Archive for the ‘Treats’ Category

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

It’s a rare day when Bikenut actually asks for sweets, so when he said, “How about some rainy day cookies?” I jumped on the chance!  I made two different batches of oatmeal cookies;  For Bikenut, I made blueberry oatmeal cookies, and for myself, I made these.

If you’ve ever had Mexican hot chocolate, these are very reminiscent of that — the richness of the chocolate with a bit of spice from the cinnamon and clove.   I figured that I would enjoy these, but I didn’t realize just how much!  The oatmeal gives these cookies something to sink your teeth into and chew on for a bit, so they go a long way.  I’m usually a 2-3 cookie gal, but just one of these satisfied my after-dinner sweet tooth.

By the way, if you’re interested in the blueberry version I made for Bikenut, just make it a level 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and instead of the chocolate chips, add dried and sweetened wild blueberries.  (If he liked white chocolate, I would have added white chocolate chips to his batch.)  I’m so sated from my one cookie that I can’t bring myself to try the blueberry version, but Bikenut gobbled his up and said they were pretty darn good, so I think I did okay!

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of softened butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter with hand mixer until creamed and fluffy.  (About 30 seconds)
  3. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, and salt.  Beat until well mixed.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until well mixed.
  5. Blend in flour 1/2 cup at a time to mixture, using mixer or spoon.
  6. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  7. Drop Tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, then bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.
  8. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Easy Peasy Corn Bread

Why would you make it from a box, when it’s soooo easy to make it from scratch?  To be honest, it was my first time making it without a little blue box, or a pouch from a restaurant that’s known for their corn bread.  And to be honest, I liked it much, much better!

There are things to be grateful for, aside from the corn bread being super yummy.  I’m grateful for knowing that three teaspoons equals one tablespoon.  It comes in particularly handy when you drop in two half-tablespoons of baking powder into your bowl of dry ingredients, thinking that you actually grabbed the teaspoon instead.  Hooray for saving the mixture, especially since I had already put the last of my corn meal into the bowl.

I’m too tired from making dinner to be bothered to take a picture, but you’ve all seen corn bread (or in this case, corn muffins) before so I wouldn’t be showing you anything new. 😀

Easy Peasy Corn Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 beaten egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F, and grease an 8 or 9-inch pan, or muffin tin.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  4. Pour batter into pan or muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.
  5. Serve warm with homemade honey butter.

Cocoa Brownies

I had a serious craving for brownies.  A friend had brought some over last week for our LOST dinner, but we sent him home with the rest of the pan because I would have eaten them all on my own and that would have displeased Bikenut.  So, of course, I decided to make a whole pan instead.  Silly me.

I’ve never made brownies that didn’t come out of a box, and I didn’t feel like going to the store, so I scoured the internet for a recipe.  (Okay, honestly, I went to TasteSpotting.com and found a suitable recipe in a matter of minutes.)

As is usually the case for me, I immediately determined that the amount of vanilla extract seemed too light, so the recipe below is my slightly-modified version of the recipe in the link above.

Most of the recipes I ran across called for melting chopped chocolate in a double-boiler, which seemed like WAY more work than I was willing to put forth.  I mean, I didn’t even want to go to the store to buy a box of brownies, or even a pan of pre-made ones.  Besides, I didn’t have any bar chocolate so I would have had to go to the store for that too.  Thankfully, I found a recipe that didn’t call for any actual chocolate!  It called only for unsweetened cocoa powder, which I did happen to have on hand thanks to my curiosity over red velvet cake.

The recipe I selected also called for melting the butter over a double-boiler as well, but that’s just too much trouble.  The microwave works just as well in this case, so that simplified things.  One bowl, one rubber spatula, one 8″x8″ baking dish and that’s it!  Easy peasy and the results are so much better than the store-bought box mix with hardly any extra effort!

So, here’s my version of the recipe for Cocoa Brownies.  Enjoy!

Cocoa Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place rack in center of oven.  Preheat oven to 325°F.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 8×8-inch square baking dish and set aside.
  2. Cut butter into 8-10 pieces and place in medium, microwave-safe bowl.  Heat on high for 1 minute.  (Butter will not be completely melted.)
  3. Add sugar, cocoa, and salt to the butter, stir together.  Heat on high for another 45 seconds.  Stir, ensuring all butter has melted.  If necessary, microwave in 5 second intervals until butter is melted, but not boiling or foaming.
  4. Stir mixture until all ingredients are well-incorporated.  Texture will appear gritty.  Allow to cool until mixture is warm, but not hot to the touch.
  5. Add vanilla and stir well.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated.  Batter should be dark, shiny and thick.
  6. Add flour and fold into the batter until flour is just blended in.  Beat vigorously for 40 more strokes.  Add nuts (optional) and fold into mixture.  Spread batter evenly in the greased baking dish.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes on the center rack, or until a toothpick poked into the center of the brownies comes out mostly clean.
  8. Let brownies cool before cutting.  If you can’t wait, warm brownies can be easily cut with a plastic knife or spatula.

