Sunday, December 23, 2012

Orange Coconut Cremes

Yeah! The final post in my week-long blog challenge! I was able to write a blog post every day this week, and this is the last one!

Here's another quick and easy treat to put out on your Christmas platters or give to friends and family. Personally, I find the combination of orange and coconut absolutely irresistable. Add in chocolate, and you're golden.

Are these sweet? Yes. Are they incredibly sugary? Yes. Are they addictive? So much so that you will eat one or two too many and make yourself feel sick. I don't often feel inclined to try more than one item of whatever I've made, but I definitely caught myself sneaking into the fridge to snag a couple before having to give them all away. Oops!

Yield: 108 servings (I halved the recipe, no way I need over 100 of these babies!)
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (1 kg) powdered sugar
1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
2 teaspoons orange extract
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons shortening

In a small saucepan, combine milk, butter and salt. Warm over low heat until the butter is melted.

Place powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add condensed milk and butter mixture, and beat until smooth. Add coconut and orange extract, and mix well. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheets lined with waxed paper. Refridgerate until firm, about 1 hour. If the mixture is too soft to hold it's shape, add more powdered sugar or refridgerate for awhile, as the mixture will be warm from the condensed milk mixture.

In a microwave, heat chocolate for 30 seconds, remove and stir. Continue to heat chocolate on 20 second bursts, stirring in between until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in shortening and mix until fully incorporated. Dip balls into chocolate; remove by placing a fork underneath and lifting, allowing excess chocolate to drip off. Place on waxed paper and either let stand until set or refridgerate to set more quickly.

Source: slightly adapted from Taste of Home Pin It

Saturday, December 22, 2012

White Chocolate Topped Gingerbread Cookies

I don't have much to say about these cookies, other than that you can never, ever go wrong with soft, sugary gingerbread cookies. Soft gingerbread/molasses cookies are one of my favourites of all time, yet I hardly ever enjoy them! There's the very odd occasion that I purchase one of the ginormous ones from Starbuck's, but that likely equals once, maybe twice a year.

Simple. And perfect.

I halved the recipe and managed to get about 2 dozen. The ingredients shown below are for a full recipe, so I think it's safe to say it will produce somewhere around 4 dozen cookies.

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 oz. white chocolate

Combine flour, ginger, cinammon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.

Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla, and beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well combined.

Press dough in a thick flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until edges of cookies begin to brown. Let baked cookies rest on baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Store cookies in airtight container for up to 5 days.

Source: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody Pin It

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nordic Christmas Sugar Cookies

Welcome to part II you could say, of my sugar cookie extravaganza. I apparently don't think that one beautiful set for Christmas is enough, and have to do an entirely different set. Actually, that's not the reason at all; it's just that I had so many ideas and was able to narrow it down to 2, but unfortunately not any further. I just couldn't decide which I liked better: the Winter Wonderland theme or the I'm not sure what to call this but let's go with Nordic Christmas theme. Which one do YOU like better? Cast your votes now! My Winter Wonderland cookies can be seen here.

The 4 at the bottom, starting with the branch, then the pine cone, birch trees, and the pearly ornament were my absolute favourite of the whole batch.

As promised, here is the chocolate roll-out cookie dough that I promised to provide the other day when I posted the Winter Wonderland cookies. Let me just say, when I was handling this dough, I actually said out-loud "ooh this dough is just dreamy." Sean asked me "dreamy?" and I explained that it held together and rolled out like a dream. This was in comparison to the only other chocolate sugar cookie dough I've used before, which you can check out in my post on Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies. While that dough was crumbly and a bit of a pain to roll out, it really did taste fantastic in the end. This new recipe tasted good too, but I think perhaps I may have added a bit too much flour as they were harder than what I'm used to, and Sweet Sugar Belle described them as on the softer side. So I'm a bit disappointed they didn't turn out as I hoped, but I'll definitely be trying the recipe again in the future.

1 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup cocoa
3 OR 3 1/2 cups flour

Cream butter, shortening and sugar together in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Add eggs and vanilla, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add baking powder and salt, and mix again. Combine the cocoa powder until well blended. Add flour 1 cup at a time. If you are going to bake cookies right away, add 3 1/2 cups flour. If you are going to chill the dough, or wait for another few hours or even a couple days, stop at 3 cups.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface, and cut out desired shapes. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 6 1/2- 7 1/2 minutes.

