Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Final TWD: Kids' Thumbprints

The Kids' Thumbprints are the last recipe in Baking: From My Home to Yours, and Dorie's hosting for us this week.  We tried the playing around version with the chocolate chips, and they're a cute little cookie! 

I joined TWD in October 2008, and I started this blog to join.  My first recipe with the group was the Lenox almond biscotti, and I got to try some things I'd never heard before like the blanc-manger and the dacquoiseBaking has given us some new favorites, and since this is the final TWD, I thought I'd share the recipes that were highlights for our family:

Pumpkin Muffins love the muffins made with butter, light and rich
Sweet Cream Biscuits so much easier than cutting in butter, and they rise reliably
Tiramisu Cake pretty cake, loved the mascarpone frosting
Tourtely Apple Tart  those apples and browned butter!
Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia favorite tall brownie, dense and rich
Tribute to Katherine Hepburn Brownie favorite thin brownie, reminded me of ones my parents made when I was a kid
Espresso Shortbread  not too sweet, and so quick and convenient to make ahead and freeze

I've so enjoyed the chance to bake along! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Polar Bear Cookies

I'd originally made the bears to go along with some onesies for a friend, but I couldn't get them to look baby themed, so I tried just giving them little eyes and a nose, and I think they turned out kind of cute!  They're just rolled fondant and then Wilton candy melts piped for the eyes and nose.  I tried making cookies this way a couple years ago, and they're so easy!  They don't lend themselves to details, they're better for simple designs, but they're quick, quick to dry for packaging so the cookies stay soft, and they travel well.  

And here is the little treat plate for our neighbor.  I tried the easy cheater fudge from Martha Stewart that was really good (with El Rey Icoa), and I used their idea of adding the crushed candy cane on top.  My opinion is the candy cane is fine if you eat all your fudge by day two.  Otherwise, you want to keep your fudge covered so it doesn't dry out, but that makes your candy cane sticky and messy.  So that's turned into a day-of cute idea for me. I'll use candy cane bark for sharing from now on, I think.  The scones are another Martha Stewart recipe and are my favorite and so easy because they can be made ahead and frozen, and then just baked whenever.  I'll try giving them a post all their own soon - they're a perfect holiday morning breakfast!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Puzzle Cookies

So this isn't the prettiest picture ever, but I was packaging them tonight, and wanted to get a picture in so this would make sense. I thought Martha Stewart's gingerbread puzzle was a fun idea for little treats to go along with little gifts for the godchildren.  I knew going in that I'd not do all the royal and just use white icing, to meet the kids' diets. 
So a couple of tips from my first experience....
  • I didn't actually read the directions on Martha Stewart, which said to cut the cookies while still warm.  Instead, I cut them before baking.  Of course, they spread a little, so the puzzle's not a perfect fit, but the edges are cleaner.  I think if doing it again, I'd cut before baking, but I'd just be more careful not to scrunch the openings (like for the points of the star) when transferring the dough to the cookie sheet.
  • I used the top of a gladware container to cut the outline, and then either used a cookie cutter or just cut the puzzle pieces.
  • I was also really glad that I put each cookie puzzle with all its pieces together on the cookie sheet and then onto separate plates to cool.  I had put two cookies together in a container after cooling, and it was way more difficult to put together than I would have guessed.  When cutting them, I kept thinking I should try making the designs more difficult because these are going to be way too easy to put together.  But even with the icing, they (surprisingly) take a little effort.  
  • From how they look in the end and how they fit together, I think I liked the ones that have a cookie cutter cut-out in the middle.  I think I like the idea of the star and the tree in the top right corner, except that the star has no icing.  For puzzle difficulty, though, the bottom left, which is random pieces like the Martha Stewart example, would be my pick.
I think these ended up kind of fun, and I'm hoping to do another batch for my kids!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TWD Bittersweet Brownies

These were great brownies!  They were so easy to throw together, they weren't super chocolaty,but they were nice and dense.  And they're very kid-friendly.  Thanks to Leslie of Lethally Delicious for this week's pick!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TWD Honey Scones

I love scones.  And these were incredibly easy to pull together.  I had the four-year-old cut the butter in with his hands, which he loved (I'm going to remember this for all biscuits and piecrust, for family :-) ).  We left out the nuts, baked half and froze half.  I love that scones are perfect for make-ahead.  These were very tender, not very sweet, and great with jam.    

