Category Archives: holidays

chocolate chip pumpkin bars

Happy Halloween! I hope you all are enjoying lots of pumpkin-anything today! I wasn’t expecting to be able to bake anything this week with  hurricane Sandy passing through here and the predicted power outages, but luckily it missed this area! We’ve surprisingly had just a bit of rain and barely any wind. After watching the coverage for the New York City area, we all feel lucky for that.

So to get back on track for baking festive things, I wanted to bake pumpkin bars from a recipe I came across a few days ago. It’s for chocolate chip pumpkin blondies, but I wanted to change it a bit by adding on a layer of chocolate ganache. I never thought I would enjoy the combination of pumpkin and chocolate (as I write this it just seems so silly now) until the other day when I put Nutella on a pumpkin english muffin. It was like, BAM. Why don’t I eat that combination more often? The mixture of the two in baked goods has somewhat of a complex flavor, because for me at least, I taste the chocolate first, and then the spices and the pumpkin linger afterwards. Pumpkin orange is also one of my favorite colors, so the combination of it with dark chocolate ganache just seems very Halloweeny to me.

ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin
  • 1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Ganache recipe can be found here.

directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×8 square dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together. Stir in the egg, vanilla and pumpkin. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Pour those into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spread dough evenly into prepared baking dish. Bake 15-17 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean after being inserted.  Remove from oven and let cool. If you want to stop here, you can just cut and serve them about 10 minutes or so after they come out of the oven while they are still warm. If you want to add the ganache, let the bars cool in the pan completely first. Make the ganache while you are waiting. Once the bars are cool, spread the ganache over the top. Store the bars, covered, in the fridge (so the chocolate doesn’t get too melty).

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Filed under autumn, cake, chocolate, dessert, holidays, recipes, winter

apple scones

It’s officially Fall, and it’s my favorite time of year. But everyones says this, so that’s old news. But anyways, it’s that time of year where we have bags and bags of apples fresh from the orchard just waiting to be baked or eaten. I have in mind a lot of recipes that I want to try, so hopefully I stay on track and have some more apple posts coming soon. Have you ever looked at FoodGawker.com? I could spend hours and hours on that site. Type in any ingredient in the search bar and you will lose track of time I’m sure. Well that’s where I’ve found my list of apple things to bake. But this scone recipe was actually just something I adapted from some of my other scones recipes, because if you don’t already know this, I do love me some scones. My mornings are always happier when I can eat one with my coffee. And they are so quick to make too. I do believe these apple ones make for a nice welcome into the Autumn season.

ingredients:

  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 c. wheat flour
  • 5 tbsp. sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 6 tbsp. cold butter (roughly cubed)
  • 1 apple (peeled and roughly cubed)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg

directions:

Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl. With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly and no big chunks of butter remain. Gently stir in the apple pieces. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and egg. Combine wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Form the dough into a ball. If it’s too sticky, slowly add a bit more flour so you can handle it. Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1-inch thick disc ( I pat my dough right out onto the parchment paper on the baking sheet because it’s one less thing to clean up). Use a knife to slice the dough into 6 equal triangle pieces. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden. After mine cooled a bit, I brushed a glaze of powdered sugar, cinnamon and a little bit of milk on the tops to sweeten them up slightly. You can add any sort of frosting or glaze you like really, or just eat them plain.

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Filed under autumn, breakfast, dessert, fruit, holidays, pastry, recipes, summer, winter

chocolate birthday cake

So this is a few weeks late, but I have to mention my lovely birthday cake and updates to my lovely go-to chocolate cake recipe. Earlier this year, I posted about a chocolate cake recipe I found from a Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and any time I want chocolate cake this is what I use and trust. So for my birthday, I volunteered to bake my own cake (because I do what I want on my birthday!) and decided chocolate cake was the obvious answer. I browsed some new frosting recipes, let my brain daydream about flavor combinations, and eventually got the idea to do a two-layer chocolate cake, WITH peanut buter cream cheese filling, AND chocolate ganache frosting. Oh yes. I was so excited in that moment that I sketched the whole thing out so I wouldn’t forget such a brilliant combination. Peanut butter frosting is always delicious, and so is cream cheese frosting, and I have absolutely no idea why it took me this long to combine the two. And this is the first time I’ve made chocolate ganache. I knew of it, but I was always intimidated because it just sounded fancy. Well, it looks it, but it’s really, really easy. So yeah, I may start celebrating my half-birthday, and quarter-birthday just so I can have an excuse to eat this again.

