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Chinese Chai Cookies

12 Dec

In my random internet roamings a couple months ago, I stumbled across the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I was so excited to find it! The concept is very simple and right up my alley: I bake some cookies and mail them to 3 people. 3 different people bake some cookies and mail me a batch. We all have a chance to try delicious homemade treats and spread a little holiday cheer. How nice.

I knew that the shipping deadline was right around the time that I had a huge work event, so I even managed to get my cookies baked and shipped early. AMAZING. Seriously. Doing something before the last minute is a huge accomplishment for me.

I had a free afternoon a few weekends ago, so I started doing a little research. I narrowed it down to four recipe options and invited my BFF Lauren (a.k.a. Betsy Bundt) over to help. I was mostly concerned about durability — making sure the cookie could withstand shipping — and lasting freshness, since it would take a few days for me to bake, package, ship, and arrive across the country.

We found a delicious-sounding recipe for a Chai Spice Cookie. Based on preference and the ingredients I had on hand, we altered the recipe a bit and settled on a “Chinese Chai Cookie.” Chinese because instead of allspice, we included Chinese 5 Spice.

Chinese Chai Cookies

Chai is one of my favorite hot drinks, especially in the fall. As soon as fall season looks like it might be even just beginning, my car starts driving itself to Starbucks for chai lattes. This lasts until Christmas season, when my car knows that I really want peppermint hot chocolate. I make it through winter, and then I’m set. Until the next fall, anyway.

Tea & Cookies

These cookies were really good. They have a great texture and durability like a traditional sugar cookie. But they have an extra little flavor to them. They’re really not intense at all — the chai spice flavor is much more subtle than most chai lattes. But like a chai latte, they start out with a sweet flavor and finish with a warm spicy note on the back of your tongue. Amazing.

After we baked the cookies, I packaged them by rolling up a stack of cookies in clear cellophane wrap and tying the ends with a cute little bow.

Happy Holidays!

Really. I said a cute bow. See?

Tied with a bow

I hope you enjoy these! They make an excellent, sophisticated snack. Perfect for afternoon tea!

Chinese Chai Cookies, adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese 5 Spice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, Chinese 5 Spice, nutmeg, and black pepper. Reserve 1/4 cup of this mixture; set aside to reserve for rolling cookies.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and remaining sugar-spice mixture on medium for about 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla; mix until incorporated.

Slowly blend in dry ingredients until just combined.

Using a small scoop, form into balls and then roll in the reserved sugar-spice mixture. Place dough balls on prepared baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Let stand 2 minutes, then remove to cool on wire racks.

Yield: Approx. 3 dozen cookies

Linking up for:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Make Something Monday from Sarahdipities

Secret Recipe Apple Pie

19 Nov

You should feel so honored right now. I’m about to share my secret recipe with you. Once you make this apple pie, all other pie will pale in comparison. You may be tempted to make other pies, and when you do, you’ll just be disappointed that it’s not this pie. That’s how good this pie is.

Mmm... Apple pie

The BF likes it so much that even he will roll up his sleeves and help. Which is awesome, because peeling and grating apples is a pain. And yes, I said grating. That’s the first secret: don’t slice or dice your apples, grate them. With a cheese grater. Be careful not to grate your knuckles. When you slice or dice apples, you get random textures and tastes with each bite. When you grate the apple, you get a nice, uniform taste and texture throughout the pie. No weird mush surprises.

a la mode-y

Photo credit to Emily of Voila! with Emily

The other secret… using the right apple. I like sweet, and I’m not the biggest fan of tart. So I use my favorite apple: gala. Preferably organic, and if you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood, go there. They always have excellent organic gala apples.

The third secret: When you get a handful of grated apple, squeeze out the extra juice before adding it to the bowl. You’ll end up with a thicker, heartier pie instead of a sloppy, runny pie. And you’ll also end up with a glass of the most delicious apple juice you’ll ever drink.

I guess the last secret is the recipe, so here you go. Just in time for Thanksgiving.

Secret Recipe Apple Pie

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons cold milk
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt

6 medium-sized Gala apples
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust: Mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, oil, milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and salt. Blend evenly. Spread mixture into a 9″ pie pan, pushing dough evenly across the bottom and up the sides.

