Friday, December 23, 2011

On the 12th Day of Christmas: Molasses Crinkles

We are a family of tradition. One of our longest-running traditions is that of getting violently ill at Christmas. For as long as I can remember, somebody in our family has always been pretty darn sick come Christmas morning. This year, surprise! It's my turn. So I'm kind of phoning in the big ending to my 12 Days of Christmas with a cookie I've posted every year. But it's really good, which is why I keep posting it!

Molasses crinkles are one of the other long-running traditions in our family. We make them every year, and not just for Christmas. They pop up pretty much whenever someone has a hankering for them, whether it is a blustery fall day, a snowy Christmas baking day, or a bright spring morning. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

Click HERE for the recipe. I'm even too sick and lazy to retype it! :(
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

On the 11th Day of Christmas: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gifts

I usually start brainstorming Christmas gifts for our friends and neighbors during the summer. I'm aware that it's crazy, but I just can't help myself! This year, I decided that we'd give pints of cookie dough. As with most projects, I started to have major doubts before starting. What if we end up having to make batch upon batch upon batch of dough? What if it takes longer than plates full of baked cookies (I know that one makes no sense)? What if it's just a lame-o gift? After spending exactly 1 hour last night making cookie dough and exactly 1 hour this morning making the packages cute, I realize it's pretty much the best present ever. For 2 hours of work and about $25 in packaging, chocolate chips, and butter, we have 24 adorable handmade gifts for our loved ones.

I wanted to make sure the cookies were as easy as possible for the people receiving them--who wants a gift that requires a bunch of work on their part? So we went with America's favorite scoop-and-bake cookie, the good ol' chocolate chip.

--The recipe for the cookie dough can be found HERE.
 --I bought my cute cardboard pint containers at Cash-and-Carry (same as Smart-and-Final) for less than $.50 per container.  You can also find them online for a little more HERE.
--I printed the labels myself onto natural kraft cardstock and cut them with a circle cutter.
--The super-thick red and white twine came from Anthropologie a long time ago, but red baker's twine is easy to find.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On the 10th Day of Christmas: Peppermint Crunch Cake


My little sister's birthday is 8 days before Christmas.  My mom has always tried very hard to make it a completely non-Christmassy celebration (I've heard that most December babies appreciate that).  We never wrap her presents in Christmas paper or give her Christmas birthday cards.  But we do always make a Christmassy birthday cake.  Go figure.

I don't remember every single holiday birthday cake I've gotten to help decorate, but there are a few notables that stand out in my memory.  Several years saw a cake decorated with green gummy holly leaves (the kind that are covered in sugar and taste like spearmint) and red hots to make little holly clusters.  One year had blobs of white frosting piped all over with a star tip, and then a beautiful little gum drop stuck in the middle of each frosting star. The gum drops were all different colors.  It was a stunner. At least one year there was a Happy Holidays Barbie cake.

This year, I had a cake all picked out that I'd spotted on Pinterest several months ago. But then I saw something called "Peppermint Crunch Cake" in the Williams-Sonoma catalog, and all plans went out the window! Layers of chocolatey devils food cake covered in a minty candy cane frosting. It was sensational. My kindergartner ate 3 pieces! I would make it again in a heartbeat, but I would wait to sprinkle the candy canes on top until right before serving. Nobody wants candy canes bleeding all over their pretty white frosting. You can alternately stir the crushed candy canes into the frosting, which will make it cute and pink, in which case I'd call this Pink Peppermint Cake. Potato, potahto.

Peppermint Crunch Cake
The devils food recipe comes from Baked Explorations and is a family favorite!

for the cake:
1 oz dark chocolate (I used Ghiradelli 60% chips)
1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
2/3 cup hot coffee (we don't drink coffee, so I always use Pero--1 teaspoon per 8 oz hot water)
1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the frosting:
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
6 Tablespoons cream
crushed candy canes for filling and topping

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter two 8" round pans, line with parchment circles, and butter again. Then dust with flour. If that's too much work, you could try using Pam with flour. I love that stuff! Combine chocolate, cocoa, and hot coffee in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Add milk and whisk again. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla, scrape down sides, and beat again for 30 seconds. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly between pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before running a knife around the edges and flipping out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

While cake is cooling, make frosting. Combine butter, powdered sugar, and peppermint extract in the bowl of a stand mixer. Slowly add cream until the frosting is spreadable. You might not need all of it.