Find my chocolate cake recipe here.

ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 brick), at room temperature
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (add a little more or less to taste)
  • 2/3 c. smooth peanut butter

directions:

Beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Continue to beat until light and fluffy and smooth. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips (I used these)

directions:

Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Scald the heavy cream in a saucepan. I learned that “scalding” is when you heat the cream (or milk and such) and tiny bubbles start to form around the edges (but it’s NOT boiling). Make sure to stir the cream while it heats to prevent scorching. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let sit for 30 seconds. Then slowly whisk together the chocolate and cream until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Let cool to room temperature. It can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, but make sure to bring to room temperature before using . I made mine the night before I baked the cake, and then took it out to set on the counter about 4 hours before I needed to use it. When researching how to make chocolate ganache, I came across this site which shows three different variations on using ganache. It’s pretty interesting!

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Filed under cake, chocolate, dessert, holidays, recipes

banana cake

so i was going through some old cookbook recipes again, and i came across an old-fashioned banana cake recipe that sounded perfect for Easter. it just seemed so cozy and classic and hopeful of spring. there are plenty of variations online, but this cake recipe comes from a clipping from an old newspaper that looks to be from the 1950’s by it’s yellowness. the only thing i updated was the frosting by using a cream cheese brown sugar recipe. in my mind that was just the perfect final cozy touch.

with cream cheese brown sugar frosting.

paper clipping recipe from a “mrs. burgess”

ingredients: (2 layer cake) 

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas ( 2 or 3 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

cream cheese brown sugar filling/frosting:

  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), room temperature
  • 1 8oz. brick of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c.  toasted chopped walnuts

directions:

preheat oven to 350°F. cream shortening and sugar. add eggs and beat until fluffy. sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt; add to first mixture and mix for two minutes with electric mixer or 200 strokes by hand. add mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix. pour into two buttered and floured layer pans and bake 30-35 minutes. let cake cool completely before adding filling.

make filling/frosting by creaming together the butter and cream cheese. then beat in the powdered sugar and brown sugar and vanilla. sprinkle in a small handful of walnuts, and gently stir to mix.

place 3 or 4 squares of parchment or wax paper on the plate or display stand that you will serve your cake on. you can slide them from the cake when you are done frosting and ready to take pretty pictures of the finished cake. start by placing the bottom layer on the parchment paper, and frost a somewhat thin layer on it. then place the top layer over that. frost the top and sides of the whole cake. use your hands to press the rest of the walnut pieces against the sides of the cake, all the way around. store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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Filed under cake, dessert, fruit, holidays, recipes, spring, summer

valentine scones

happy valentine’s day! i love this day purely because everything is pink and pretty and chocolatey and sweet. i would be happy if every day could be decorated with polka dot hearts, pretty flowers, and red and pink candy. this recipe is partially devoted to my valentine’s day from last year, where i enjoyed real english scones and tea in london with my friend. read about that story here. that memory in my mind is so rosy and cozy. first of all, i love london. it’s one of my most favorite cities in the world, and everything british makes me so happy. and second of all, having rose tea and authentic scones in a tiny little tea shop we found by accident while wandering near butler’s wharf after visiting the tower of london is just going to be hard to beat in future valentine’s days i think. just thinking about it now makes me want to go back! since that day, i’ve loved scones. and as you have probably seen, there are a couple of scone recipes on this blog, including a cranberry walnut scone which might be similar to this valentine scone. because i make them so much, i usually say in each post how much i’m convinced that that recipe is the one. and then i go on and come across another recipe, and blah blah i’m convinced all over again. so if you will, humor me and go along with whatever scone i’m infatuated with at the moment. i can almost guarantee there will be bigger and better to come.

by the way, these are cranberry scones. along with being referenced to english scones i had on another valentine’s day, they are festively red and white. the recipe is adapted from a really great cookbook that i highly recommend, flour.