Prepare the apples: Peel each apple. Grate the apples. Squeeze a handful of grated apple to reduce the amount of liquid. (Reserve juice if desired.) Add grated apple to a large bowl.

For the filling: To the apples, add 3/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Toss to coat evenly. Spread in unbaked pie shell.

For the topping: In a shallow bowl or pan, add 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and cold butter. Use a pastry cutter or pizza slicer to mix until evenly distributed and crumbly. (The butter should not melt or spread evenly, but will look like small balls or pearls mixed in among the flour and sugar.) Sprinkle mixture evenly over the apple mixture.

If desired, cover edges of pie with foil to prevent browning. Place pie in the oven on top of a cookie sheet to catch any juices that may spill over. Bake 45 minutes.

Classic

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Pumpkin Brownies

12 Nov

After the Pumpkin Spice Cake and the Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins, here’s my last pumpkin recipe to share with you: Pumpkin Brownies! I’m not sure what goes better with pumpkin than chocolate. After looking through a million versions, I finally settled on a recipe from Delishhh.com.

Mmm... look at that swirl

I thought these were exceptional, and the addition of Ghiradelli chocolate chips was a stroke of genius. They were slightly more cake-like than fudge-like, and while I usually prefer the latter, they were amazing. Especially when warmed and topped with a scoop of ice cream, which I must admit I enjoyed probably 5 out of 6 nights last week. As I mentioned with my previous pumpkin recipes, I used pumpkin pie filling instead of regular pumpkin puree, which the original recipe called for. But I think you’re good either way — the pie filling makes the brownies a little sweeter and richer in the end.

Oh my goodness, look at that chocolate chip right there.

I baked these in my brand-new Bake and Store Baker from Crate and Barrel — a highly convenient wedding gift. After they cooled, all I had to do was snap the lid on and throw them in the passenger seat to take to a party. Perfect.

Oh, and by the way — one can of pumpkin pie filling is the perfect amount for this recipe, Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Muffins, AND the Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Buttercream. Just to give you a heads up there.

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies from Delishhh.com

¾ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ cup butter (melted)
1 ½ cups white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup pumpkin pie filling
1tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8×8 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a bowl, whisk to combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in each egg one at a time. Add in the flour mixture a little at a time, and mix until combined. Divide the batter in half evenly into 2 separate bowls.

In one of the bowls, blend in the cocoa powder and chocolate chips. In the second bowl of batter, stir in pumpkin pie filling, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Spread the chocolate batter into the bottom of the baking dish. Pour the pumpkin batter over that. Drag a kitchen knife or spatula through to mix it a bit. (This creates a mostly chocolate base with a mostly pumpkin top. If you want a more marbled brownie, pour half of each batter in at a time for a total of four layers, and then swirl the knife through it.)

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and cut into squares.

Linking up for:
YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Linky Party with Fine Craft Guild

Happy Election Day!

6 Nov

In honor of Election Day, I got busy in the kitchen with my rolling pin and some cookie cutters.

Cookie Politics

Political Party Cookies! I used a basic sugar cookie recipe and dusted them with cinnamon-sugar before baking. Delicious to nosh on while we wait for the election results to come in tonight.

The Old North State

North Carolina is a big swing state this year. In the last election, N. C. voters elected a Democratic president after years of voting Republican in national elections. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens this year.

Donkey the Democrat

Ever wondered how the Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant came to be? Check out the answer here.

Elephant the Republican

I voted!

I Voted!

 

And then I rewarded myself with a Chai.

Mmm... Delicious DemocracyMake sure you get out and vote today! Every vote counts!

Bipartisanship.

Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Buttercream

29 Oct

It’s fall, and that means I’m craving all things pumpkin and chai. Or even pumpkin chai. (Ask for it at Starbucks. You’re welcome.) So after a few weeks of salivating over Pinterest pictures, I finally went out to buy some pumpkin and refill my flour and sugar stocks.

I whipped this up one afternoon before having dinner with some friends. I had already made some pumpkin brownies and had leftover pumpkin puree from that, so I needed to finish it off. Pumpkin cake it is. I mostly followed the recipe for Pumpkin Bread from NancyCreative, and topped it off with my own interpretation of Spiced Buttercream from Oh She Glows.

