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Colorful Spiral Cookies

I’ve been going through butter like it’s water lately.

These cookies are largely to blame.  I first made them as favors for our family who came to celebrate Noah’s birthday.

Didn’t they turn out great?

I liked the end result so much that I then made  a LOT some of the Christmas variety with red and white and green and white.  The Christmas version yielded a couple hundred cookies.

I’m always amazed how quickly a couple hundred cookies can just disappear once they are bagged by the dozen (or more) and shared with our dear friends.  Just like that…GONE.

But I loved sharing and making them.  I think it’s those darn  sprinkles (sorry, nonpareils for those foodies out there) that just finish the cookie off and make it cute.

You really can’t go wrong with almond extract. It makes this cookie taste like a little bit of sweet, buttery perfection.  But if almond isn’t your thing, try any other extract: coconut, strawberry, peppermint — whatever you want.

Colorful Swirled Cookies
slightly adapted from sprinklebakes.com

printer friendly recipe

2 cups cake flour, unsifted
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup unsifted powdered sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract, or other flavoring
2 tablespoons unsifted cake flour
food coloring
nonpareil decors (i.e. sprinkles)

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugars in a food processor and process briefly to mix. Add the butter in pieces; process with on/off bursts until the mixture has the consistency of cornmeal. Add the vanilla and process until the mixture just forms a ball.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions then return one of the portions to the food process. If you’ve got a food scale, use it to make sure your portions actually are even.  Add the almond extract, food coloring, and the extra tablespoons of flour to the processor and process until just incorporated.

Roll out each portion of dough between sheets of waxed paper. You want a rectangle about 11 × 8½ inches by ⅛ inch thick. Leave the dough between the sheets of waxed paper and slide onto a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Remove dough pieces from refrigerator. Pour the nonpareil decors into a shallow rectangular dish, such as a 9 × 13-inch pan.

Peel off the top sheet of waxed paper from both doughs. Brush the vanilla dough very lightly with water. Using the waxed paper, lift the colored, almondy dough and flip it onto the vanilla dough so they are stacked. Press with your fingertips to seal the two doughs together. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and trim the edges even.

When the dough is just pliable (but still cold), roll up the dough(begin with the long side) like a jellyroll. As you begin to roll, gently curl the edge with your fingertips so you don’t get any air pockets as you roll dough into a log. As you roll, the vanilla portion may want to tear, pinch tears together as they happen and keep rolling.

After forming the dough into a log, throw away the waxed paper. Gently lift the log on top of the nonpareil decors in the dish and roll until the log is completely coated with decors. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to slice (from 4 hours to a week, or freeze for up to 2 months; defrost in the refrigerator overnight before slicing).

Heat oven to 325 . To bake, slice the log into ⅛- to ¼-inch-thick cookies and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets for 15 to 17 minutes, until the cookies are no longer shiny on top and the bottoms of the vanilla portion are golden.

Buckeyes

This post comes with a shout out to my sister-in-law Becky, who lives entirely too far away — in Ohio.  Man, we miss her.

She got married this past summer to and Ohio State grad, which means she too is now a Buckeye.  It’s funny how all of us now are just a little more tuned into Buckeye life: sports scores, events and even controversy (um, hello Tresselmania).  While most of us in the family still claim to bleed blue, I think we like that Becky and Terry have made us fans of another university as well.  Although I don’t think all of us will be carrying a real buckeye around in our pocket like a certain someone sometimes does. 🙂

We attended the annual family Christmas party over the weekend, so I made Buckeyes for the occasion.  I mean, if part of our family can’t be there, they should at least be represented, right?  Even if it is only in dessert.

I’ve wanted to make this recipe for a while.  It comes from the second cookbook from those genius bakers at Baked in New York City.  Heaven help me the next time I get to New York.  I’ve got a list of bakeries to visit that is far too long.  And Baked is at the top.

If you look at other recipes for Buckeyes, they typically call for twice the amount of sugar that this one does.  This recipe also includes crushed graham crackers, which deviates from the ‘traditional’ one.  But you know what?  The result is phenomenal.

Not just delicious.  Like over the top awesomeness.  It’s such a good blend of peanut butter and chocolate.