Thanks to Jeannette of the Whimsical Cupcake for this week's pick!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Grape Jam

We have a few grape vines in our yard, and we were excited that they produced this year.  These seeded grapes are good for eating, and they taste 'grapey'.  I always thought grape candy was a made-up flavor, but these grapes actually have the real grape flavor that the candies try to taste like.  I wanted to try a jam without pectin, so I tried this Grape Jam from epicurious.
I started with trying to get the seeds out of each individual grape, but after about 40 grapes, I gave that up and just popped them out the skins, pureed the skins, and then simmered and strained the grape.  Look at all those seeds!  Much easier!

It took a while to boil down, but I ended up with 2 half pints of jam, which the kids have loved.  I'm looking forward to trying again next year!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Strawberry Lemon Marshmallows

I'm really excited about the idea of a marshmallow with a fruit swirl. My disclaimer is I have no idea of safety or shelf life issues.  So please keep that in mind with my enthusiasm :)

So I've been wanting to do a lemon marshmallow with a blackberry swirl for a couple years, and finally decided to try the swirl, even though I didn't have the blackberries. I used my favorite lemon marshmallow recipe - Emeril's lemon marshmallows, and then strawberry jam made with certo. After I'd poured the marshmallows in the pan to set, I just swirled the jam in.

I really liked the flavor - very much like the idea of the summer strawberry lemonades. Not much jam is needed. I didn't measure, but I think less than 1/4 c for an 8x8 pan. I made an effort to swirl into the marshmallow, so the jam wouldn't be exposed. The jam is a little sticky when cutting, but even after a week the jam didn't seem to make the marshmallow weep at all.  The idea of the fruit swirl is really exciting to me, and these turned out really well.

Since making these, I have seen Talanian's dulce de leche marshmallows, with dulce de leche swirled in a vanilla marshmallow.  I would think that these would similar shelf-life wise.  I've never tried pate de fruit, but I think I should try and see if there's any middle ground where I could do a swirl with it.  This seemed to work ok for a first attempt, and I'm looking forward to playing around some more with the idea. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Royal Icing Butterfly Cupcakes

I thought we needed some cupcakes to celebrate a friend's new baby girl. I've done the royal icing butterflies a few times before , but long enough between each time to forget how quickly the royal sets! So my decorations are always raised, but they're still cute enough. These are the easiest to make, though I do cheat a little. I use Peggy Porshen's template in her Pretty Party Cakes, and pipe the wings on waxed paper. Here are the dried wings

But then I skip the whole folding the cardboard, piping the body step. If I were going to use the butterflies on fondant, I might have to do that. But here, I just stick the wings in the buttercream and then pipe the body over.

Along with the butterflies, I tried piping "baby girl" to make them more obviously baby-ish. First, that was too much text for one cupcake, and second, girl without a dotted "i" looks like grl or gurl, and neither of those were what I was really going for. But the baby turned out great! I was amazed that they stayed together!

For these I used the double chocolate cake from epicurious, Rosenberg's buttercream and Lesley's royal icing with meringue powder.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TWD Cocoa Salt and Pepper Shortbread

These reminded me of Maida Heatter's Black Pepper Brownies. The pepper was a little stronger in these cookies, and I think I liked the drier texture with the pepper than with the fudginess of the brownie. Since I wasn't sure going in, I made half with the pepper and half without. The ones with the pepper, I could hardly taste the salt. But the ones without the pepper, the salt really stood out, like the World Peace cookies someone had mentioned in the comments. It's not my favorite cookie of Dorie's, but tasting both, I realized I kind of do like the black pepper.

Thanks to Tia of Buttercream Barbie for this week's pick!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lime Pie Paletas and Ice Cream

We've been on a popsicle kick here, and while I was on the library's reserve list, I started searching for some of Fany Gerson's recipes online. One that seemed perfect was her Lime Pie Paletas
I didn't use the graham cracker crumbles, though I'm sure those would be a fun texture. Without, these were still a great treat - creamy, not too rich, tart. I love the lime.

I'd tried David Lebovitz's Vietnamese Coffee ice cream, and with the sweetened condensed milk, it stayed perfectly scoopable. So I thought I'd try the same with some of the Lime Pie recipe and ran it through the ice cream maker. It also was the perfect consistency. I think I almost liked it as an ice cream more - though I think I'd try the crumbles on top next time. We'll definitely have this again next summer, and probably some throughout the year!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

TWD Classic Brownies

This is not the most amazing brownie picture ever (they were still warm from my last minute baking), but these are some very rich, chocolaty brownies.

I tried half with the walnuts and half without:

I don't usually like nuts in brownies, but then the espresso powder with the walnuts sounded pretty good, so I figured I'd try both :)

The brownies are very rich and dense, but thin. I think these are the only brownies that I like better with the nuts. The ones without seemed like they could do without a TB or two of the butter, but the ones with the walnuts were great!

