Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Give-Away!! and Lemon Cream Sandwich Cookies

First, let's get this give-away out of the way. One of my sisters and I have an Etsy store, Max and Ellie, selling baby and toddler items we've made. We've got appliqued onesies and t-shirts, carseat blankets, crayon kits, tiny first-aid kits, and children's aprons. And we're giving away one of our adorable aprons as part of Sew Mama Sew's May Giveaway Day. Click here to see how to enter!

Now, what you all came for: the food! My sister made the most delicious raspberry ice cream for us the other night--I'll have to post her recipe sometime--and I really wanted homemade cookies to go with it. Lemon cookies sounded like a good fit, but we are a picky family when it comes to dessert. A) We generally prefer soft, chewy cookies, and most lemon cookie recipes I can think of are for tea cookies or shortbread or some other crispy little cookie. B) I have at least one sister who will not eat anything that has sour cream or cream cheese in it, even if you swear you can't taste it, so that cut out lots of soft lemon cookie recipes and cream cheese frosting.

Then I found not one, not two, but dozens of blogs that tried and loved Lemon Whoopie Pies from Big Fat Cookies by Elinor Klivans, and they fit my criteria! I did have to switch out the frosting since the original recipe calls for the dreaded cream cheese, but they were a huge hit! Everyone loved them and they were gone by breakfast!

Lemon Cream Sandwich Cookies
based on Lemon Whoopie Pies from Big Fat Cookies by Elinor Klivans
When I make these again, I will probably make the cookies a little smaller. As you can see from the pictures, they were the size of saucers!

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 egg
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

Position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. The original recipe says to butter the parchment, but that gets kind of messy, and I thought I got better-looking results when I stopped buttering the parchment. I had no problems with the cookies sticking to unbuttered parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and lemon zest on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add egg, lemon juice, and vanilla, mixing until blended. Reduce speed to low and add half of the flour mixture. Mix just until blended, then add buttermilk. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until smooth. Drop dough by heaping Tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets, spacing dough about 3 inches apart. These cookies spread a lot, so you should only have 6-8 cookies per sheet. Bake cookies for about 12 minutes, until the tops feel firm and there is a thin brown line just around the edge of each cookie. Allow cookies to cool on pan for 10 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

1 lb powdered sugar
juice of half a lemon plus milk to equal 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. If the frosting is too thick, you can add more milk, but I found it to be the perfect consistency for filling these cookies. I might have added more than just 1 teaspoon of lemon zest; you can certainly add the zest to taste. To assemble the cookies, simply spread the desired amount of frosting on the bottom of half of the cooled cookies, then top with another cookie to create a sandwich. Tada!

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Sour Cherry Pie with Pistachio Crumble

I'm not a big cherry pie fan. Cherry pies have always tasted just a little fake to me. I love real cherries, but cherry pie filling just does not taste like real cherries. I will eat things made with cherry pie filling to be polite, but I would never, ever choose cherry pie over almost any other type of pie...until now! This beauty of a dessert is just so good! It calls for fresh or frozen sour pie cherries, but I couldn't find those anywhere, so I used canned pie cherries (NOT cherry pie filling!). Toss the cherries with a little cornstarch, some sugar, and voila! It takes mere minutes and the results are so delicious and so not-fake-tasting that I don't see why anyone would ever use canned cherry pie filling!

I'm a sucker for crumble topping, and the addition of pistachios in this one lent the oatmeal/cinnamon mixture an interesting, lemony crunch and a beautiful chartreuse color.

The only problem I had was the pie crust. I am a pie crust novice, but my husband is not. So, when I make this pie again (I'm thinking of adding it to the Thanksgiving line-up from now on!), if I'm not better at the pie crust thing, I can always have my husband make the crust for me. Or buy store-bought pie crust, but don't tell anyone I said that!

I'm on vacation visiting my parents, and all my siblings are here too, so there were many tasters for this week's recipe. The pie was universally well-received, but my sister, who LOVES cherry pie, said it was amazing and even shared a piece with me for breakfast the next morning. A high compliment indeed.