Source: Lila Loa

Because I'm on day 5 of my week long challenge (whooo!) I'm going to provide a quick re-cap of what I've done so far:

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Caramel Popcorn

Day 4 in my week long challenge! Whew, and can I say I am feelin' pretty good now because I have 95% of all my Christmas baking done, so it's smooth sailing from here on! Just in time too, because I'd love a day or two of relaxation before the Christmas craziness starts.

I actually made this caramel popcorn about a week ago, to bring to a Christmas party for my fellow MSW classmates. It's a very adaptable recipe- you can really throw anything in it to make the holiday or event you're going for. I added some red and green mini m&ms to give it a more Christmasy feel. This is definitely a sweet and addictive treat. Betcha can't eat just one. ;)

P.S. If you're wondering where the 'healthy eats' part of my blog is lately... it's non-existent. I'm slightly embarrassed to say that my meals outside of dessert have been atrocious lately. The past 2 days I had a can of soup for lunch. It was a low point. My only excuse is that the last week I've been very busy with baking, and the couple weeks prior I was absolutely swamped with final assignments for school, so spending time on food was my last priority. I hope to get back on track in the new year!

1 cup unpopped corn kernels
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
mini Christmas m&ms

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a popcorn maker, pop your kernels as directed. Be mindful of using 'gourmet' kernels; apparently they pop larger than other kernels and therefore amount to more. I ignored this fact despite reading it beforehand in the instructions, and because my popcorn popper has a lid on it and the popcorn pops upwards... well let's just say Tucker got a good few treats on the floor that day. Place kernels in a large bowl, and make sure to pick out any unpopped kernels. You'll have to stir the popcorn, so you may need to use 2 bowls (I had to because I had so much popcorn).

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt. Heat until melted and begins to boil. Once boiling, pour in sweetened condensed milk and stir continuously for 5 minutes, to prevent burning. Take this step seriously; again I didn't because apparently I thought I knew everything, and yes, you guessed it, I had to start all over again when I noticed bits of brown floating around.

Remove from heat and pour directly over popcorn, stirring until coated evenly. Stir in desired amount of m&ms. I did so before baking because I wanted them to stick to the popcorn; however, be aware that they do melt a little bit.

Spread popcorn evenly on baking sheets, and place in preheated oven to bake for 45-50 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes to cook evenly.

Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then break into pieces and let cool completely.

Source: Cookies and Cups
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Wonderland Cookies

Today is my third blog post in my week-long blog post challenge! I absolutely love the look of these cookies; not to toot my own horn, but they turned out fantastic! I love the colours, love that they have a silver sheen to them- thanks to my new Wilton Color Mist, and I love the delicacy of the snowflakes and all the ornaments!

You may have noticed that there are actually 2 different cookie doughs in the picture. I'm going to be posting the recipe for the Brown Sugar cookie dough today, and the Chocolate in the next few days! I really liked the flavour of the Brown Sugar cookie dough; it tasted like a mild gingerbread with a hint of orange.

For my recipe and directions on royal icing, check out my post on Baby Shower Cookies.

Yield: about 2 1/2 dozen
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk, half and half, or orange juice
2 teaspoons extract (I used orange and vanilla)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each egg. Add extract and milk, and mix until just incorporated. Sift together dry ingredients a cupful or so at a time until all of the dry mixture is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not sticky. If it is sticky, add flour little by little until it isn't.

Divide dough into two parts, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out dough to desired thickness (I aim for 1/4 inch) and cut into shapes. Dust lightly with flour as needed. Set cookie pans in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before baking to help prevent spreading. However, I noticed that with this recipe despite chilling it before baking, the dough still spread quite a bit.

Bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes. Cool on baking pan for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired.

Source: Sweet Sugar Belle
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peppermint Patties

Wow! These 'holidays' are flying by! Seems like it's not much of a holiday, every day is jam-packed! This morning my little man was brought to the vet to have his manhood removed- poor little guy. Tucker did just fine through the surgery. Post-operation instructions were to try and keep him as inactive as possible, but guess what happened when he got home? He went crazy! And I mean bouncing off the walls with energy crazy! However, I think after his energy burst the after-effects of the anesthesia started kicking in because he began acting pretty odd, not to mention falling asleep while he was sitting up, poor boy :p.