Banana Quick Bread

Time seems to fly when you buy a bunch of bananas.  It only seems like a couple of days ago that I brought home these ever-so-slightly green bananas.  Look at them now!  Perfect for banana bread!

I don’t know how many times I have made banana bread over the years, but for some reason, the ingredients and their proportions just never seem to stick in my head.  Thank goodness for having my cookbook handy!  I gathered everything up, then got to work.  First there were the dry ingredients into the first bowl — flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

On to the bananas!  I was pleased to see that they looked much better on the inside than the outside.  Nary even a bruise!  Well, for the time being anyway.  They soon met with the flat side of a wooden spoon and became banana mush.

To the banana mush, I added some sugar, cooking oil, and an egg.  That got mixed together until well incorporated, and then in went the dry ingredients.

Now, the recipe says that you should add the wet to the dry, but for some reason, I always put the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl than the wet, which makes me think I would overflow the smaller bowl trying to put it all in there.  So, the dry goes into the wet.  Whatever.  So long as you get the wet and the dry mixed together, it’s all good in the end.  Just don’t over mix it or your banana bread will get tough.

I poured the batter into a greased loaf pan, dropped the baby ever-s0-gently a couple of times to make sure all the air bubbles were out of it, and popped it into the oven for 53 minutes.  (The recipe says 50-55 minutes, so I went for the middle of the road.)  When a toothpick comes out clean, it’s time to take it out of the oven!

I turned the bread out of the pan after a couple of minutes and let it cool on a wire rack.  I couldn’t wait for it to cool entirely before cutting into it and giving it a nice pat of butter.  I swear that my family can smell the aromas from my kitchen from clear across the valley.  My parents just so happened to call and stop by tonight and, of course, took home some banana bread.  I was smart enough to at least keep some of the fruits of my labor this time!

Banana Quick Bread

(Taken from Better Homes & Gardens Limited Edition 2000 New Cook Book)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I use more like 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (3 medium, but I usually add one extra, so I used 4)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel (optional, I omitted)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I omitted these too)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan; set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Make a well in the center of dry mixture; set aside.
  3. In another bowl, combine the egg, bananas, sugar, cooking oil, and, if desired, lemon peel.  Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.)  Fold in nuts.
  4. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.  Bake in a 350F oven 50-55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove loaf from pan; cool on rack.  Wrap and store overnight before slicing (if you can.)

Battle: Baked Goods – Test Run: Apple-Pear Turnovers

Another possibility for Battle: Baked Goods on Saturday… Apple-Pear Turnovers!

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These little pastries seemed to be easier to make on paper than they were.  That was disappointing.  At least the ingredients list was relatively simple!  Apples, pears, frozen puff pastry, a dab of butter, and some sugar and spice — how could I go wrong?

I have never been much of a baker, have I mentioned that?  Yet, here I am attempting things that I have never before attempted, in hopes that I’ll get the hang of it.  What I really did not want to have to tackle was trying to make my own dough, especially a puff pastry dough!  (Is it even possible to make that at home???)  Thankfully, they make frozen dough, so that was the route I took.  I left that on the counter for about 45 minutes to an hour to thaw while I caught up on my work email, and went to work on the apples and pears.

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Gala apples and Bartlett pears

I started out by peeling, quartering, and coring 2 Gala apples and 2 Bartlett pears,  and dropping them into a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent any browning while I worked.  I cut the quarters in half lengthwise, then sliced them into fairly even-sized pieces.  The pears were really juicy, so it was hard to actually get them into the bowl without wanting to pop every piece I cut into my mouth!  Most of the pears made it into the turnovers…

From there, I went and unfolded the puff pastry dough.  It started out as roughly a 9″x9″ square, which I rolled out to about 12″x12″.  In hindsight, I might have opted to not roll it out and just made smaller turnovers.  I’m not sure if the rolling had anything to do with the final outcome, or if that’s just the way the puff pastry, well, puffs.

I tried my best to fill and seal each little packet, even resorting to using the suggested water trick to get it to stick, but that just did not seem to work on this unruly dough!  So, I pinched and folded and pinched some more, realizing that I was probably ruining the puff to come.

I didn’t get any photos of the actual process of filling and folding the turnovers because my hands were dirty and I was too involved to even remember that I was going to document the process.   The idea clicked right after I dropped them into the oven that I should probably take a picture, so here you go.

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Into the oven!