This week's recipe was chosen by Michelle of Flourchild. Please, please go get the recipe from her blog; it was so delicious! And check out the other Sweet Melissa Sundays Bakers here.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cake Slice Bakers #8: Mile High Devil's Food Cake

I have an admission: I am the teensiest bit tired of triple-layer cakes. There, I said it! It really comes down to the parchment circles. I know you can buy 8" parchment circles somewhere, but I haven't found them yet, so every month I cut out three 8" parchment circles while trying to keep the paper from rolling up, and I just couldn't make myself do it this month. Instead, I made plain old cupcakes. And they were so delicious that I don't think anyone cared that they didn't get a triple-layer cake! This Devil's Food recipe was easy to put together and tasted just like you'd imagine a Devil's Food cake tasting, and the cupcakes baked up moist and tender. I had problems with the frosting and ended up adding probably a full pound of powdered sugar to my brown sugar buttercream. But my husband said it was the best frosting ever and that I was lucky he left me enough to frost the cupcakes! I consider that a success.

Mile High Devil's Food Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream
from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
I cut the recipe in half and got 15 cupcakes. I baked them at the same temperature, but reduced the baking time. If you want to do the same, I suggest checking your cupcakes after 20 minutes.

1 cup unsweetend cocoa (NOT Dutch processed)
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 2/3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
9 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks plus 2 Tablespoons)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup cold water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and grease the paper as well. Place the cocoa in a medium bowl and add the hot water. Whisk until smooth and let it cool to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low blend to combine. Add the butter and the dissolved cocoa. Then raise the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and cold water until combined. Add this liquid to the batter in three additions scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Divide the batter among the three pans. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a cakes tester inserted into the almost comes out clean. There should be a few crumbs attached still. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes. Then invert and remove parchment paper and cool completely on a wire rack.

5 egg whites
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

Place all the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer; set aside. In a heavy medium saucepan combine the sugar and water. Cook over medium heat stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then bring to a boil without stirring and cook until the syrup reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Begin beating the egg whites on mediumlow spped. Slowly pour in teh syrup making sure not to hit the beater. Increase the mixer speed to medium high adn beat until the meringue has cooled to body temperature. With the mixer on medium-low add 1-2 Tablespoons of butter at a time. when all the butter has been added increase the mixer's speed to medium and beat until the mixture looks curdled or separated. Continue to beat until the icing comes together again looking like soft smooth whipped butter.

Assembling the cake:
Place one layer flat side down and cover it with 2/3 cup of the frosting. Top with second layer and repeat process. Top with third layer and frost the sides of the cake.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Guiness Gingerbread

**Bad news friends. I had a busy, busy week, and before I could take a picture of the gingerbread, it was all gone! But what's a post without photos, so I've included a random pictorial tour of my backyard. Enjoy!**

Our recipe this week was chosen by Katie of Katiecakes. You can find the full recipe on her blog here. And you can find the lovely results of other SMS bakers on the blogroll.

This recipe gave me a reason to be glad that it is still rainy and cold this far into the year! In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I'm not a beer-drinker and I'm not a die-hard gingerbread fan. So neither part of the recipe's title seemed enticing. That being said, however, I thought this was a very tasty recipe, certainly miles better than gingerbread made from a box mix. I plan on dog-earring its page in the cookbook and making it again during the holidays. And I have 90% of a huge bottle of Guiness in my fridge if anyone wants to come and get it!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Heather's Caramel Corn

I'm not a big caramel corn fan. Let me clarify: I don't really like Cracker Jacks or any other hard, super crunchy, almost burnt-tasting popcorn with nuts mixed in. Blech. But I love, gooey caramel corn that is heavy on the caramel. I think I could probably eat bark chips covered in gooey caramel! Anyway, my friend Heather makes delicious caramel corn. On really lucky days, the doorbell rings and it is Heather's kids with a big bowl of this stuff. My husband and I give a little chunk to our children and then eat the rest. Shameful behavior, and yet...

Heather's Caramel Corn

about 3/4 cup unpopped popcorn
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Karo syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

Pop the popcorn however you like. We have one of those old-timey things with a crank that you turn while it sits on your stove-top.

