Showing posts with label baking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label baking. Show all posts

09 October 2015

Choctoberfest: Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

The generous folks at Imperial Sugar sent me a case of their extra fine granulated pure cane sugar for #Choctoberfest. In case you're not impressed by that, let me point out that a case of Imperial Sugar is forty pounds of sugar. Think of all the things I can create with that amount of sugar! Think of all the cups of tea The Husband can sweeten with the bits he "borrows!" Seriously though, The Husband likes his black tea sweet and too often I have gone to bake something only to find the bottom of the sugar canister coated with the merest scraping of sugar as "someone" has drunk up the rest. That's not going to happen now. Even he can't use that much sugar in his tea!

Astounded by Imperial Sugar's generosity, I decided to bake meringue cookies with their sugar as it's such a simple recipe -- not much more than eggs and sugar -- and I thought it would give the sugar a chance to shine. Sugar doesn't just make these meringue cookies sweetly delicious, but it binds with the egg proteins, increasing their strength and elasticity, creating the fluffiest meringue. Science!

While I've made meringue with regular ol' granulated sugar, it can give the meringue a grainy texture which is not terrible in something like Eton Mess, where the meringue is smashed up and mixed with many other ingredients, but I didn't want gritty cookies. Imperial Sugar doesn't seem to make a superfine sugar, so I just whirred the Imperial Sugar granulated white around in my food processor until it resembled fine beach sand. This doesn't take long to do and allows me to feel even more smug about my kitchen skills.

These cookies are a trifle on the large size -- I like a generous cookie -- so you might want to use teaspoonfuls instead of tablespoons if you prefer a more delicate and ladylike cookie. Also, you could mix some cocoa powder in with the chips and raspberries for a more chocolaty meringue.

Also, feel free to use semisweet or bittersweet (yessss) chocolate in these cookies. The Husband does not enjoy dark chocolate and I love The Husband and want him to be happy, so I stuck with milk.

Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

Yield: Approximately 2 dozen cookies


  • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 4 oz white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
  • 1 oz freeze-dried raspberries
  • 5 oz milk chocolate morsels


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using your fingers, gently break the raspberries so none remain whole, being careful not to crush them into dust. Set aside.
  3. Pour white sugar into your food processor and whir around until it resembles fine beach sand. Set aside.
  4. In the scrupulously clean and dry bowl of your stand mixer, use the wire whisk attachment to whip egg whites with cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla until the whites form soft peaks.
  5. Slowly add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form and mixture becomes very white and glossy.
  6. Gently fold in the crushed raspberries and chocolate chips, taking care not to deflate the batter.
  7. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls on to the parchment paper.
  8. Bake for 1½ hours, rotating the pans from top-to-bottom and front-to-back halfway through baking.
  9. Turn off the heat and let the meringues cool completely in oven, about 2 hours.

If the cookies stick to the paper when you try to remove them then they are not baked properly. Reheat the oven to 200°F, put the cookies back in, and then turn off oven. Leave for about 2 hours and they should be fine.

These cookies will keep well in an airtight container on your kitchen counter for several weeks ... if they last that long!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!

08 October 2015

Choctoberfest: Dark Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

For today’s #Choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar recipe, I’ve used dried tart cherries, toasted slivered almonds, and bittersweet chocolate morsels in a scrumptious crisp-yet-slightly-chewy oatmeal cookie. Warm, crispy-on-the-outside-with-slightly-chewy-inside oatmeal cookie are my weakness. Freshly baked chocolate chip? Peanut butter? Snickerdoodle? Sugar? They’re all fine, but I don’t feel I NEED to eat them. But a warm oatmeal cookie? I go full Cookie Monster.

These cookies use a combination of brown sugar and white granulated Imperial Sugar. Brown sugar tends to make baked goods more moist and white makes them crisp so I thought using the two I might give me the combination of crisp-yet-chewy combo I craved. In this, I think I was quite successful and may try combining brown and white sugars in other chewy cookie recipes.

If you’ve not toasted almonds before, fear not for it is quite easy! Just heat your oven to 350°F. Lay the nuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are fragrant and golden. You do need to keep an eye on them, because they will burn, but stirring every few minutes seems to help with that. You can also toast almonds in a skillet, but I tend to burn them when I try the skillet method!