Thirty minutes later, I pulled four golden brown, acceptably puffy turnovers from the oven in a lake of apple-pear-sugar-juice leakage that covered the tray I had baked them on.  Thank goodness for the foresight of lining that tray — What a mess!  I let them cool slightly before airlifting them from the gooey flooded tray to cool on a wire rack.

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They don't look half bad...

Aside from the obvious issue with the turnovers leaking at the seams, they seemed to turn out alright.  I was disappointed in the puff of the puff pastry, as it wasn’t as flaky and puffy as I had hoped it would be, particularly in the pastry covering the fruit filling.  The corners were flaky as advertised, and I’m really not sure why the rest of the turnover didn’t turn out as well.  My suspicion would be that the rolling adversely affected the dough, but that seems somewhat unlikely, since dough was born to be rolled!  (Edit:  With some confirmation to this suspicion, I have eliminated the rolling of the dough from the instructions below.  This supports the idea that these test runs are a good idea!)

Whatever the case, the overall taste of the turnovers (or the one I tried at least!) was pretty good!  The spices seemed right on, and the fruit retained a good bite to it.  Now, I just have to figure out which will be entered into the Aluminum Chef competition this Saturday.  Decisions, decisions.

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Apple-Pear Turnovers

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed per package directions
  • 2 medium baking apples (I used Galas)
  • 2 medium pears (I used Bartletts)
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 egg

Makes 4 servings.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Peel & core apples and pears, then cut into small, even-sized pieces.
  3. Mix apples and pears in a large bowl.
  4. Mix sugar and spices in a small bowl, then add to the apples and pears.  Stir to coat.
  5. Unfold puff pastry dough, and cut large square into 4 smaller squares.
  6. Put 1/4 of apple & pear mixture into the center of each square, and place 1/2 teaspoon of butter on top of mixture.
  7. Fold the dough over the filling to create a triangle and pinch edges closed.
    • Tip: If dough is not sticking together, try wetting your fingers and pinching it together.
  8. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  9. Beat egg in small bowl.
  10. Place turnovers on baking sheet, and brush beaten egg over each.
  11. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Battle: Baked Goods – Test Run: Mini Pumpkin Pies

November’s Aluminum Chef is slated for this coming Saturday, and I am still having trouble deciding what to make.  My initial thought was to bake up some apple turnovers, but the idea to do something with pumpkin really took over.

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After looking through a bunch of recipes online, I opted for something simple — pumpkin pie.  It just seemed like a bad idea to make a big ol’ pie when everyone else is going to be bringing a big ol’ [insert baked good here], so when I ran across Bakerella’s Pumpkin Pie Bites, I knew I was on to something!

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The ingredients: pre-made pie crusts, cream cheese, eggs, canned pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice.

Because this was the test run, and I didn’t want to have to eat 24 little pumpkin pies between now and Saturday, I cut the original recipe in half, mostly.  I always use heaps more vanilla than the original recipes ever call for, so that was a variation from the original.  Also, because it was the test run and I just didn’t have the ambition, I left off the cute little pumpkin stems.  (Honestly, it’s cute but they’re not going to taste any better for being cute.)

To get started, I had to roll out the ready-to-use pie crust a bit in order to get twelve little circles out of one crust.   It was about this time that I was kicking myself for not buying that Sil-Pin rolling pin at Sur La Table yesterday, because I don’t have a rolling pin!  What I found out is that a nice, evenly cylindrical olive oil bottle works just as well (after washing and flouring of course.)

Using a 3″ round cookie cutter, I was able to get my twelve little pie crusts cut out and pressed each one into a cup in my new 24 cup mini muffin tin.  (It’s made by ChicagoMetallic and, having now used it, I have to say that I would seriously consider buying any non-stick bakeware needed from them.  Wow!)

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Mini pie crusts awaiting their filling.

I put all the remaining ingredients into a bowl and mixed it all together.  I have to say that I was slightly concerned about the filling.  While I was mixing, I noticed that the cream cheese was not blending in smoothly.  The best I could figure was that it hadn’t completely come to room temperature.  So, I took a silicone spatula to the mix and tried to cream the lumps into the filling as best I could, but in the end, there were little tiny pearls of cream cheese in the mixture.  I used a heaping tablespoon of the mixture to fill each of those little pie shells up to the brim with pumpkin goodness and popped them in the oven.

The original recipe said that they would be done in 12-15 minutes, but that was not my experience.  I left them in for about 20-22 minutes, when the pie filling had puffed way up and the crusts actually browned a bit.

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Little pies deflating after coming out of the oven.

I removed the little guys from the tin and placed them on a wire rack to cool.  I was amazed at how easily they popped right out of those little cups!  Needless to say, it didn’t take long for them to cool down, small as they are.  Then it was time to snap a pretty picture and get to sampling!