And oh my goodness it was so good. It was fall on a fork. Everyone had an extra slice, and then I sent them home with a little more. Our friend Jesse told me it was his favorite dessert I’d ever made him. So yeah, it was a hit.

Dig in!

The original recipe called for pumpkin puree, and I had accidentally bought pumpkin pie filling. But it made the cake that much sweeter, taking the recipe from a ‘bread’ to a ‘cake.’ And being originally designed as a loaf recipe, the cake was deliciously dense and moist. A little heavy, but I think that makes it perfect for a brisk fall evening on the porch.

Have I mentioned how much I love North Carolina in the fall? I’ve met my share of visitors who decided to put down roots in Chapel Hill after experiencing one of our lovely autumns. Beautiful leaves, beautiful weather. During the day, there’s that perfect Carolina blue sky. And then it gets just a slight chill in the evening, making it perfectly cozy for a sweater, a glass of wine, and a big slice of this cake.

"I'm ready for my close up."

So back to the cake, because surely you’ll want to know how to make it. It’s not hard — you can do it.

Pumpkin Spice Cake from NancyCreative.com

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light, doesn’t matter)
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin pie filling*

(* If you only have pumpkin puree, you can easily use that instead. Open the can and reserve 2/3 cup of the pumpkin puree for another recipe. Then mix in 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cloves and 1/2 tsp salt into the remaining pumpkin puree. Substitute this mixture in place of pumpkin pie filling.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9″ round pan (I used a springform) with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk until thoroughly combined, and set aside.

In another bowl, beat eggs on medium-high speed for a minute or so. Mix in the following ingredients one at a time: the brown sugar, then the white sugar, then the canola oil. Reduce speed to low and add the pumpkin pie filling. Add half the dry ingredients, mixing until incorporated, and then the other half, mixing just until incorporated.

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack. While it cools, prepare the frosting.

Spiced Buttercream Frosting, with inspiration from Oh She Glows

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
2 tsp milk (whole is best, but any milk will do)

Beat the butter in a bowl on medium until whipped. Add about half the powdered sugar, and mix well. Then add the vanilla and spices, and mix well. Add the rest of the sugar, and mix well. Add up to 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of milk, as needed to achieve desired consistency.

As soon as the cake is cooled, add the frosting. If you want, top it off with some chopped walnuts. Mmm… yum.

Brownie Pecan Pie

14 Aug

I listed ‘brownie’ in the title first because that is way more important. Obvi.

This super delicious pie comes from Bakerella. I have been wanting to make it ever since she posted it years ago, and I finally got around to it. My family loved it! I took it to my sister’s “last supper” — she had corrective jaw surgery, so we had a big meal of her choice the night before since she won’t be able to eat for a while. Coincidentally enough, my brother had a motorcycle accident and ended up being scheduled for surgery to fix his smashed-up hand on the same day, so we were all together for a nice family meal full of anxiety and brownie pecan pie. (Good news: they’re both okay, just drugged up and cranky.)

Pecan pie is one of my favorite Southern dishes, but of course chocolate is my all-time favorite. So mixing the two sounded like a no-duh move. And being semi-homemade, it was super easy too.

Bakerella gives instructions for how to make either a thicker brownie version or a gooier fudge version. Both sounded delicious to me, and I couldn’t decide, so I split the difference. My mom cut into it and said, “Uh oh, it didn’t bake in the middle.” And I said, “Nope, it’s supposed to be gooey and delicious like that!”

I started off preheating the oven to 350 F. I put 1/4 cup packed brown sugar and 1/2 tablespoon flour in a big mixing bowl. I stirred that together until there were no lumps and the flour had disappeared. Then I added 1/4 cup corn syrup and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, stirring that until combined. Next, 1/4 cup melted butter, stirring that in until combined. And then in a separate bowl, I beat 1 egg and then added that to the mixture, stirring until combined. Last I stirred in 1 cup pecans and set the bowl aside.

Pecan Goo

In a separate bowl, I prepared brownie mix according to the package directions. I used Ghiradelli dark chocolate with chocolate chips – YUM.