If you don't have access to white whole wheat flour, all-purpose is a fine substitute. I use white whole wheat simply because it makes me feel more virtuous and no-one I bake for can tell the difference between cookies baked with white whole wheat and all-purpose. They can spot "regular" whole wheat recipes from a mile away, though, and turn their noses up every time. Ugh. Picky people.

Anyway, to the cookies!

Dark Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

Yield: 2 dozen cookies


  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup + 3 Tbsp white whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup dried tart cherries
  • ⅓ cup toasted slivered almonds


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Beat butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugars, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beating until blended.
  • Whisk together flour, cocoa, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in chips, cherries, and nuts.

  • Drop dough by tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto parchment paper-line baking sheets.

  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool completely.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!

06 October 2015

Choctoberfest: Bittersweet Raspberry Blondies

My first recipe post for #Choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar and I'm telling you how to make blondies when you're probably all expecting some decadent ooey-gooey chocolate explosion of a brownie. Well. Here's the thing -- I prefer blondies to brownies. Yes. I know. WEIRD. But, seriously, these blondies are vastly superior to your standard brownie, don't take any more time to make, and are just so fine! They're the perfect combination of a sugar cookie and a brownie -- dense and fudgy like a brownie, but the flavor is pure sugar cookie. The addition of almonds and raspberries make them seem extra fancy -- rich and decadent -- but they really are so easy to make and go down a treat with a cold glass of milk. Or big mug of sugary tea. Or tiny glass of dessert wine ...

Baking chips. Some for the blondies, some for my belly.

While I love blondies, I don't like them too sweet so when I threw this recipe together one afternoon I opted for bittersweet chocolate morsels instead of white (which is what I usually find in blondies) to try to balance the sweetness of the brown sugar and berries. I think I was successful, but these bars are still very rich, so feel free to cut them smaller than I did!

These are most delicious served warm so the chocolate is a bit gooey.

I used King Arthur Flour's white whole wheat in this recipe, but the same amount of all-purpose would work just as well. White whole wheat adds an air of virtuousness to these blondies, legitimatizing my tendency to scarf them down like nobody's business! Also, if you want to play around with it, I'm betting blackberries and pecans would make a tasty variation.

I did not line the pan with parchment the first time & it was pretty much impossible to remove the baked bars.

Bittersweet Raspberry Blondies

Yield: 16 bars (cut 4x4)


  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour [King Arthur Flour]
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking spice mix [Penzeys]
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste [Nielsen-Massey]
  • ¾ cup bittersweet chocolate baking chips [Ghirardelli]
  • 4 oz fresh raspberries
  • ⅓ cup flaked almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease 8x8 baking dish and line with parchment paper so that there is a bit of overhang -- this will make it MUCH easier to get the baked blondies out later.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or in large bowl with hand-held mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy.
  4. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until blended.
  5. Add flour mixture to egg mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Scatter raspberries and almonds evenly over batter. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is set, about 35 minutes.
  7. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Remove blondies from pan, cut into 16 pieces (4 rows by 4 rows) and serve.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!

23 September 2015

September Fruitcake

In preparation for Chocotoberfest, I went cleaned out and reorganized my baking cupboard. For days afterward I was so smugly pleased with myself … until I went to get something from the front closet and realized there was a box of baking supplies on the top shelf. Yes, waylongtimeago, I had more dried fruits and nuts than would fit in the baking cupboard so I threw them in box in the closet and then (conveniently) forgot.

What I found in the closet:
  • Cocoa nibs, 1 oz
  • Glazed diced citron, approx ½ lb
  • Gazed lemon peel, diced, approx ½ lb
  • Glazed orange peel, diced, approx ¼ lb
  • Glazed pineapple wedges, approx ½ lb
  • Glazed red cherries, approx ½ lb
  • Macadamia nut pieces, 1 lb
  • Meringue powder, 10 oz
  • Pecan pieces, approx 1 lb
  • Parrot Bay Coconut rum, 200 ml
  • Pineapple Jack Pineapple Coconut Rum, approx 500 ml
  • Shredded coconut, 1 lb
Yes, these are almost all leftover fruitcake ingredients. While they’ve in the closet and I don’t need to go crazy trying to use them up ASAP, their very existence keeps ... hanging over me ... making me feel mentally itchy and uncomfortable in the same way crowded spaces do. It’s easier to just bake a fruitcake (yes, fruitcake in September) and use them up than teach myself to live with them. Also, I'm going into the hospital soon (October 5, but my monkey brain keeps treating it like tomorrow), so my general level of anxiety has changed from it's usual low level "background noise" to something resembling a prickly hedgehog lodged in my chest. Am I desperately trying to distract myself with baking? Hell, yes.