Thanks to Anne of Anne Strawberry for this week's pick!

TWD Chocolate Spice Quickies

I'd actually gotten these baked on time, but then was late in posting, so I'm a week behind on these. The quickies were quick to put together - it pretty much all gets thrown in the food processor. The flecks are little bits of almond. These were really great warm. They'd be great holiday cookies with the spice, how easy they are to pull together and the make-ahead nature (they're rolled in a log for slice-n-bake, and then they need to chill at least 4 hrs). I'll be keeping these in mind for around the holidays!

Thanks to Jessica of My Baking Heart for the pick!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Baked Donuts

Ever since seeing the sweet potato donuts on the cover of Food & Wine, I've been wanting to try to make baked donuts. But as I started looking, the reviews for those sweet potato donuts said they were a little tough. I could imagine the sweet potato making them a little heavy, so I started looking for alternates, and settled on this recipe from 101 cookbooks.

The dough came together easily, and the rolling and cutting was quick, too. I made do with a canning ring and a 1M piping tip since I didn't have a set of round cutters. These worked pretty well!

In the end, the kids loved these. They were pretty good, but they were definitely rolls with icing. The donuts themselves were too big for one person to finish, and really it's the icing that carries the roll. The donut holes were the perfect proportion of icing to roll. We'll be making those again!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bread and Butter Pickles

For the last year I've been looking forward to making my own pickles. So at the farmers market this past week, I got 7 lb of pickling cucumbers for $5. The $5 is incredible to me, and it reassures me when I look out at the backyard garden and see the deer lounging :)

As I looked more closely at the recipes I'd marked, I realized 7lb makes a lot of pickles. I ended up scaling down a couple of dill ones from the Ball book, and then found Simply Recipe's bread and butter pickles, which used 2 1/2 pounds and was perfect to use up the remaining cukes.

The bread and butter are the pretty ones on the left. They're great pickles. They're not too sweet and have a little bite, I think from the pepper. My husband, who does not like bread and butter pickles, loved these and ate most of a pint the first night. I may have underestimated how many I should have made!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pineapple Paletas

Going along with our fun with ice pops, we tried these pineapple paletas. The recipe made them seem a little futzy with the pureeing and straining, but it actually was all pretty quick. And really none of the steps required any special attention or skill, so they were easy to throw together. And, I really liked these! They're sweet and acidic, very bright, and perfect for a hot day!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Avocado Ice Pops

So living in a 1912 house (read: no a/c) this last week forced us to look for less-than-contemporary ways to cool down, and I was thrilled to find all sorts of fun recipes for ice pops! And as a reaction to all the artificial coloring loaded, high fructose corn syrup sweetened pops the kids had already eaten, I started with Fany Gerson's Avocado Ice Pops. I used a hand-me-down mold from my mom, but for some reason when I last put them away, I didn't pack the handles with the mold. Anyway, popsicle sticks and some handi-wrap to keep them in place worked great!

The popsicles took about 7 hours to freeze, and I was so excited to see they kept their color! They're nice and light with the lime, and the avocado is creamy and rich, and a little herbal. The whole family loved these, and with the prep only taking 5 min, I'm seeing these will be a new favorite!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Creamy Dark Chocolate Sorbet

I've been looking forward to this week's TWD! I've only made "chocolate" sorbet with cocoa powder, so I guess I've really only made cocoa sorbet before. For this week, I used El Rey Bucare 58.5% for my chocolate, which I think was a good balance. The sorbet is pretty sweet, but not too sweet. I also subbed rice milk for the milk. It's what we have on hand, and David Lebovitz's recommendation for rice milk in his strawberry vegan ice cream was good enough for me.

This was a nice sorbet. It was very rich. It ended up a little grainy, but that may have been my choice of chocolate. It was still pretty tasty, and I love desserts like this that make me feel like I'm being a little healthier :)

Thanks to Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon for this week's pick!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Strawberry Salsa

The strawberries are just now starting to ripen here in Wi, and we had the perfect day to go picking. It was warm and breezy, and the strawberries are amazing! The perfect size, just ripe, firm, not watery.

We tried a new farm this year for picking, Polzin farm in Cedarburg. The kids always beg for their popcorn at the farmers market, but I didn't even realize they grew strawberries til this year. It's a great farm, just roadside signs, not a commercialized/wagon-riding/playscape/petting zoo farm. I loved it!