When cake is completely cool, place one 8" cake on a serving plate, top with frosting, and sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Place the other cake layer on top, flat side up. Completely cover top and sides with remaining frosting. Sprinkle with remaining candy cane pieces just before serving.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On the 9th Day of Christmas: Hanukkah Apple Cake


I am a sucker for anything with a lot of cultural heritage behind it. So, while I have absolutely no ties to Hanukkah, I still love the idea of it. It seems like a sweet holiday, steeped in thousands of years of religious lore and symbolism, safely shielded from the commercialism that surrounds Christmas. And you know I'm an even bigger sucker for Holidays that incorporate delicious foods like this yummy apple cake!  Hanukkah starts tonight at sunset; get in the spirit with this dense, sweet cake studded with bits of tart apple and covered in a generous sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

PS--I don't know why it's called "Hanukkah Apple Cake." Most jewish apple cakes are parve, which means they're made without dairy products.  This cake is full of butter and cream cheese, so the name is a mystery to me.  I do know that the cake is delicious!
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Monday, December 19, 2011

On the 8th Day of Christmas: Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies


Need one more quick treat to put on those cute holiday plates you're taking to your friends and neighbors? Try these easy, delicious chocolate mint chip cookies. The chocolate cookie base tastes like brownies, and the creamy, green mint chips taste just like Andes Mints. Mmmm! So good.

Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies
from Guittard

12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups unsifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 oz green mint chips from Guittard

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine semisweet chocolate chips and butter.  Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat until smooth; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla until combined. Add chocolate mixture and beat until combined.  Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Fold in mint chips, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  When cookie dough is stiff, scoop by Tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 8-9 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly before removing to a cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before eating.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

On the 7th Day of Christmas: Chocolate Mint Thumbprints

These little gems are perfect for the holiday season.  With their sparkling sugar coating, they are dressed up in their best party finery, and their chocolate-mint flavor is the very essence of Christmas.

Click HERE for the recipe.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

On the 6th Day of Christmas: Peppermint Oreo Pops


Oreos on a stick might not seem that special; they certainly aren't that different from Oreos that aren't on a stick!  But there's just something about them that is really cute. And really tasty in that I-know-this-is-not-the-least-bit-healthy kind of way. And food on a stick is always more fun to eat, right?!

Instead of doing a regular ol' recipe, I figured I'd do a little tutorial.  It just seems to call for it.

Peppermint Oreo Pops

1 package double-stuffed Oreos (the regular ones aren't thick enough)
2 bags white candy melts (you really only need about 1 1/2 bags, but oh well)
paper lollipop sticks (I like the 6-inch ones)
4 candy canes, crushed

1.  Get out 2 or 3 cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper or waxed paper. Very carefully twist the tops off of all the Oreos and set all of your little Oreo bits and pieces on the prepared cookie sheets.  Don't crowd them.  I'd do about 12 per sheet.

See how I crowded them?  Don't do that!
2.  Using the end of a chopstick or a skewer (I actually used the end of a beater last time), dig a little channel in the cream filling on each Oreo.  If you start at the edge and gently work toward the middle (instead of starting in the center and moving outward), you won't randomly lose big chunks of filling.


3.  Put your candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl.  In this case, tall and narrow is better than short and wide.  Think measuring cup, not pie plate.  Melt them according to package directions.


4.  Dip the end of a lollipop stick in candy and set it in one of the Oreo cream filling channels you dug in step 2.  Gently push it all the way in and all the way down.  Gently!  If you push too hard, the Oreo will break.  If you do break an Oreo, see the "Tips" below for some...tips.


5.  Take an Oreo top, spoon a tiny bit of candy onto the blank side (dime-sized at the most), flip it over, and put it back onto its mate.


6.  Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the rest of the Oreos and sticks, and let them sit until completely set.


7.  If the candy melts need a quick reheat before moving on, feel free to microwave them again briefly.

8.  Take an Oreo Pop and dip it in candy until it is completely covered.  You might need to tilt your bowl and kind of roll or swish the Oreo Pop around to get it covered.  Once it is completely covered, hold it parallel to the table and gently tap the stick against the side of the bowl so that the excess candy coating drips back into the bowl.  If you make sure to hold the Oreo Pop flat while doing this, any unevenness on the front will smooth itself out.  And the back might look like a mess, but no one will see it.


9.  Set the dipped Oreo Pop on it's back on one of the prepared cookie sheets and sprinkle with crushed candy canes.  Allow to set.

Er, it should actually be completely covered

10.  Repeat steps 8 and 9 with remaining Oreo Pops.
11.  When they're all dry, wrap them up however you like!  Or just eat them yourself; that works too!