Since I had all the ingredients -- probably because I fully intended to make this fruitcake last winter -- I made Paula Deen’s "Ambrosia Fruitcake" from Cooking With Paula Deen, Nov/Dec 2008 issue collected on the DVD Cooking with Paula Deen, The Complete Collection (2005-2012). I’ve made four of the five fruitcakes featured in that issue now and, while the "Tropical Fruitcake" remains my favorite, the "Ambrosia Fruitcake" runs a close second.

Because I didn't have quite enough candied orange peel on hand -- the recipe calls for 2 cups and I had a scant ½ cup -- I added in candied lemon peel and citron until I reached the required amount. I'm sure this changed the flavor of the fruitcake somewhat, but it was still very good -- moist and tropical tasting with the candied cherries lending a welcome burst of red against the general beige-i-ness of the cake.

The article says all the fruitcakes can be baked in two 10-inch loaf pans rather than one 10-inch tube pan. Usually I just bake the fruitcakes in the tube pan, then cut the baked ring into quarters and send it along to work, parents, etc. Since it's September, however, I thought I'd do the loaf pan method and then store one, wrapped in coconut rum-soaked cheesecloth and foil in the fridge until December to see what would happen. Hopefully, what happens is that I have a delicious rum-soaked cake just when I need one!

Toasted coconut topping looks cute but flakes off as the cake is cut :(

31 December 2014

Three-Bite Christmas Cheesecakes

I wanted to do something decadent for Christmas Dinner, but not overwhelmingly so. Mini cheesecakes seemed just the thing and when I stumbled across Paula Deen's recipe for "Hazelnut Mini Cheesecakes," I knew I'd struck gold. What do we love? Nutella. And Ferrero Rocher. And Frangelico. What's in these cheesecakes? Hazelnuts. Chocolate. Frangelico.

It was meant to be!

Pulverized chocolate graham crackers.

Now, making cheesecake is actually The Husband's thing, so I was a little nervous making these ... but I needn't have been! The instructions are quite clear and the whole thing turned out much more easily than I'd feared. The hardest part, actually, was making the chocolate graham cracker crumbs simply because I wasn't sure how fine a crumb they should be. I guess, maybe, you can buy the crumbs ready-made somewhere? I've certainly bought the plain graham cracker crumbs before (yes, LAZY). I ended up processing half the box of chocolate graham crackers down to something that looked a lot like black almond flour and decided that was probably good enough.

"Finely"(ish) chopped hazelnuts.

Honestly, I think I could have used regular graham cracker crumbs, because we couldn't really taste any chocolate when we ate these. Hazelnut, yes. Chocolate, no. And there was the scent of Frangelico, but no taste of it. If anything, I feel the cheesecake batter would have benefited from a teaspoon or so of vanilla bean paste. Or, The Husband's suggestion, raspberry extract.

Certainly, these would be very good drizzled with raspberry coulis. Many of my mini cheesecakes collapsed a bit in the middle as they cooled (I suspect I'd beaten too much air into the batter), creating the perfect "cup" for sauce of some kind. When I served them after Christmas dinner, I topped the cheesecakes with fresh whipped cream and a Ferrero Rocher so no-one could see the indentations!

Overall we liked these cheesecakes, but we didn't love them. Oh, we were certainly happy to eat them all up over the course of Christmas vacation, but every time I ate one, I was reminded of how much better it could be. Definitely orange or vanilla extract next time, beaten on a lower speed, and maybe grease the pans a bit to keep the baking cheesecakes from creeping up the sides? It's definitely a recipe worth fiddling with.

Paula Deen's "Hazelnut Mini Cheesecakes" from Cooking With Paula Deen, Nov/Dec 2007. Also available on the DVD Cooking with Paula Deen, The Complete Collection (2005-2012). Can't locate a copy on your own? See if your friendly local library can help you out.

29 December 2014

Packing Cookies

My father had asked me to bake him something for Christmas, which is also one of the reasons why I made those short-cut peanut butter blossoms. I also gave him a nice wedge of the cranberry-walnut fruitcake and half a batch of short-cut linzer bars.