So with our perfect strawberries, one of our favorite recipes is this strawberry salsa from Gourmet magazine. Gourmet says to use store strawberries since they're firmer, but we've liked it with our local ones, too. We just use store-bought chips, and for easier eating, I just cube the avocado. To keep it prettier, it's nice to make up the salsa, and then add the avocado cubes either in the center or around the salsa. We usually end up just mixing it up and making it a meal :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More Birthday Cakes :)

So still not getting the baking in....but we had the family party for both kids. Even though we combine the party, I feel like I need to at least give them each their own cake! This year, the girl wanted hello kitty in purple, and the boy wanted spiderman. We scaled back quite a bit from other years, thankfully, as cleaning took a little longer the day before, so all the food (including baking the cakes) was the day of. So the cakes are a little rough, but still happily homemade :)

I have to say that I love Toba Garrett. The girl's was Toba's chocolate cake, and the boy's was her yellow. Both are favorites of mine. But then a rushed new discovery was her meringue powder royal, which was so simple to whip up with a fork, took the black color perfectly and dried quickly. Apparently some people think royal with egg whites tastes better than that with meringue powder - I've never compared, but I'd be surprised if anyone could tell the difference on a cake.

Even when it's all rushed, and the cakes are rough, I really enjoy making them. I'm hoping to start setting aside time to indulge in this hobby more often :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dinosaur Birthday Cake

I've not had much time to bake lately, but my youngest turned four this week, so we had to have a cake. He wanted a t.rex cake, and as we browsed flickr, this was his favorite. He loved the baby t.rex :)

So we didn't need quite that much cake, so our version's only one tier, but we had to have the baby, and I thought the idea of the t.rex eating the cake was pretty cute, too. Mine isn't so much t.rexy as general reptile-y. And my adult t.rex is especially rough as I did everything at once and just used fondant (no gumpaste). But the kid liked it :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Maple Cornmeal Biscuits

I know Dorie warned about this, but my biscuits turned out really flat! I made them to go with chili, and that was nice, but we really liked these just with jam.

Thanks to Lindsay of A Little Something....Sweet for this week's pick!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TWD Basic Marble Loaf Cake

For this week's TWD, I used the chocolate-orange combination. It was really nice! It was so easy to throw together, and a nice afternoon snack for the kids. For the grown-ups sometime, I'm hoping to try the coffee-cardamom!

Thanks to Carol of The Bake More for this week's pick!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Banana Cupcake

I had a few bananas ready for baking, and the perfect amount for this Banana Cake. Which was really just to satisfy a craving for some cream cheese frosting. I made some maple glazed walnuts to try to make them look a little more like cupcakes than muffins, just in case the frosting wasn't enough!

They were nice - the cake recipe translated well to cupcakes, they were nice and moist, not too sweet, and not too strongly banana-y. The cupcakes without frosting really could pass for muffins. And maybe even a drizzle of cream cheese icing, and they'd still look ok for breakfast :-)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

TWD Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies

Dorie has made me love shortbread. Before Baking I'd only tried standard vanilla, which I liked, but the brown sugar pecan and the espresso-chocolate have made me appreciate the variety possible. I'll now intentionally select a shortbread recipe, instead of using it only when I realize I'm out of eggs :-)

Dorie also seems to like using cornmeal, and I've not been entirely converted there. So for this week I subbed cornflour for the cornmeal, which seemed to work out well. I was a little rushed so they spread a little, but these were still tasty cookies!

Thanks to Valerie for this week's pick!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TWD Tourtely Apple Tart

Still without a pie or tart tin, I decided I'd try doing a slab pie version in a 7x11 pyrex. I used a half recipe, and I forgot to sub out for the nuts for the crust, but otherwise I tried going by the recipe. That crust dough is incredible - I kept sneaking bits out when I was rolling. I love almond extract! When I was growing up our local Baskin Robbins used a little almond extract in their buttercream for their ice cream cone clowns. I loved those clowns.

So this tart/pie was a little more grown up than frosting ice cream clowns, but it was very nice! The kitchen smelled fantastic after adding the apples back to the browned butter. These were very easy to eat, and I justified quite a few snacks :-)

Thanks to Jeannette of The Whimsical Cupcake for this week's pick!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Whoopie Pies

I've been seeing recipes for Whoopie Pies for years, but have never had one. I happened to have some marshmallow creme, and I've been saving this America's Test Kitchen whoopie pie recipe. So I figured it was time to finally try them - having marshmallow creme on hand had to be a sign!

