Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chipits Toffee Crunch Blondies

With a bag of Skor Toffee bits in the pantry and a craving for something sweet, this week I decided to try the recipe on the Skor package.  Here is the simple, fast and delicious recipe for Chipits Toffee Crunch Blondies:

and here are my end result... although not as beautiful as the ones at their site:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Down the Bunny Hole Cupcakes

For Easter this year I made this recipe twice, once for our family celebration, and again for Easter day when I visited with friends.  The creative idea for these adorable cupcakes is found in the amazing book, Hello Cupcake.

I started with a batch of vanilla and chocolate cupcakes.  With butter cream icing and Wilton icing tip #233 I made the grass on the vanilla cupcakes.  I garnished those with sprinkles and a variety of different Easter Egg candies.  The Bunny butts were chocolate cupcakes iced with canned chocolate frosting and rolled in Oreo cookie crumbs.  The feet are marshmallow peanuts ... well, actually they were supposed to be peanuts but couldn't find white peanuts so I used white bunnies cut in half and softened in the microwave so I could mold them into a foot shape.  The pads of the bunny feet are sunflower seeds I rolled in melted chocolate.  The bunny tail was a mini marshmallow rolled in shredded coconut.  Here's a close up view for you:

They were pretty simple to make and a hit with my friend's children!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chocolate Hearts with a Twist

When I was thinking of what to make for my Wed evening bible study group a couple weeks ago, I had wanted to try something different, but with time restraints wasn't feeling overly ambitious or confident so I went with the Sweet Heart Cupcakes instead.  What I had wanted to make in fact were heart-shaped chocolate cups.  I would fill them with fresh berries or whatever else I had on hand.

I did in fact get to make these chocolate cups for a dinner party we'd been invited to by good friends.  Instead of berries though (which I didn't have on hand), I decided to fill the cups with butterscotch pudding.  It may sound kind of strange, but it worked.

Making the chocolate cups was pretty simple.  I used dark chocolate moulding wafers and slowly melted them in a glass bowl in my microwave, making sure not to burn the chocolate.  Once the chocolate was runny, I used a small paintbrush (one that I only use for baking!) and painted the chocolate along the insides of heart-shaped silicone muffin cups.  You can also use paper cups I think but since I was making heart-shaped cups I used the silicone which were easy to use and pop the cup out of once hardened.

Once the chocolate cup hardened, I carefully popped it out of the cup making sure not to break the edges while I peeled back the silicone cup.  I only had a couple "casualties" and the cups were ready to fill.

I just used a butterscotch instant pudding as the cup filler and set them in the fridge to set.  I could have put a dollop of whipping cream on top to finish them well but I wasn't thinking clearly I'm sure because I didn't do that.  They were much easier than I thought they'd be and they were really yummy.

In future, I think I would either use these cups for ice cream sundaes or my original thought of fresh berries and whipping cream.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sweet Heart Cupcakes

For Valentine's Day, I made cupcakes for our evening Bible Study group, using the idea found in one of the Hello, Cupcake/What's New Cupcake books.

I went a little overboard (not sure what I was thinking actually) and made two cake mixes worth of cupcakes:  one vanilla cake, the other chocolate cake.  For the chocolate cupcakes, I baked them using heart-shaped silicone cups.  The vanilla cupcakes were baked in "Valentine" mini-cups.

I used Buttercream frosting and piped swirls on some, placing a sweet-heart candy on top, and flat-iced the larger hearts while piping messages on top.  They turned out delicious and because I'd made so many I had plenty to give away to others besides the Bible Study ladies.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Abide Valentine Goodie Bags

Our Abide Team, in preparation for Valentine's Day decided that we would have goodie bags available to the ladies after our time together mid-February.  I offered to bake cookies that we could bag up for the women to take home as a special little treat to know that we (and God) loves them.

Using my usual Sugar Cookie Recipe, I baked cookies in different heart shapes, using the Wilton "Heart Cookie Cutter Set" purchased at the McCall's warehouse.  Once they cooled, I used my Poured Cookie Icing recipe and different variations of "red" food coloring to make reds and pinks, and then flavored each icing using vanilla, peppermint, almond, cherry and raspberry extracts.  I used the basic white colored icing to pipe and accentuate the cookies, while also using red sugar sprinkles to embellish some.  Here were the results:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cookie Decorating Party

This cold and dreary February Saturday, was full of warmth in my cozy kitchen as 3 friends came over to help decorate the Sugar Cookies I'd made yesterday in preparation for a baby shower they are hosting at church next week.