Very fun, highly recommend it! Set the popped popcorn aside in a large bowl. In a heavy saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and Karo syrup; stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat without stirring, and, using a candy thermometer, cook to the soft ball stage (234 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit). Like I said, I like my caramel gooey, so I took it off the heat as soon as it hit 234. However, next time I make caramel corn, I will probably let it cook just a little longer, probably until it hits the mid to upper end of the temperature range. After removing the caramel from the heat, add baking soda, vanilla, and salt, and stir. Pour mixture oven popcorn and gently stir with a big spoon or spatula until popcorn is evenly coated. Let cool before eating.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Lime Icebox Cake with Fresh Strawberry Sauce

OMG! This cake was so good. A big thank you to Jennifer of Keep Passing the Open Windows for choosing this week's SMS recipe. You can get the full recipe on her blog here, and see the other SMS bakers on the blogroll here.

It is still chilly and rainy here, so when I saw that this week's recipe was an icebox cake, I was a little disappointed because it isn't even remotely summery here, and this is obviously a delicious, summery dessert. But then I decided to make it for Cinco de Mayo, and it was perfect. You start with a cookie crust, add a layer of citrus-flavored custard, top it with meringue, bake it, then freeze it. It sounds like a lot of work, but it is 100% worth it!

I followed the recipe exactly except everywhere that says "lemon" I used limes. It was amazing!! It tasted kind of like a frozen key lime pie, kind of like a frozen pink lemonade pie, and a lot like a Mexican dessert by brother-in-law makes with basically the same list of ingredients.

I'm sure the original version with lemon is good, but I strongly encourage everyone to try it with limes. It'll knock your socks off!
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chocolate Butterscotch Picnic Cake, Dressed Up or Down

I don't really know where the name "Picnic Cake" came from; maybe because these cakes don't have frosting, you can take them on a picnic more easily??? My mom gave me this recipe last week and I was excited to make it and see how it would turn out. It was fantastic, and very customizable! We ate ours dressed up with whipped cream and caramel ice cream topping (the cake was dressed up, not us), but I ate a lot of it plain for breakfast, lunch, and the more-frequent-than-it-should-have-been snack. It is delicious either way!! My nana, who is nuts about nuts, sprinkles chopped nuts on hers, but we chose to leave them out. And you can bake it in a bundt pan or a 9x13 rectangular pan. Something for everyone!! The only problem--and we have tried several fixes without getting good results--is that the butterscotch chips sink to the bottom and form a strange, patchy crust. But my sister-in-law said that was her favorite part, so maybe it isn't a problem after all!

Chocolate Butterscotch Picnic Cake
from my Nana, via my mom :)

1 box Devil's Food cake mix
1 small box butterscotch pudding
1/2 cup oil
1 1/4 cups water
4 eggs
2 cups butterscotch chips
chopped nuts (optional)
whipped cream and caramel ice cream topping for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease either a 9x13" baking dish or a bundt pan. If you use a bundt pan, grease it REALLY well. Combine cake mix, pudding, oil, water, and eggs. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle butterscotch chips and nuts on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a tootpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out mostly clean. This is a very moist cake, so the toothpick won't be bone dry, but you don't want it obviously underdone. Cool in the pan. If using a bundt pan, invert onto a serving plate. Garnish with whipped cream and caramel sauce (or not), and enjoy!!
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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Strawberry Shortcakes

This week's SMS recipe, Strawberry Shortcakes, was chosen by Wendy of Pink Stripes. You can find the full recipe on her blog here, and check out the Sweet Melissa Sundays blogroll to see how other bakers fared with this recipe.

I love strawberry shortcake no matter what form the cake part comes in. Angel food cake, Twinkies, biscuits, yellow cake, those spongy things from the grocery store, they're all good to me. But an already delicious dessert is definitely made better by using homemade shortcakes. This week's shortcakes were the biscuity type with a little lemon zest added. They were very, very tasty and came together in a snap. But I think I like my sister-in-law's recipe just a tiny bit more; they have lots of vanilla and bake up just a little taller. Click here for that recipe.

**The pictures are not up to my usual standard of clarity. Even if a photo isn't gorgeous at least it should be in focus, right?! And that's not mint I garnished my shortcake with (as per the recipe). I'm not sure what it is! But it looked mint-ish and I'm not dead, so I think it was OK!!**
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