Brownie Layer

I rolled out 1 refrigerated pie crust into my pie pan and then poured half the brownie batter into it. Then I gently poured the pecan mixture on top of that.

I baked the leftover brownie batter in a loaf pan to make a mini batch of brownies for my brother, who prefers his chocolate unmarred by nuts.

Pecan Layer

I baked it for about 40 minutes, and that was that.

Gooey Deliciousness

Sooo good. I totally should have added a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Mmmm

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream Frosting

1 Jul

Or “chocolate drunkcakes.” Whichever name you prefer.

I made these for a coworker’s going away party. She loves Guiness, so I found this great recipe for cupcakes. They called for Irish Cream (like Bailey’s), but since she loves Kahlua and I already had a little on hand, I went with that instead. My sister came over to help, and we got started.

One perfect little drunkcake.

Cupcakes

I preheated the oven to 350 F while Steph got to work on the chocolate/beer mixture. In a medium saucepan, she added 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter and 1 cup Guinness beer. After she brought it to a simmer over medium heat, she whisked in 3/4 cup Ghiradelli sweet ground chocolate.

While she did that, I whisked together the dry ingredients: 2 cups flour1 cup sugar1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

A little note of explanation here: The original recipe called for double the sugar but to use unsweetened cocoa powder. Since I only had sweetened cocoa on hand, I used that and halved the sugar. Between that and the yeasty beer, the cupcakes came out very bread-like. (When the BF walked in the house, he shouted, “Whoa, it smells good in here! Where’s the bread?”) Most people thought that with the super-sweet frosting, the less-sweet cupcake paired perfectly. But having a ridiculous sweet tooth myself, I thought they could have been sweeter.

Okay, back to it. In a large bowl, Steph beat together 2 eggs and 2/3 cup sour cream. Then we added the chocolate mixture and beat to combine. And then the flour mixture, beating just until combined. We lined the cupcake pan with paper liners, filled them about 3/4 way full, and then baked about 18 minutes, until they passed the toothpick test.

Frosting

While they baked, we got to work on this amazing Kahlua buttercream frosting.

While Steph beat 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter in a mixing bowl, I sifted about 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar. She added in about half the sugar and mixed that up, then we added 3 tablespoons Kahlua and mixed that in. We added the rest of the sugar, except a last little bit. Keep tasting your frosting and stop adding sugar when you think it’s good. You want to make sure you can actually taste the Kahlua.

While we waited for the cupcakes to cool, I made myself a white russian with the rest of the Kahlua. This is a key part of the recipe.

Once the cupcakes were cool and the frosting was ready, I loaded up my pastry bag and piped a healthy amount on top of each cupcake. Super delicioso!

DRUNKCAKES

Chocolate Mmmousse

22 Jun

Get it? Mmmousse because it is so delicious you will be like “MMMMM.” Yeah.

Mmm... look at THAT

I needed a good dessert for a dinner party, and I must say that my first attempt at mousse was pretty much perfect. (There’s no room for humility here. It was that delicious.) Not like I can really claim much from it anyway – I followed Ms. Martha Stewart’s chocolate mousse recipe to a T. I cannot understate how amazing it was. I actually doubled the recipe so I would have it for two different occasions. But I will share the recipe below in its original dimensions, which would serve about 6 people for dessert.

Some mousses use raw eggs, and one thing I like about this recipe is that you cook the eggs. Makes me feel better. Raw – blech. I separated 4 eggs and then in a medium saucepan, I whisked together 4 egg yolks2 tablespoons sugar, and 3/4 cup heavy cream. I cooked it over medium heat for 7-10 minutes, until it thickened up to the point where it would stick to the spoon a bit (but don’t let it boil!).

While that cooked, I melted 8 ounces semisweet chocolate by heating it at 30 second intervals in the microwave and stirring well in between each session. I used some semisweet chocolate chips but didn’t have quite enough, so I added in pieces of random chocolate bars I had stashed around the apartment and in my purse. (That’s not weird, right?) When the egg mixture was done, I stirred in the melted chocolate and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

I strained the chocolate mixture through a fine mesh sieve to make sure no chunks stuck around. I popped the bowl of chocolate into the fridge to chill for a bit.