I'd intended to give him the whole batch of linzer bars, but it turns out The Husband actually likes slivered almonds and I ended up holding half the batch back for him. I've been married for fifteen years now and I still can't remember what The Husband will or won't eat. I say it's because he keeps changing his mind about things, but he says it's because I'm not paying attention. Which is possible, but I swear he was much more selective when I married him. That may have had more to do with culture shock than taste preference, maybe? Regardless, he likes almonds. Or, at least, sliced almonds with raspberry jam and sugar cookie base.

This short-cut Pillsbury recipe for "Linzer Bars" is both fabulously simple and delicious. I did double the amount of jam and almonds, because the original amounts called for seemed a bit scant, but then I like a jammy cookie. This recipe could easily be made with just about any jam and nut you like and I'll probably be trying it soon with black raspberry jam and blanched slivered almonds.

I wanted to make a nice presentation with the cookies so I bought a round tin at Job Lot and filled it with pairs of cookies I put in seasonal cupcake liners. I figured two cookies to a liner was both a nice look and a decent serving. Dad could just reach in and pull up a liner rather than rooting around all the cookies. And, importantly, the jammy Linzers wouldn't get a chance to fuse to each other!

I put the peanut butter blossoms on the bottom, then a circular divider repurposed from a box of Thornton's, and a layer of bars. It looked quite pretty and the cookies seemed to keep well. Although it probably doesn't matter how well they'd keep, because Dad and The Husband had eaten nearly all the Linzers by the time we left him after Christmas dinner!

This may be for the best as the leftover blossoms kept at home in the same container as the Linzers (with no divider between them) went unappetizingly soft as they absorbed the moisture (I assume) from the jammy bars. Meh. I'm still learning.

27 December 2014

Pretty (Lazy) Peanut Butter Blossoms

Growing up, peanut blossom cookies were one of the first cookies I learned to bake. First, I was old and trustworthy enough roll the dough into balls and coat them in sugar. Then, I could put the kisses on the hot, soft cookies. Then, I was old enough to make the dough myself. Frankly, I loved making molded cookies and, thankfully, my mother's Christmas cookie repertoire was dominated by them. Peanut butter blossoms. Russian tea cakes. Jammy thumbprints. Chocolate crinkles. Yum!

Pretty blossoms waiting their turn in the oven ... and then a kiss! Oooer.

So, there's really no excuse for these lazy cookies. I know exactly how to make peanut butter blossoms from scratch. And yet, as soon as I saw this variation on Pinterest, I rushed to put a tube of refrigerated sugar cookie dough on my shopping list. And a bag of kisses, obviously. Because I would have cookies almost instantly. No measuring. Limited mixing. Dirtied one bowl, one measuring cup, and one spatula. Baking the fruitcake seemed to dirty nearly every dish in my kitchen (I am still not a tidy cook) and I wanted cookies without the washing up.

A kiss for the cookie, a kiss for my belly, a kiss for the cookie ...

Yes, there's nothing to these cookies. Just a tube of sugar cookie dough, a half cup of creamy peanut butter, and a bag of chocolate kisses. I did fancy them up a bit by squishing the dough through my cookie press and found that doing so created the perfect balance of cookie and chocolate so Yay, me.

I also found a nifty way to neatly and easily load the cookie press, which is to roll the dough into tubes slightly smaller than the dough chamber and just drop them right in! I know it's an obvious thing, but I spent so much time faffing about with doughy spoons when I made my Halloween spritz, trying to get all the air pockets out so the press would work properly. I could have saved myself so much time (and sworn a lot less).

Logs of dough. Yes, I know they look like poo.

Anyway! The cookies were very crisp and surprisingly peanut-y considering the small amount of peanut butter used. As always, I think they're best when the kisses are still a bit soft and melty, but they were still pretty darn tasty two days later.

24 December 2014

Fruitcake Season: Cranberry Walnut

While I reallyreally wanted to kick off Fruitcake Season with Paula Deen's "Plum Ginger Fruitcake," my mother made disparaging noises when I described it to her and, since I am responsible for Christmas dessert, I decided to go with a safer, more traditional flavor combination. My mother does like fruitcake, by the way, but she is a very traditional baker and ingredients like green tea and Chinese five-spice powder make her very suspicious.