Using the same Sugar Cookie recipe I always use, and Buttercream Icing, Gabsy, Julie, Michaela and I set out to decorate the baby-themed cookies.  Creativity was running amok as these lovely young women iced their masterpieces.

You have to see Michaela's ingenious creativity on one of the "baby carriage" cookies...

Isn't this amazing?

After a few hours, our mission was complete and we took this picture to document our day.  The ladies were exquisite and for the first time cookie decorating, they did outstanding.  I was highly impressed!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Baking Essentials

Here are some of my "new" favorite baking essentials that have come in super handy this February while I've been baking away.  I used them tonight to bake sugar cookies, in preparation for a cookie decorating date I'm having with some friends from church tomorrow.

First is the big red mat, which is from Tupperware.  This plastic baking mat is super helpful in keeping the counter clean and those big white circles are very helpful when making pastry as it guides you to the proper size for your pie plate.  For cookies, with a little flour added, you have a perfect non-stick surface and you don't have to worry about cutting the counter with the cookie cutters.  Bonus!

The large white tube is my rolling pin.  This big plastic tube works perfectly with the spacers (the other white "sticks" in the picture).  The spacers are used on either side of the dough you're working with to make a uniform thickness for pastry or cookies.  They really help in keeping all the cookies looking the same.  The rolling pin itself can be used with different types of doughs, as well as for rolling fondant icing (which I've yet to do).

These are just a few of the instruments that ease the baking process for me.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Christmas Wreath Cupcakes

For our annual Christmas Open House I also made cupcakes.  I found the design and recipe in my Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book that I received for my birthday last summer.  Now before I show and tell you about these cupcakes, please remember... I am no Martha Stewart!  I'm probably a little more like Erma Bombeck if truth be told!

I started off baking regular cupcakes from a mix:  chocolate for the Dec 18th party; french vanilla for Dec 27th.  After letting them cool completely, I iced them.  I used a regular Buttercream frosting for the Dec 18th cupcakes.  This worked well, but because of the nature of the frosting it tended to dry and break off a bit.  Still very delicious though.

Dec 18th Wreath Cupcakes

For the 27th party, I really wanted to give the recipe Martha used for these cupcakes a try.  It was a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, very different from the regular buttercream in that it doesn't contain any icing sugar, and it does contain... an entire POUND of butter.  Don't let that deter you from trying this frosting at least once though.  It is beyond creamy in texture and not too sweet for those who don't like sweet icing.  Follow the link above to Martha's site for the recipe!

Dec 27th Wreath Cupcakes

The Swiss Meringue was much easier to work with in the icing bag, but the cupcakes  needed to remain refrigerated until ready to serve as the butter would soften at room temperature.  

How to frost them?  Using the pre-tinted frosting, cover the tops of each cupcake, spreading the frosting as smooth as you can.  Next, color your remaining frosting in the green leaf color of your choice.  Put the frosting in your icing bag, using the #69 tip to make the leaves.  Starting on the outside of the cupcake, ice leaves on in a round pattern and then make a second (or third) row of leaves to complete the wreath.

For the little red "berries" on both sets of wreaths, I used a red "glitter" icing gel.  Not the best, but the best I could find at the time.  Ideally little red balls would be perfect but hard to come by.  And there you have them... Christmas Wreaths good enough to eat!

Christmas Sugar Cookies

This Christmas, in order to see my entire extended family (siblings and niblings), Hubby and I decided to host two evenings of our annual family open house.  Because these dates were 9 days apart, I knew I would need to bake twice for freshness purposes.  Nothing like a hard, stale, Sugar Cookie to turn people off.

I used my Mom's standard Sugar Cookie recipe.  I used a Poured Cookie Icing to give the cookies a shiny, hard surface.  Here's the simple recipe for that:

Poured Cookie Icing

1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp milk
2 tsp light corn syrup
extract of your choice ~ peppermint, almond, vanilla, etc

Place sugar and milk in bowl.  Stir until mixed thoroughly.
Add corn syrup and extract.  Mix well.