While the chocolate chilled, I worked on the whipping cream. I beat another 1 1/4 heavy cream in a medium mixing bowl with a hand mixer. I added 2 tablespoons sugar and continued beating. I was supposed to stop when it formed “soft peaks,” but the weird thing about whipped cream is that it looks not quite done forever and then BAM it’s suddenly past done. But it worked out okay. I mixed about one third of the cream into the chocolate mixture. Then the original recipe says to gently fold the rest of the cream into the chocolate. But I was having trouble getting it to mix evenly, so I ended up stirring somewhat vigorously, which broke down the too-whipped whipped cream perfectly. See? Worked out okay.

That's a nice looking glass you got there.

I scooped them into individual serving dishes, covered, and chilled them. Excellent presentation and more importantly, soooo delicious. (They need to chill for at least 30 minutes, and then Martha says it will last up to 3 days, though I ate mine a week later and was fine.)

Now just imagine that Ryan Gosling is holding that spoon offering you the most delicious mousse in the world. Mmmm.

ALT TEXT FTW.

Cinnamon Rolls

18 Apr

When I was a teen, my aunt invited my cousins and me over to teach us a few things in the kitchen. I can’t say I’ve made homemade ravioli since that night, but I do regularly use her Asian sticky rice “recipe” and her recipe for cinnamon rolls. This is something of a semi-homemade treat, so it’s super easy. I took some rolls fresh from the oven to a friend’s for brunch last weekend, and they were pretty amazing.

First off, pour some pecans into a bundt pan. Then add in some frozen dinner rolls. I usually cram in about 12 of the 15 rolls in the package.

Yeast Rolls

Sprinkle one package of butterscotch pudding mix over top the rolls. (DON’T use the instant!) And then sprinkle 1 teaspoon cinnamon over that.

Butterscotch Pudding

In a saucepan, add 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter. Stir over medium heat until melted and smooth, then pour it over the rolls. At this point, you can put them in the fridge to sit overnight and bake fresh in the morning, or you can go ahead and bake them now.

Ready for the Oven

Bake the rolls at 350 F for about 30 minutes. Loosen the sides, then dump the whole thing upside down onto a serving plate. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Rolls!

YUM

Teal “Thank You” Cookies

10 Apr

Omigosh, y’all. I have been so super busy lately (work, life, you know the drill)… I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted. I will have more updates soon, but in the meantime, here are some great pictures from my most recent baking adventure.

I made these cookies as tokens of appreciation for our volunteers. And it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so I made them teal – the color of the sexual violence awareness ribbon.

COOKIES!

I used a basic sugar cookie recipe – this one’s the best because it’s tasty but also doesn’t spread too much when they bake. My sister and cousin stayed with me over the weekend to hang out and because my sister wanted to “learn how to cook.” It worked out great to have a team in the kitchen since this is a somewhat labor-intensive project. And it turns out my cousin is an experienced baker, so she did a lot of the rolling and cutting of the dough. And she was super resourceful! I realized I didn’t have a rolling pin (I had always borrowed Betsy’s), and she came up with the brilliant idea to use a wine bottle. Perfect.

We used a flower cookie cutter for a slightly more interesting shape than a plain circle. The rounded edges were way easier to frost than those pointy snowflake cookies. After they baked and cooled, I topped them with some royal icing that I tinted with teal gel food coloring. (Remember – a little bit goes a long way.) Last, I sprinkled them with silver sanding sugar.

Close up

Since these were gifts for volunteers, I decided to package them up all pretty. First I placed each cookie into a clear treat bag (6 x 3.75 in – I picked them up at AC Moore). I cut strips of teal scrapbooking paper into 3.75 x 3 inches, folded them in half hotdog-style, then stamped them with a “Thank you so much” stamp. I folded the top of the bag down, slid the folded paper over top, and stapled it shut. ADORBS.

Pretty Packages

We packaged up a cookie, a mini candle, and a coupon to a local restaurant and gave them out at our volunteer appreciation party. A fun project and a great little thank you gift.

Now for an inspiring photo to end this post: Cookie Monster Cupcakes.