So, perhaps less excitingly, I started Fruitcake Season with "Cranberry Walnut Fruitcake." Assembling and baking was just as easy as when I make its sister, "Tropical Fruitcake." Always there is a worrying disparity between the amount of batter created and the amount for fillings to be added. But the point to remember is that the batter is there more to mold the bits of fruit, nut, and peel into a cohesive whole than it is to be cake. Or, more simply put, it's fruitcake.

The raw batter was deliciously fragrant, by the way, and tasted better than any spice cake batter I've ever made. I did use a mix of cinnamon, mace, and allspice instead of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves called for ... simply because I always use mace instead of nutmeg and did not know I was out of ground cloves until I started baking. (I went through my spices twice when I was writing up my list of necessary fruitcake supplies and I swear I saw ground cloves then).

Also, despite a basement full of spirits, I did not have any orange-flavored liqueur and ended up substituting Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur. I could have used regular ol' Jack Daniels, but I worried that would be too harsh. Orange liqueur would be a little sweet and mellow, like honey whiskey. (Just to be safe, I threw in a teaspoon of orange extract with the vanilla).

Once I added the fruit, nuts, and peel to the butter-and-flour mixture, the batter became intensely dense and was increasingly difficult for my KitchenAid Professional stand mixer to handle. This happens every time I make a fruitcake, so I've learned not to freak out and worry my stand mixer will explode. I am, every time, extremely grateful to the Christmas fairies who gave me my shiny red workhorse. I don't think I could easily make these dense batters with the smaller tilt-head stand mixer unless I wanted to finish mixing by hand -- my mother does this and ropes my father into wielding the spoon because she doesn't have the strength!

The raw batter fills the 10-inch tube pan pretty much to the top, but that's okay because even with two teaspoons of baking powder this cake has minimal rise and there's absolutely no danger of it overflowing the pan, dripping all over the oven's heating element, and making a terrible burning smell. Do I sound like I speak from experience? I have had a few overflowing bundts. It's not fun. (It also took 3.5 hours in my oven, but I've suspected for sometime now that my oven no longer runs as hot as it used to).

Paula Deen's "Cranberry Walnut Fruitcake" from Cooking With Paula Deen, Nov/Dec 2008. Also available on the DVD Cooking with Paula Deen, The Complete Collection (2005-2012). Can't locate a copy on your own? See if your friendly local library can help you out.

22 December 2014

Fruitcake Supplies

My order of dried fruits, peel, and nuts has arrived from! See it in it's orange splendor!

  • 1 lb. Diced Apples (Unsulphured)
  • 1 lb. Sliced Cranberries
  • 1 lb. Plums (No Pit)
  • 1 lb. Glazed Red Cherries
  • 1 lb. Glazed Pineapple Wedges
  • 1 lb. Coconut - Shredded
  • 1 lb. Macadamia Nut Pieces
  • 1 lb. Sliced Natural Almonds
  • 1 lb. Pecan Pieces
  • 1 lb. Chopped Walnuts
  • 1 lb. Glazed Orange Peel (Diced)
  • 1 lb. Glazed Lemon Peel (Diced)
  • 1 lb. Glazed Diced Citron
The tiny (compared to the others) green bag holds a generous sample of raw organic cacao nibs! Hurrah, a new ingredient to play with. Later. After Fruitcake Season.

I also picked up three four-pound bags of sugar for $1.49 each and one five-pound bag of King Arthur all-purpose flour for free with the purchase of two McCormick spices (and I had a 50¢ coupon off one McCormick spice that the store doubled!). I'm not usually very thrifty about my baking supplies, but fruitcakes require a lot of stuff and I not 100% sure baking four or five fruitcakes over the course of the winter is the Best Idea Ever so ... let's economize when possible without cutting corners or using untrustworthy ingredients.

Oh, a fruitcake-baking we will go! First, up Paula Deen's "Cranberry Walnut Fruitcake!"

17 December 2014

Bake All the Fruitcakes!

A few years ago, I bought a copy of the DVD Cooking with Paula Deen, The Complete Collection (2005-2012) for a ridiculously low post-Christmas price. I'm not a huge Paula Deen fan, but I've enjoyed many of her recipes and the DVD seemed like a good buy. It collects every page of the magazine from the first issue in 2005 through the end of 2012. It's searchable, bookmarkable, printable ... and (most important of all) contains all the recipes my mother and I shared back and forth when she was still a subscriber. Au Gratin Carrots? Yes. Horseradish Mashed Potatoes? Yes. Mushroom Lasagna? Yes.