They were really quick to put together, and the frosting is addicting! It's nice and light and all butter (no margarine or shortening). I hope this isn't insulting to whoopie pie lovers, but the texture and flavors reminded me of like a chocolate zinger or fudge brownie round, except this was really good. It's like what the junk food would want to be. They were so light and tender, and they look so homey. I don't know how they'd travel, but these seem like they'd be great summer or picnic desserts. The kids would love them, and any adults who have a sweet tooth :-)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Espresso Brownies & Candied Walnuts

These are some fantastic brownies. Usually I like really dark, rich brownies - anything cake-like is not going to work. I've loved all of Maida Heatter's brownies that I've tried. And they usually have ended up rich and fudgy and perfect :-) I've had her Espresso Brownies marked since I got the cookbook(Maida Heatter's Best Dessert Book Ever), and now I finally got around to making them.

These aren't like any of her other brownies that I've tried. They are dark and light and tender, really beautiful! They're much more grown-up brownies. The only drawback is that they're so light it's really easy to just keep eating. They make a jelly roll pan's worth, and they're best the day of making. They're definitely a new favorite!

And because they look a little unphotogenic by themselves, I'm tacking on these Candied Espresso Walnuts here. We've been loving these - making about two batches a week. I've used Penzey's ceylon cinnamon, which I like, it's nice and bright. They're not the prettiest, but they're so easy to make, and too easy to eat!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

TWD Coffee Ice Cream Tart

This tart sounds amazing.

And I'm hoping to try again this summer - coffee, chocolate, and almond is a favorite combination.

This go around, things just didn't seem to be working for me. I don't have a tart pan, so I figured I'd just sub a pie pan, but I couldn't find it. So I figured a muffin tin would be fine. As I was putting the sugar cannister back on the shelf, it slipped and fell on the bottle of vanilla and the glass butter dish, which then shattered. I had the food processor open with the crust dough at this point, so then I was imagining shards of glass in my crust. I figured I'd bake them off anyway just for show, and just threw the muffin tin in the freezer. Then the three year old opened the freezer to sneak a popsicle, and the muffin tin fell out along with a glad plastic container of some soup that then shattered plastic onto the muffin crusts. Amazingly, the crusts stayed in the tin (and none of the stuff hit the kid on the head). I still baked them off, added the chocolate here and a little praline frozen yogurt.

I'm definitely going to have to try this one again, because it sounds like something we'd love.

Thanks to Jessica of Domestic Deep Thought of the Day for this week's pick!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pecan Powder Puffs

These are one of my dad's favorite cookies, and we'd always have them at Christmas. The recipe is very similar, except the nuts are much finer in Dorie's version. I was a little rushed, so they only chilled about a half hour, and they still held together and baked well. These were really nice and tender, they're great little cookies!

Thanks to Tianne of Buttercream Barbie for this week's pick!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TWD Citrus Sunshine Muffins

These were really nice muffins! I had to make some substitutions. Somehow I only had 1/2c of ap flour in house, so I decided to make a half batch and subbed white whole wheat for the other 1/2 c. Then I had purchased currants, but I think they got used for someone's oatmeal, so I subbed craisins in. These were really nice muffins, though. Even with the whole wheat, they had a great texture, very fine, and we always like craisins. I love Dorie's muffins, I think it's the butter :-)

Thanks to Lauryn for this week's pick!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Maple Syrup Snow Candy

I just finished reading Little House in the Big Woods with the kids, so when we got snow last week, we tried making maple syrup candy. Our approach kind of ended up being like Ma's earlier Christmas candy with the molasses, only using the maple syrup like Grandma during the sugar snow.

The Joy of Cooking said to bring maple syrup to 230-233 to turn it to sugar, which took about thirty minutes. While I was getting the syrup going, the kids went out and packed the cake pans with snow. When it got to 233, I took it off the heat and whisked it until it thickened some. Then, even though Laura and Mary get to pour the syrup on their snow, I decided I'd do the pouring.

I was afraid if I poured too much in one spot, it would melt through the snow, so I ended up with lots of little strings. The syrup doesn't end up melting it, though, so next time I'd try making more little quarter-sized pours to make for easier eating. It turned out very soft and sticky. The little bits of syrup that were left in the pan did turn into maple sugar. If we do it again, it'd be fun to get little saucers for sugar like from the book - it'd be a little neater kid-eating, too!

The best picture I got of the actual candy - pretty unappealing, hm? It did taste much better than it looks :-)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

TWD Chocolate Pots de Creme

I was very last-minute with this week's TWD, and being distracted I missed skimming the foam. And then the plastic wrap melted in the oven (why did I follow the recipe there?!). And yes, this photo is the best I could do.
Due to the melted plastic, we're not eating all of these, but I scraped the top off of one, and it was pretty incredible. For all the cream, it still felt light. Very chocolaty. These were very nice, and I'll have to try them again sans plastic wrap :-)

Thanks to Christine of Black Cat Cooking for this week's pick!