When all was said and done, the one thing that was definitely off in my opinion was the amount of spice in the filling.  It needed a lot more of the pumpkin pie spice.  It was nowhere near as bland as the year my aunt made a pumpkin pie with NO spices in it at all, but this little pie was not the savory bite of pumpkin pie that I was anticipating.   As such, I’ve modified the original recipe to a) reduce it by half, b) add more vanilla, and c) add more spice!

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Mini Pumpkin Pies

Inspired by Bakerella’s Pumpkin Pie Bites

pumpkin_mini_pie04Ingredients:

1 – refrigerated pre-made pie crust
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Makes 12 mini pies.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
  2. Use 3″ cookie cutter to cut 12 rounds from the pie crust.  (You may need to roll the dough out a bit.)
  3. Press the dough rounds into alternating cups of a 24-cup mini muffin tray.  (This is to prevent the pies from touching each other, but if you’re not adding decorative edging, you could double the recipe and make all 24 in one tray.)
  4. In a medium bowl, beat one egg and brush top edges of pie crusts with egg mixture.  Reserve remaining egg.
  5. Add cream cheese, sugar, canned pumpkin, vanilla and pumpkin pie mix to bowl with egg mixture.  Mix thoroughly.
  6. Spoon mixture into each pie crust.
  7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until filling has risen and crust is golden brown.
  8. Remove pies from baking tray and place on a wire rack to cool.
  9. After cooling, keep refrigerated until ready to enjoy.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching Everyday Italian on the Food Network, and saw Giada making biscotti.  She whipped up these lemon almond numbers that looked really good, so I decided that I’d make them too!

Now, I may not appreciate Giada’s insistence on pronouncing every Italian word with an Italian accent, but she makes some delicious looking food.  My boyfriend, who I will lovingly refer to as Bikenut, went crazy over these cookies.  He seriously loved them, saying they were the best that he’s ever tasted, and even went raving about them to my friends at our monthly Aluminum Chef gathering.  With such a great response, I decided to use the same basic cookie recipe but add chocolate instead of the lemon to make Chocolate Almond Biscotti.

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The ingredients, less a tablespoon of homemade vanilla extract.

I was really surprised at the number of ingredients that were used.  It was far fewer than I imagined, and these cookies could not be any easier to throw together.   To top it off, there’s not really much of a mess to clean up afterward — something Bikenut appreciates.  I mentioned to him that I was making the biscotti today and he said, “I hope they turn out as good as the first ones!  And don’t destroy the kitchen!”

Dirtying only two bowls, the beaters of the hand mixer, a measuring cup and a couple of measuring spoons, I was able to get the biscotti logs ready for the oven.  The dough is extremely sticky, and the tip about wetting your hands before attempting to form them is an excellent trick!

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Biscotti logs, going in the oven for 35 minutes.

While the biscotti was baking, I sat back down to do some work.  Ahh, the advantages of working at home;  I can take a 15 minute break and whip up some yummy treat, then let it bake while I respond to email and the like.  Sooner than I knew, the timer was beeping.  The first bake was done!

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Cooling after the first bake. "Biscotti" apparently means, "twice baked" in Italian.

While waiting the five minutes for the cookie logs to cool, someone came knocking at the door.  My neighbor’s new girlfriend (I assume) had locked herself out of their apartment and wanted to know if I had a chair that she could borrow so she could climb through their bedroom window.  Funny how you end up meeting some of your neighbors.

With Annie safely through the window and my step-stool returned, it was back to the biscotti.  The logs had cooled enough to be handled, but the chocolate was still warm, so it dirtied the bread knife I was using a bit while I was slicing the logs into the half-rounded cookies and left chocolate-y streaks on the cut-side of some of the cookies.

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On the sheet, ready for the second bake.

Back into the oven for another 25 minute bake.  You can see in the picture above that the cookies are still somewhat moist, particularly towards the rounded tops.  The second bake drew out all of that moisture, leaving me with a yummy, crunchy, crumbly chocolate almond biscotti!  Now all I need is a nice latte to dunk them in.

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Chocolate Almond Biscotti

(adapted from Giada de Laurentiis’ “Almond and Lemon Biscotti“)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (bittersweet, semi-sweet, or combination)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add eggs, sugar and vanilla extract.  Beat until mixture is a pale yellow color and all the sugar appears incorporated.
  5. Combine the flour mixture a third at a time with the egg mixture, beating until just blended.
  6. Stir in almonds and chocolate chips, then let dough rest for 5 minutes.
  7. Divide dough in half and place on a baking sheet.
  8. Wet your hands with water and form each half of the dough into a log, approximately 9″x3″.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes, then remove to cool for 5 minutes.
  10. Slice logs into 1″ thick cookies and place cookies cut-side down on the baking sheet.
  11. Return to oven, bake for an additional 25 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven, cool completely.  Enjoy!