For filling in areas, use thinned icing (add small amounts of light corn syrup or hot water until desired consistency is reached).

I used different colors of food color paste for each batch.  I also used different sized tips for the tubing.  You can see the difference in each case.  For the latter cookies I used #1 round (which I'd received for Christmas... along with the mini cookie cutters).

Dec 18 batch

Dec 27 batch

Christmas Standards

I am so behind in my baking blog entries, but before January is completely gone, let me take you back to my Christmas baking.  I will try as best I can to give you the information you need to recreate some of these delectable goodies for yourself next Christmas.

Here are some of the annual treats I bake each Christmas:

A)  Honey Biscuits
B)  Empire Cookies
C)  EggNog Thumbprints

A:  Honey Biscuits

This recipe is a family favorite I got from my sister, Cathy. These delicious spice cookies with lemon glaze icing are addictive! Mixing this recipe is not for the faint of heart though... it takes a LOT of elbow grease to stir in the total amount of flour. Once I broke a wooden spoon trying to mix it. Now I use plastic surgical gloves so I can get my hands in there without fear of honey sticking my fingers together. Here's how you make these:

2 cups liquid honey
1 cup packed brown sugar
2TBSP butter
1 tsp each of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and mace
1 egg, beaten
rind of 1 lemon
5 to 5-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda

Heat in Dutch Oven pot, until just boiling, the honey, brown sugar and butter.
Then add the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and mace.
Remove from stove and place pot in a sink of about 2-3 in of cold water to cool
Once cool, mix in the beaten egg and lemon rind.
Sift together the flour and baking soda.
Add flour to honey mixture, stirring well, adding flour until dough is workable (usually 5 cups)
Roll out and cut with cookie cutter (I use a round fluted cookie cutter)

Note: The dough is quite sticky so be sure to flour your surface very well (using the last 1/2-1 cup of flour)
Press a raisin (almond or what I like to use, a Cranraisin) in the center of the cookie.

Bake at 325F for 10-15 minutes on greased cookie sheet (or until edges turn brown). Brush with lemon glaze while still warm.

Lemon Glaze:

2 cups icing sugar juice of 1 lemon hot water as needed to thin 
Brush glaze over warm honey biscuits

B: Empire Cookies

These are some of Hubby's favorite cookies. I think I got this recipe from my Mom years ago, but I'm not sure I'm 100% happy with the cookie texture and taste. I'll be looking for (and experimenting with) a new recipe before next Christmas. Perhaps a more "shortbread" type cookie would work best.


1/2 cup butter, softened 
1/2 cup white sugar 
1 egg 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 tsp baking powder 

Cream butter.  Add sugar, creaming well.  Beat in egg and vanilla.
Combine flour and baking powder and add gradually to creamed mixture. 
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 in. thickness.  Cut into 2 in. rounds
(or whatever shape you choose) and place on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until very lightly browned at edges.  Cool thoroughly. 

Filling and Frosting 

1/2 cup raspberry jam 
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract 
1 TBSP hot water
1/4 cup candied cherries chopped
Spread half of the cookies with raspberry jam and top with remaining cookies. 
Combine icing sugar, almond extract and enough hot water to make a thin icing.  Frost tops of cookies. 
Top each cookie with a small piece of candied cherry.  Makes approximately a dozen cookies.

C: Eggnog Thumbprints

This is one of my all-time favorite (and easy) recipes. I found this delicious cookie online years ago, at a friend's website and it was a huge hit. Similar to a cookie my Mom used to make, I think it's the "rum" flavored icing that tops off the taste!

Ingredients 3/4 cup butter or margarine 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 egg 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/4 tsp salt 2 cups All-purpose flour In a large mixer bowl, beat butter until softened. Add sugar, brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, salt and beat well. Add flour and beat until well mixed. Cover and chill for about 1 hr or until easy to handle. Shape into 1" balls. Place 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down centers with thumb. Bake in 350F oven for approx 12 minutes. Remove and cool. Filling 1/4 cup butter or margarine 1 cup sifted icing sugar 2 TBSP milk 1/4 tsp rum extract For the filling, in a small mixer bowl beat butter until softened. Add powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Add rum extract and beat well. Spoon 1/2 tsp of filling into the thumbhole of each cookie. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Chill until filling is firm. Makes about 50 cookies