 5 minutes before whisking together until smooth.

3. Let icing stand until slightly cooled and thickened (mine took about 10 minutes, but it could take up to around 15 minutes).

4. Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the icing, let stand for 5 minutes, and then dip the tops again.

 

 

Enjoy!

Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Last week, I was on a mission to find smoothie recipes so that I could live off of “liquid food” while my mouth recovered from the shock [read: pain] of new brackets on my back teeth.

At some point in the midst of my smoothie search on allrecipes.com, I came across this recipe for Banana Bars, which led me to this recipe for Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting.  I honestly can’t remember how I found the recipe or why I decided to make it (especially considering that I would typically just make banana bread muffins with any extra bananas on hand), but I’m SO glad I did.  On both accounts!

This recipe, which is somewhere between a banana cake and a banana bread, is simply amazing!  And bonus, it gets even better after taking up residence in the fridge for a few days.

Banana Bars

Ingredients:

½ cup butter, softened

1 ½ cups white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups mashed bananas

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 10×15 inch pan.

2. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then stir in the sour cream and vanilla.

3. Add flour, baking soda, and salt and stir into batter (I actually beat it on low for about a minute). Then add the mashed bananas.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

5. Cool completely before frosting.

Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

1 8oz. package cream cheese

1 cup white sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

Instructions:

1. Beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form; set aside.

2. Combine cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth (this may take a little time, but it WILL get smooth).

3. Fold in whipped cream to cream cheese mixture.

Enjoy!

Strawberry Pie

I’ve mentioned before that I like to bake cakes for family gatherings.  If a cake seems even halfway appropriate for the occasion, I am all there with my [meager] cake-baking skills!

But for Father’s Day this year (an occasion that would typically necessitate a cake by my standards), my Dad specifically requested a pie.  A fruit pie to be exact.

I couldn’t decide between a key lime pie and a strawberry pie…so I made both.

I used Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Key Lime Pie (Sorta), which was good, but the Strawberry Pie – an adaptation from about 4 or 5 different recipes – really “took the cake”.

 

FOR THE CRUST, I found this basic recipe on allrecipes.com.  Aside from using butter-flavored shortening and adding a couple tablespoons of sugar, I followed this recipe exactly, and it turned out great.  I even did a lattice top (and considering it was my first time, it didn’t look too bad)!

 Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup butter-flavored shortening

6 tablespoons ice-cold water

Instructions:

1. Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Cut in shortening with a pastry cutter until the mixture is blended and crumbly.

2. Mix in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, with a fork.

3. Divide the dough into 2 balls, and roll each out into a circle 1 inch larger than the inverted pie plate.

4. Place one circle of dough into pie plate.  Add the filling.  For lattice top, cut remaining circle of dough into strips and make weave pattern on top of filling.  Cut off excess crust around edges. Fold under excess dough so that it is even with the edge of the pie plate.  Seal and flute the edges of the crust with a fork.  Brush top of crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar before baking,

 

FOR THE FILLING, I combined several recipes, all the while hoping and praying that even with my lack of pie-making experience, the combination would work out okay…and I’m happy to report that it did!

Ingredients: 

2 pounds of strawberries, cut into large chunks

1 ¼ cups sugar (or more/less depending on sweetness of fruit)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (could add more to taste)

2 tablespoons butter

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Mix together sugar, flour, cornstarch, and cinnamon.  Mix lightly with strawberries.

3. Let filling sit for 30 minutes before adding to crust.

4. Once filling is in the crust, dot the fruit with butter.

5. Cover with lattice strips (see #4 from the crust instructions).

6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until crust is slightly brown.

 

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and enjoy!