Tips:
  • Depending on how successfully you split the Oreos and how many broken ones you find in your package, you can get up to 30 Oreo Pops from this recipe.  If you need exactly 30, I would definitely buy two packs of Oreos just to be safe.
  • You can obviously make them with any color candy melts you want, and you can substitute sprinkles for the crushed candy canes.  So far, I like the light blue candy melts the best.  They melt well and cover well, and they're a pretty Tiffany blue.
  • I used white candy melts this time, but I've also used white almond bark.  The almond bark is slightly more difficult to work with, but it covers extremely well, so you can't see any Oreo through the candy coating.
  • If at any point you break an Oreo, never fear!  If you break it pretty cleanly into two large pieces (which, based on my scientific research, is generally the way Oreos break), just piece them back together and glue them with melted candy.  Allow to dry completely, then proceed.  You do end up dunking the entire set-up in candy, so no one will ever know it was broken.
  • For the wrapping above, I used 3x4-inch clear cellophane treat bags by "Celebrate It" from Michaels.  I thought they'd be too small, but they are the perfect size.  I'll definitely use them from now on.  I also used Maraschino baker's twine from The Twinery.
  • You might think you'll need more than one per person, because who doesn't love to chow down on Oreos, but these are really, really rich.  You're probably safe with one per person.  Plus it's always good to leave 'em wanting more!


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On the 5th Day of Christmas: Fresh Cranberry Cake with Hot Butter Sauce

fresh-cranberry-cake-butter-sauce

For some odd reason, this cranberry cake is one of those recipes that I imagine cranberry farmers eating on special occasions back in the olden days, or the Ingalls family anxiously awaiting every holiday season. The cake itself is moist and dense, almost like a shortcake. The cranberries in the batter practically melt while the cake bakes, giving each bite little bits of ruby-red color and a bright, tart flavor that nicely contrasts the simple flavors of the cake. But the real star of the show is the hot butter sauce. Made with melted butter, sugar, and cream, and finished off with a little vanilla, it is so delightfully sinful! No matter how much I put on my cake at the beginning, I always go back for more before my piece is gone.

fresh-cranberry-cake-butter-sauce-1

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On the 4th Day of Christmas: Meyer Lemon Bars


A few years ago, my husband bought me a meyer lemon tree for Mother's Day.  Since we live in the dark, cloudy Pacific Northwest, my meyer lemon harvests are few and far between, so I only let myself use them for very special purposes.  I avoided using my seven little lemons from this year's round-up for months, paralyzed by fears that I would waste them on a recipe that wasn't deserving of their deliciousness.  After making these tart, creamy lemon bars, I'm glad I waited for the perfect recipe.  I can't imagine my meyer lemons lending their unique half lemon/half mandarin orange zing to a more amazing recipe.  The shortbread crust has a perfect not-too-crumbly texture and salty-sweet flavor, and the lemon curd, filled with zest and lemon juice and sugar and butter and cream and eggs and all things delicious, is silky and luxurious.  My only regret is that I won't have another meyer lemon harvest until next year.  I guess I'll just have to go buy a giant bag of meyer lemons from Costco like a normal person.

Meyer Lemon Bars
based on a recipe from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which is always one of the first places I look when trying to find a recipe for something

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
salt
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 equal pieces and softened
7 large egg yolks (Part of the reason my bars have such a deep, lovely golden color is that I use farm fresh eggs.  They're just better, plain and simple.)
2 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup fresh meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup meyer lemon zest (Zest your lemons before you try to juice them.)
3 Tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving enough hanging over the sides that you'll be able to lift the lemon bars out using it. Spray the foil with nonstick spray, and set aside. In a food processor or stand mixer, combine flour, powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then add 8 Tablespoons of softened butter. Blend just until mixture gets sandy. Press firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan, and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and whole eggs in a nonreactive saucepan. Whisk in sugar, then lemon juice, zest, and a pinch of salt. Add remaining 4 Tablespoon butter and cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and heat to a temperature of 170 degrees F.  Strain mixture into a nonreactive bowl and stir in cream.  Pour warm lemon curd over hot crust.  Bake until curd is set and jiggles only slightly, 10 to 15 minutes (I baked mine in an 8-inch pan and went for the full 15 minutes, and they were dreamy.)  Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing from pan and cutting.  Serve dusted with powdered sugar.


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Monday, December 12, 2011

On the 3rd Day of Christmas: Carmelitas


Yes, I've posted these before.  Yes, they are still some of the best cookies I've ever had.  If you give someone these for Christmas, they will forever be indebted to you.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

On the 2nd Day of Christmas: Christmas Cheeseball

pineapple-cheeseball

If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you'll recognize this recipe; I first posted it two years ago during the insanity I call my 25 Day of Holiday Delights series.  It is so good that it warrants re-posting.  It's actually the recipe my mom made the whole time I was growing up and the recipe my sister-in-law's family made the whole time she was growing up.  It is a time-tested winner, and one that gets numerous requests every Christmas.  Make it for that Holiday party you're going to this weekend and I bet you'll get asked to make it every year from now on!