Back to these peppermint patties, if you thought making caramel sauce from yesterday was easy, ok maybe you didn't because it can be sneaky and totally screw you over when you think you're doing everything right, these peppermint patties are significantly easier! No baking, no cooking, just some mixing, cooling, and dipping in chocolate! The most time-consuming part is the coating in chocolate, and depending on how large you decide to make your patties, even that can go fast!

These are definitely a no-fuss and yummy treat. If you like the whole mint and chocolate combination, give these a try! The sweetness of the peppermint filling is nicely balanced by the bittersweet chocolate, and if you make the patties into bite-sized pieces, it's perfect!

Yield: depends on your size preference, anywhere from 20 to 40
3 1/2- 4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoon waters
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
2 tablespoon vegetable shortening, divided
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup peppermint candies or candy canes, crushed

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar together with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract and 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening until just combined. The mixture should not be wet, and stiff enough that you will be able to form it without it losing it's shape. If the mixture is not firm enough, add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it becomes nearly crumbly (not quite that dry).

Dust a work surface with a small amount of powdered sugar. Empty the mixture onto work surface and knead and form into a ball. Shape dough into a log; how small or large you want the patties to be will determine the size of the log. I made mine about an inch in diameter and over a foot long. Wrap the log in parchment paper and refrigerate until firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Remove dough and slice into rounds using a sharp knife. If the dough begins to soften, refrigerate again or simply reshape the patties into a circle. Place rounds onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze until firm, around 10-15 minutes.

While dough is chilling, melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals. Stir thoroughly after each time in the microwave; mine took 3 bursts in the microwave. Combine 1 tablespoon shortening into the chocolate until melted completely. Cool the chocolate slightly.

Cover another baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove patties 3-5 at a time from freezer and submerge into melted chocolate. Coat quickly and allow excess chocolate to drip off. I used a fork to lift the patties out, but this did not prevent chocolate from ending up all over my left hand. Place patties on parchment paper and sprinkle with crushed candies.

Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour at room temperature or 5 minutes in the fridge. Store in fridge, between wax paper in an airtight container.

Source: adapted from Blue Eyed Bakers

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

You know what's great about the holiday season? Being able to give and share things with the people you love. And while I love giving gifts (Lord knows I've overspent myself this year), there's something special about giving something home-made.

So over the next week, I'm challenging myself to write a post every day with goodies that I'm giving to friends and sharing to family. I mean... I gotta make up for the severe lack in posting over the past couple months... right? Actually, a big part of it is also to see if I can actually do it; it will definitely be a challenge because I am very busy this week!

Can you see all those vanilla bean flecks? YUM! I think this vanilla bean caramel sauce is one of the most fantastic things to give to friends. Who can go wrong with caramel sauce? Warm it up and top some ice cream with it, drizzle it on cookies or brownies, heck- eat it out of the jar (I have been known to do so, and I'm not ashamed). This is a wonderfully easy caramel recipe to make, and if you've had difficulties with caramel in the past, try this one!

Check out my post on Apple Caramel Cake to see where I've used this caramel sauce before!

Yield: about 2 cups or 10 4 oz. jars (although I only filled them with 3 oz.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or the seeds from 1 1/2 vanilla bean pods

If you've ever done canning before, you know you need to boil the jars and lids you're using to not only sterilize them, but to keep them hot so that when you fill them with whatever you're using (ie. caramel sauce, jam, salsa, fruit, etc.) a proper seal can be created. The seal is what keeps air out and helps preserve the filling (amongst other things). So, before you start with the caramel sauce, fill a large pot of water with 10 mason jars, with the lids off. Make sure that they are completely submerged under the water. In another smaller pot, cover the lids and screw tops with water. Bring both pots to a boil and keep the jars and lids in the pots until you are ready to fill them.