makes 8 scones

ingredients:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 c. cold buttermilk
  • 1/2 c. cold creme fraiche
  • 1 cold egg
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp. extra granulated sugar for sprinkling

directions:

preheat oven to 350°F. in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, and cranberries. cut in the butter using two knives or a pastry cutter (i got one for christmas and was really excited to use it finally!), until the butter pieces are no bigger than pea-sized. in another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, creme fraiche, and whole egg until thoroughly mixed. slowly pour this buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, and stir just until the dough comes together. there might be some loose flour mixture at the bottom of the bowl. use your hands to gather the dough into a round shape, and turn it over a few times to pick up the loose flour on the bottom of the bowl. turn it over in your hands a few more times to make sure the loose flour is mixed in. you want to make sure that you handle the dough as little as possible. you can see in the pictures that there are big cracks and layers visible in the dough before it’s baked, and that is good. this is what becomes flaky in the oven!place parchment paper on a baking sheet, or lightly grease the sheet. pull apart large balls of dough, about 2-3 inches in diameter, and place on baking sheet. press down slightly on the tops to flatten the dough balls into disc shapes. make sure they are at least an inch apart because they will expand a little while baking. brush the egg yolk over the tops of each scone, and then dust with the extra granulated sugar. bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops and edges are golden brown. cool on a wire rack. 

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Filed under breakfast, dessert, fruit, holidays, pastry, recipes, winter

sugar cookies with shiny icing

merry christmas and happy holidays and happy new year! being home for christmas after two years away was really exciting. i absorbed a lot of christmasy things to the max, like Elf and The Santa Clause, the new holiday Michael Bublé album, ornament making/house decorating, and of course holiday baking. among the things i made with family and by  myself are lebkuchen (german gingerbread), red velvet cupcakes, chocolate fudge, kolachies and other nut cookies, and these successful sugar cookies. i say successful because normally when i make classic cookies, like sugar and chocolate chip, they some how just get hard and crunchy and homemade-looking in a sad way. my aunt gave this recipe to my family from an old betty crocker cookbook, and this was the first time i’ve tried it. sugar cookies aren’t normally in our christmas cookie lineup, but i was giving sugar cookies as a gift to my sister’s bf because i’m good at baking/possibly too much of a cheapo. but i think these are good enough that i want to make them for every holiday. the icing recipe that i found for this was only by chance. i just googled it and came across this one and thought it was interesting because of the special finish that happens. and also i’m annoyed when i make baked things pretty and then they get destroyed when i cover them or put them in tupperware. so this was perfect since the icing dries completely and is sorta shiny too. in the pictures you’ll actually see that they are not so shiny because i didn’t trust the recipe at first and expected the icing to melt if i left the cookies at room temperature. so i put them in the refrigerator the first night to protect them and the next morning the icing was still hard but all splotchy. since then they’ve been at room temperature and have been just fine, so if you decide to make these, avoid putting them in the refrigerator because you’ll really like the shininess that is supposed to happen.

cookie ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 c. margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar

icing ingredients:

  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. milk (have more on hand to add in slowly if the mixture is too thick)
  • 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • assorted food coloring
this recipe will make about 36 cookies, depending on your cookie cutter size

directions:

mix the powdered sugar, margarine, vanilla, almond extract and egg. stir in remaining ingredients. cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours. preheat oven to 375°. when i took the dough back out, i let it sit for about 20 minutes or so because it was too cold to roll out. if you think yours is a bit too hard too, do the same, or if not just go right ahead and begin by dividing the dough it into halves. roll out on a lightly floured surface, until the dough is about 1/4 of an inch thick. cut into shapes using cookie cutters. place on lightly greased cookie sheet. bake until edges are just barely light brown, about 7-8 minutes. remove cookies from the pan immediately and let cool on a wire rack.