And all five totally awesome fruitcake recipes from the November/December 2008 issue! I say totally awesome, but I've only made one of the five -- the fabulous "Tropical Fruitcake" with pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts, and white rum -- so how can I be sure of the other four?

I guess I'll just have to bake more fruitcakes this winter! The "Traditional Fruitcake" doesn't interest me -- that's the one my mom bakes, so I know it's perfectly fine -- but I'm really looking forward to trying "Plum Ginger Fruitcake" (the batter is infused with green tea!) and "Cranberry Walnut Fruitcake" (because who doesn't love cranberries and walnuts?). Can't quite make my mine up about "Ambrosia Fruitcake" as I'm guessing, flavor-wise, it's supposed to be reminiscent of ambrosia salad and I just remember that my uncle's ambrosia was deathly sweet.

Baking three fruitcakes requires a serious laying on of supplies, so I started totting up a list of ingredients I'd need:
  • 16 cups flour
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 5 cups candied orange peel
  • 4 cups chopped pecans
  • 4 cups sliced almonds
  • 4 cups chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups chopped macadamias
  • 4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 4 cups candied pineapple chunks
  • 3 cups chopped dried apples
  • 3 cups dried cranberries
  • 3 cups chopped dried plums
  • 2 cups candied citron
  • 2 cups crystallized ginger
  • 2 cups candied lemon peel
  • 2 cups glazed red cherries
  • 1 cup raisins
I already own some of the ingredients, but it's a good thing we're in the heart of Baking Season and so many ingredients are on sale! But where am I going to store it all??

31 October 2014

Halloween Spritz Cookies

My mother used to bake spritz cookies for Christmas every year and, as a child, they were the cookie I loved to hate. They were pretty, yes, but they were horrible little beasts to assemble. My mother had a Mirro cookie press -- the kind you have to turn the handle at the top of the barrel while holding the bottom level with the baking sheet until enough dough has come out to see the shape of the cookie and then you have to carefully lift the cookie press straight up so as not to ruin the design. It never really worked out well when I had the running of it and, when I started baking on my own, I vowed I'd never bake spritz cookies because they were just to darn fiddly.

Yet ... here I am with an Oxo Good Grips Cookie Press. A cookie press I was given for Christmas last year. After I specifically asked for it. Because I am mad, I tell you, mad.

I used the spider, web, and pumpkin cookie disks to shape my Halloween spritz. I thought the web and pumpkin would be the easiest shapes to press, but the webs turned out to be annoying little beasties. Of course, I started with the webs so when they wouldn't come out properly I thought it was because the baking sheets weren't chilled enough! And then I thought maybe the dough needed to be chilled. And then, finally, I decided to try the spider disk ... and the spiders came out perfect from the first!

Stupid webs.

The pumpkins also shaped and stuck to the baking sheets just fine. I don't know what it was about the webs, but they really didn't want to release from the press.

I used the recipe for butter cookies that came with my Oxo Good Grips Cookie Press, figuring the recipe had been formulated especially for the press and was thereby a good starting point ... so I am still a bit grumpy and confused about why the webs were so difficult.

Since I was making Halloween spritz I divided the dough into two bowls and colored it with Americolor Soft Gel Paste Food Colors. I was afraid to use too much black, because my mouth kept telling me the cookies would taste "black" even though my brain knew that was nonsense.

The dough looks rather gray in the photo, but the cookies baked up pretty dark.

The orange was just ORANGE from the get go and didn't bake up any less vibrant.

Overall, I'd say I enjoyed my first attempt at spritz cookies and am looking forward to making more as we head into Cookie Season. The Oxo cookie press does take a little getting used to as using it isn't quite as straightforward as the instructions suggest (I would say I pressed a good dozen duds before I got the hang of it), but know that I've figured out what I'm doing ... it beats the socks of my mother's old screw-style cookie press!

01 October 2014

Figgy-Figgy Fall Bundt Cake

Monday night, I was trying to reorganize my kitchen so that I could finally get rid of the rolling cart that holds all my vinegars, oils, and lunch boxes. I've owned the cart since 1994 (bought it at Ames, yo) and am well past any feelings of guilt about tossing it. Goodbye, cart. Hello, additional people space.