For the caramel, in a medium saucepan with high sides, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/2 cup water. Stir the mixture gently so you don’t slosh any of it up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high, stop stirring, and allow the mixture to boil. Once it begins to turn a rich caramel color (if you don’t want to eyeball it, take the caramel to 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer), remove it from the heat quickly and add the cream slowly. While adding the cream, make sure to whisk the mixture constantly, but be careful, as it bubbles up ferociously. Once the bubbles have subsided, add in the butter cubes and stir until butter is melted. Add in the vanilla bean paste and stir until thoroughly combined.

Carefully pour desired amount of caramel sauce into each jar. Wipe the tops of the jars to ensure that there is nothing in the way to prevent the lids from sealing properly.

If you don't can the caramel sauce, you can save it,  tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to several weeks (not sure on an exact time line, I've had it up to 3 weeks later and it was completely fine). Unfortunately, as this is the first time I've canned caramel sauce, I'm not entirely sure how long it lasts, or if it needs to be refrigerated. I'm refrigerating mine to be safe, but I imagine that while the seal remains unbroken, it should last for quite a long time.   Pin It

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Brown Butter Pumpkin Caramel Cupcakes

Hey everyone! Oh how I've missed having the time to spend on this blog! Likely I could be spending my time more wisely right now, but what the heck, it's almost 10:30, and I'm gonna whip out this post and then go to bed! Such is the life of a graduate student... all work no play these days. But, with much anticipation, bubbling feelings of pure joy, and more excitement than I've had in awhile, I WILL BE DONE my first semester of grad school by this Friday!!!!!! One more paper to go, some finishing touches on a take-home exam, and then freeeedom!

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to having some time off after these past few weeks. Time that I can put towards visiting my friends and family, baking delicious Christmas goodies, cleaning (yes, I said I'm looking forward to cleaning- Sean says I'm slightly anal when it comes to keeping things clean and tidy, however I can tell you that has NOT been the case the last few weeks), and relaxing! Not to mention I can't wait for Christmas to be here, and Sean's birthday! For those of you who don't know, his birthday is on Christmas day, which frankly I can't think of one good thing about the timing of that other than it's a guaranteed time to be with family.

I actually made these cupcakes a couple weeks ago for one of my last classes. They were very yummy, albeit a little dense; I would recommend filling the liners only 1/2-2/3 so that in the end there is a good balance between cake and icing. I topped the cupcakes off with hard caramel. It's simple enough: you make caramel syrup as you normally would and then set it aside for a few minutes to cool and harden. Once it's at the consistency of honey, you can dip a spoon in and flick, drizzle, dollop- whatever design you want onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let it harden and then peel it off, as good as that!

P.S. I apologize for the poor picture quality (not that mine is fabulous in the first place), but with having limited time I was only able to snap a few pictures very quickly in the evening when there was no natural lighting anymore :(

Yield: 14-16 cupcakes
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4-1/3 cup caramel sauce, store-bought or home-made
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

*This makes quite a bit of icing for 12 cupcakes. I multiplied it by 1.5 to frost 24 cupcakes, and there was still extra, so unless you love tons of frosting (and I mean lots!), I would cut the recipe by a quarter.
*For a good recipe on caramel sauce, check out my post on Apple Caramel Cake.
*The caramel used for decorations is not quite the same as this recipe. 1) You don't need nearly this amount, so you can cut it significantly. 2) You stop before adding the heavy cream or butter, that changes it from caramel syrup to sauce.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Add the butter to a medium saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted it will bubble and get a white foam on top. Eventually this will reduce and the butter will turn brown and smell nutty. You may begin to see brown bits sitting at the bottom, this is good and you want to use those for the cupcakes. However, watch it carefully, for it can turn from brown to burnt quickly. Once it's complete pour the butter into a small bowl and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In a second larger bowl mix the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and cooled brown butter. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until just combined.

Divide the batter among the liners, filling each about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until when tested with a toothpick it comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks and let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes in the pans before removing them to the racks to cool completely.

For the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy with the paddle attachment. Gradually add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time (unless you want it to explode all over your counter- ahem) until you reach your desired consistency. Add in your caramel, vanilla and salt and beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. If frosting is not firm enough, simply add more powdered sugar or refrigerate until firm.

Frost and garnish cooled cupcakes as desired.

Source: Tracey's Culinary Adventures

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