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

On the 1st Day of Christmas: Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies


I don't know if I've ever admitted it on this blog, but I have a huge addiction to themes. I have to have things coordinate, from important things like family Easter outfits to mundane things like weeknight dinners. A few months ago, on a random taco night, I decided we needed something vaguely mexican, not-at-all-authentic for dessert to match our vaguely mexican, not-at-all-authentic shredded chicken crockpot tacos (which are amazing, and I'll post someday, if I can ever take a picture before we eat them all up!). I thought mexican hot chocolate cookies sounded like just the thing, and immediately started searching the internet. It took about 3 seconds to find this delicious recipe from Martha Stewart. And it took me just a little longer than that to eat them all by myself. I think my husband and kids only got a few each, and I ate the rest. I actually couldn't stop eating them. I kept saying, "Oh, just one more," but when you say that every 5 minutes, you end up eating a lot of cookies! No regrets!

These would be so good added to a plate of Holiday cookies for the neighbors, or Santa, or as a special treat for you.  Treat yo' self!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1/4 cup for rolling
2 eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon for rolling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar, beating until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, scraping down sides as necessary.  Add flour mixture and beat until combined.  In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.  Scoop dough by the heaping Tablespoon, roll into balls, and roll in cinnamon sugar.  Place 2" apart on parchment lined baking sheets, and bake for about 8 minutes, until just set.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Double Chocolate Cake


I feel like since it's December, every recipe I post should be a holiday one.  But my mom called the other night to ask me if I had ever posted this recipe (she wanted to make it for dessert and couldn't find the recipe), and I realized that while I'd written up a post and had pictures ready to go, I'd never posted anything about Double Chocolate Cake.  Yikes!  The wrong is now righted!

I find as I try to quickly edit this post that I have so much to say about Double Chocolate Cake, and all of the thoughts are completely random and have almost nothing to do with each other, so I'm going to be crazy and go with the bullet point layout for a sec:

  • This recipe originally came from a neighbor who brought this cake to us when we first moved to San Antonio when I was in Kindergarten.
  • San Antonio has amazing food.  We only lived there for 3 years, but I remember the food very fondly.
  • Double Chocolate Cake is ridiculously easy to make.  It is the kind of dessert that you can prepare in about 10 minutes--that includes getting out a pan and collecting ingredients!
  • It it deliciously chocolatey without being too rich, which some might see as a down-side, but which I see has a huge bonus because you can eat massive quantities of it without feeling full/guilty.  OK, maybe you'll feel guilty, but you'll be able to keep eating it ;)
  • For some reason, my cousins call this Better than Brownies (I'm talking 'bout you Allreds), but the real name is Double Chocolate Cake.
  • Like many chocolate desserts, I think Double Chocolate Cake tastes better if it is completely cool, and actually best if it has had a chance to rest for a while.  So make it early in the day and then try to resist it until after dinner.  Yes, it might be hard to do!
  • You can add grated zucchini to it in the summer when your garden is overflowing with zucchini and you'll never even know it is there.  More on that in a few months.
  • What is up with the chocolate chips in my pictures?  They look like they're a million years old!

Double Chocolate Cake

2/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 heaping Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13" baking dish.  In a large bowl, whisk oil, eggs, water, and vanilla.  Add all remaining ingredients except chocolate chips, and whisk until smooth.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely before serving.

***
Starting Thursday, I'm going to be posting 12 Days of Christmas Treats, so be sure to tune in!
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Apron Giveaway!!

Comments are now closed!  Congratulations to comment #20, Dave and Teresa!  I'll be emailing you shortly.  Thanks for participating everybody.

Something kind of exciting has been going on here on Lulu the Baker lately.  You regular readers--all 2 of you ;)--might not know this, but the Cheesy Vegetable Chowder recipe I posted a few weeks ago has been taking Pinterest by storm for a little while now!  The recipe has been getting a few thousand page views a day, and I got a comment this afternoon from someone who saw it on the Today Show's pin board!  Just before Thanksgiving, my all-time page views hit the 100,000 mark (which might seem like small potatoes to some, but makes me smile from ear to ear!), and to celebrate, I'm giving away a cute little apron from my Etsy shop.  If you win, you'll have your choice of a sassy half apron or a flirty full apron, all in fun designer fabrics.  Click HERE to see all of the available aprons.


To enter the give-away, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post.  Make sure you include your email address so that I can contact you if you win.  The give-away will be open for a week, so I'll post a winner Friday, December 9th.

Thanks everybody, and Pin On!
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