Because shuffling the contents of one cart eventually meant shuffling the contents of five cupboards, I ended up elbow deep (and a bit snarly) in my baking cupboard around nine o'clock. Why had I bought dried figs again? How many packages of raisins does a person need? And lets not talk about the bags of white chocolate chips! And the confectionery sugar! Oh, the confectionery sugar!! Clearly, I needed to Bake Something.

And I did! A dense cinnamon-y fall bundt full of figs, raisins, and pecans. It is more a quick bread than a cake, but you bake it in a bundt pan and "bundt cake" sounds right ... whereas "bundt bread" sounds decidedly odd. My recipe is based on "Healthy Fig Bread" from Nordicware's Bundt Entertaining, but I feel I've made it even more healthy (and delicious) with the use of buttermilk and white whole wheat.


My only complaint is that I can clearly see beige-y flakes of oatmeal among the darker cake and I don't like the aesthetic at all. Otherwise, it's a very tasty cake and a little piece, with a nice cup of tea, goes a long way. I love how the cake is absolutely studded with fruit -- none of that sunk-to-the-bottom nonsense I've had with some cakes and I think some of that success might be due to combining the fruit and nuts with the wet ingredients before adding the dry as this leaves the fruit kind-of suspended. Or maybe I'm just rationalizing baking magic?

Figgy Bundt Cake

A dense cinnamon-y fall bundt full of figs, raisins, and pecans.

Yield: 12-24 slices

Cook time: 00 hrs. 45 mins.

Total time: 01 hrs. 15 mins.

Tags: bundt cake, baking, cake


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup chopped figs
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup old-fashioned (rolled) oats
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. (The cake won't rise much so you're probably okay with an 8-cup pan, too).
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, and butter. Add figs, raisins, and pecans.
  4. Add flour ("dry") mixture to the egg ("wet") mixture, stirring until dry ingredients are just combined. Spoon into pan.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes or until a cake tester jabbed into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on rack. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on rack.

As with many quick breads, this is better the next day.

I chopped the figs by removing their stems, slicing them lengthwise, and then crosswise into small pieces. They were very sticky and squishy and yum ... I may have eaten as many figs while preparing the batter as went into the finished cake. Whoops.

This coming Sunday, I'll bake up a bunch of white chocolate and pecan oatmeal cookies for work and that will use up one of the partial bags of morsels. I have only three or four recipes I make with any regularity that use white chocolate and even then they don't use that much ... so I really have no idea why I ended up with so many bags. Oh, I know! Poor organization skills!

20 June 2014

Celebratory Cookies

"Spumoni Chunk Cookies" I made for a retirement party. The recipe starts with Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix and then tarts it up with pistachios, dried cherries, and semisweet chocolate chunks. I've made these cookies several times now, but I admit this was the first time I actually stuck with the recipe -- I've used toasted walnuts or pecans -- because pistachios are not something I usually have on hand. (If you can find shelled salted roasted pistachios, well, good on you. I bought mine still in the shell and, in shelling them, probably put as many in my tummy as in the measuring cup).

I thought I had a bag of Nestle Toll House chunks left from Christmas, but couldn't find them when it came time to bake and ended up buying a bag of Hershey's Baking Melts. Based on the packaging illustrations, I was expecting thumbnail-sized rounds, but opened the bag to find surprisingly big 'uns. A bit too big for these cookies, I thought, so I ended up chopping them in half. Unlike with the pistachios, no chocolate ended up in my belly!

The cherries were the last of the sour (tart) cherries I'd bought for fruitcake last December. They're excellent cherries -- slightly sweetened with a real intense punch of cherry flavor. They look a little bit like raisins once they've baked into the cookies, but once you take a bite you know you're dealing with CHERRIES. There's no confusing these with anything else!

Everyone at the party really loved these cookies and several people asked me for the recipe, only to appear visibly distressed when I explained I'd tarted up a cookie mix. The Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix yields a perfectly fine cookie and, with all the other ingredients added in, the cookie base wasn't a significant player in texture or flavor, anyway. If you want to go all out, by all means do use your favorite from-scratch cookie recipe. I needed to bake quite a lot of cookies in very little time between several other obligations and using a cookie mix saved me from Freaking Out and Baking Angry. No one wants to eat angry cookies.