for the icing, put the milk in a small or medium bowl, and then slowly whisk in the powdered sugar. if it’s thick, add in more milk at about a 1/2 tsp. at a time. whisk until smooth. if it gets too liquidy, slowly whisk in a bit more powdered sugar. you want it to be smooth and spreadable, but not watery and drippy. then whisk in the corn syrup and the almond extract until it’s smooth and glossy looking. now if you want to have different colors, separate the icing into a few bowls, and add a few drops of whatever colors you want into each bowl. i made green, red, light wintery blue, and kept one white. in the original recipe, it says you can paint the icing onto the cookies, but who has little paint brushes like that? well not me. at least not the kind that haven’t already been dipped in something inedible. i thought the recipe made actually a really great consistency because i was able to use a butter knife to spread it onto the cookies. if it’s too drippy, you may want to add more powdered sugar so you can actually spread it. unless of course you do have nice brushes to do some detail work. for me, the cookies were dry enough to be stacked after about 2 hours. on a few of them, i experimented by adding another layer of icing and this made an even better finish that actually survived the refrigeration. it’s been 4 days since i made them and although there aren’t many left, i imagine these cookies will be good at room temperature for up to a week.

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Filed under christmas, cookie, dessert, holidays, recipes, winter

sweet potato whoopie pies + maple cream cheese frosting

this is my first time making whoopie pies. i always have thought the name is fun, and the actual fluffy sandwich cookie itself is fun to look at too, but until now i was only enjoying them through pictures. it was about time i tested some out for real. i ended up making this recipe because i had sweet potatoes to use up, yet my family didn’t need another pie today. so far we have 2 pumpkin pies and one mincemeat pie. it’s thanksgiving, and we have food traditions that i look forward to every year, and i wasn’t going to add something new to the mix this time. i did make sweet potato pie last year in germany because it was easier than paying a fortune for a can of pumpkin. it ended up being super popular (or i have really polite friends) and it tasted pretty close to pumpkin pie. i was asked for the recipe a few times though, which i still have yet to give (oops!). i promise though that i will make it before christmas and archive the recipe here, but for now i’m not going to crowd today’s dinner table with it. instead i’ll be offering a sample of my new sweet potato experiment, and a small one at that. the recipe that i adapted it from was rather small. it was only supposed to make about 10-12 mini sandwich cookies which i was thinking is maybe good since these are a new thanksgiving addition, but i scooped too big a few times, and now i have 9 mini whoopie pies to share. if it wasn’t thanksgiving and the theme of the entire day wasn’t all about sharing and being thankful for family and friends and whatever else, i might actually hide them in the back of the fridge and thank only myself for being such a good baker. but of course, i am extremely thankful to be with my family again this year. it has been two years since i’ve spent the holidays at home, and i’m quite happy to be able bake for them again. this recipe size is probably perfect for any normal occasion though. i hate when recipes make too much and you feel like you should start googling the nearest bake sale. this will make enough to share with a few people, and you can be sure that none will be wasted. even if you are baking these for yourself, you shouldn’t fear for leftovers in that situation either. have a very happy thanksgiving!

adapted from this recipe. cream cheese frosting recipe adapted from this.

cookie ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (i used 2 big and 1 small potato and had a lot leftover to eat later)
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. grond cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

maple cream cheese frosting ingredients:

  • 3/4 package cream cheese (8oz. pkg)
  • 3 tbsp. butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup

directions:

heat oven to 375° F. line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray a little bit of cooking spray. beat the sweet potato with the maple syrup and brown sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. then add the vanilla and the egg, and beat until well combined.
in a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt).  add this dry mixture to the wet, and stir until fully incorporated. using a mini ice cream scoop or a small spoon, scoop batter onto prepared cookie sheet. try to make the scoops as smooth/round as possible because they will look prettier after they have baked. also note that the cookies won’t spread out when you bake them, but they do puff up. bake until cookies have puffed up and dry to the touch, about 8 or 9 minutes. let cookies rest on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely (if you try to frost the still-warm cookies, the frosting will melt and be messy. waiting is worth it).
meanwhile, prepare the maple cream cheese frosting. clean the beaters, then beat the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and maple syrup together until smooth. when the cookies are cooled, spoon a small tsp. amount of frosting on one half of a cookie, and then sandwich with another piece. you now have a whoopie pie. chill the pies in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

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Filed under autumn, cake, cookie, dessert, holidays, pastry, recipes, vegetable, winter