Anyway, there were 35 cookies at the start of the party and 0 cookies were left at the end, so I think it's pretty clear these cookies were a success!

18 June 2014

Cake Baking As An Act of Contrition

Monday night, I had the house to myself. I had a fairly large to-do list and every intention of Getting Things Done. And then I decided to chuck it all and bake a cake. Because sometimes cake is the important thing. Sometimes, cake is love. Or, at least, an apology.

I haven't been sleeping very well lately. Some of it is caused by the Hamster Wheel of Useless Thoughts. And some by a tiny bladder. And, yes, some of it is due to The Husband's snoring. Still, there's no good excuse for sitting bolt upright in bed in the wee small hours of the morning and shouting at my best beloved that I am going to murder him if he doesn't stop snoring.

So, this cake? This cake is an apology. Baking it was an act of contrition. There is no crumb of this cake that was designed to please me. Every morsel was assembled with The Husband's tastes in mind. Chocolate sponge -- light, moist, and tender-crumbed. Chocolate mousse -- creamy, light, rich. Chocolate buttercream -- rich, dark, deeply chocolatey. And crunchy Maltesers for garnish, because every cake needs a little bling.

And, wow, did this cake go over well! It may very well be one of the best cakes I've ever baked.

Recipes used or adapted:

25 April 2014

Downton Abbey Spring Tea In The Making

I spent today baking for the library's Downton Abbey Spring tea. Tomorrow's tea. No little panic percolating through my veins, darlings. No, I am just a big bag of terror. Why did I say I'd take on the sandwiches? Why didn't I sit back and wait for someone else to volunteer? Mostly, because there's no-one else. This tea was (mostly) my idea.

Oh, my god, the pressure. The expectation. And I can't even blame Daisy.

It's been years since I baked scones from scratch and even then, they were drop scones. None rolling or cutting required. Just plop, sprinkle with sugar, and bake. I was terrified they'd come out flat and chewy from being overworked, but they're actually pretty okay. Not the cream scone of my teatime fantasies, but good enough for sandwiches.

The sandwich recipe, "Blueberry Heart Scones with Smoked Turkey," from Winnie-the-Pooh's Picnic Cookbook (Dutton Books, 1997), called for a 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter but I went with round because that's the shaped I owned. Anyway, I can just imagine what the Dowager Countess of Grantham would have to say about heart-shaped scones!

Probably something biting about nursery foods.

As the sandwiches seemed a little plain with just smoked turkey and cranberry-orange conserve (actually Stonewall Kitchen's Orange Cranberry Marmalade, because where do you find cranberries in April?) I added a few watercress leaves to each sandwich ... and, with that bit of greenery, they were transformed into something delightful.

I also made "Mini Orange-Pecan Muffins with Black Forest Ham" from the same cookbook. Because the muffins were a bit on the sweet side -- perfect for breakfast with pot of strong black tea -- I spread only the bottom of my test muffin with cranberry-orange conserve and spread the top with Dijon mayonnaise. No watercress garnish for this gem, but I splurged and picked up some orchids blossoms from the produce section to decorate Saturday's platter.

For fear of soggy bottoms, I did not assemble any of the sandwiches ahead of time. I did cut all the scones and mini muffins in half and cut the deli meat into appropriately-sized strips, but I'll assemble everything tomorrow about an hour before the tea starts so that the flavors have a chance to work, but nothing gets soggy. That's the plan, anyway. I'm pretty sure much of tomorrow will be spent in a state of pure panic. Quiet, invisible panic no-one else need be aware of. The ladies will have their tea and party games and, no doubt, a marvelously good time.

If only!

19 April 2014

Lazilicious Easter Cupcakes

It's Easter and you know what that means! Yes, the Internet has exploded with adorable bunny cakes and Easter sweets. Feel you can't compete, but should still make an effort, anyway, because you are a conformist at heart? These cupcakes are perfect for you.

Anyway, go rummage around in your pantry until you find a cake mix. Prepare it according to the instructions on the back of the box. Go back to your pantry and find the cupcake liners. Line a mini cupcake pan with the mini cupcake liners. Fill each cup with a scant tablespoon of batter. Bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool. Repeat until no batter remains. Frost however you like (I prepared a frosting mix leftover from a boxed cake kit I made ... ummm ... last spring). Decorate with Malteser mini bunnies, Cadbury mini eggs, or whathaveyou. Eat.