I struggle when it comes to dipping things in chocolate, so after reading a few tips from different bloggers I inserted toothpicks into each peanut butter ball and put the tray in the fridge.  After about 20 minutes the peanut butter balls were dipped in chocolate and the toothpick was removed.  Once the chocolate hardened I just barely got my fingertip wet and rubbed it on the spot where the toothpick had created a hole.  Voila!  The hole was gone.

I’m leaving all of that out of the printable recipe, because you’re probably a lot more skilled at dipping than me.  But, if not, this is a pretty foolproof method.  Think ‘dipping for dummies.’

Buckeyes
Slightly adapted from Baked Explorations

1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
12 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped

Make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together until combined. Add the graham cracker crumbs and beat for 10 seconds. Add the sugar, vanilla  and butter, and mix on the lowest speed until it stops floating off everywhere, then increase the speed until the ingredients are combined. Scrape down the whole bowl well, then mix again. The mixture will be quite sturdy and a little dry — perfect for shaping. Set it aside while you prepare the coating.

Make the coating: Melt the chocolate either over a double boiler, stirring until it is completely smooth or in a microwave in 30 then 10 second increments, stirring before you start it again until it is completely smooth. Let it cool a bit while you shape the peanut butter centers.

Assemble the candies: Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop out slightly more than one tablespoon’s worth of filling (I used my smallest cookie dough scoop). Use your hands to form it into a ball. Place the ball on the prepared sheet and repeat the process until all of the candies have been shaped. They can sit close to each other but make sure they are not touching.

Using a fork or large skewer, dip each ball into the chocolate and roll it about so that almost the entire candy is coating, leaving a small circle uncoated.

Chill the buckeyes until they are set, about 30 minutes.

Vanilla Bean Cake

We celebrated this little cake eater’s first birthday on Saturday.

He did not disappoint when it came to diving into that cake.

Can you blame him? It was delicious!

Little Noah got a three layered 6-inch round cake, and I made an 8-inch cake for the rest of us.

The cake was filled with one of my favorites: instant fudge frosting, and then frosted with a basic vanilla buttercream.  Since there’s butter in that buttercream (duh!) the frosting was a little yellow.  I wanted a white contrast with the sprinkles so I added some Americolor white food coloring.  Did you know they make white food coloring?  It really does make a difference.

I ordered up a bunch of sprinkles from Fancy Flours (love them!) and made my own custom mix that matched the colors of the invitation.  It was an embarrassingly easy way to decorate, with results that I absolutely loved.

Back to the cake for a second. Simply put, it is moist, dense and delicious.  Thin slices seem to go a long way.  If you’re looking for a white cake to bake, this may just become a new favorite.

Vanilla Bean Cake
Yield: three 8-inch round layers

printer friendly recipe

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature 2 2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
9 egg whites room temperature
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350.  Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and scrapings from the vanilla bean into buttermilk.  Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers.  Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean.

Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream

Quick Vanilla Buttercream

printer friendly recipe

3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream or whole milk

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream/milk if needed for spreading consistency.

Take a look at that: cheesecake sandwiched perfectly between two layers of cookie.

The result? Well, it’s just a bit of deliciousness that takes on a mean addiction.  Just eating one to sample was nearly impossible.

I’ve done the cheesecake and chocolate chip cookie combination before.  This recipe, however is far more focused on the cookie with a little bit of cheesecake.  I like that.  Wait, I liked the other one too.

What can I say? It’s just a good combination.

Make a double batch and really spread some holiday sweetness to those you love!

Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
adapted from King Arthur Flour

printer friendly version

Chocolate chip cookie layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup butter flavored vegetable shortening
1 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Cheesecake layer:

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350. Cream together the butter, shortening, sugars, vanilla, salt and vinegar. Beat in the egg, then the baking soda and flour. Stir in the chocolate chips. Divide the dough into two equal portions and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl cream the cream cheese with the sugar until thoroughly combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a 9×13 pan, spread 1/2 of the cookie dough mixture evenly across the bottom.
* This is a tricky step.  Be patient with the process.  It’s not like you’re pouring cake batter in.  Remember, this is cookie dough…and the chocolate chips are no help when it comes to spreading the dough out.

Spread the cream cheese mixture on the top of the cookie dough. With the remaining cookie dough, flatten chunks of dough between your hands into discs, and then place on top of the cream cheese mixture. The dough discs don’t have to touch, just place them near each other so they cover the surface as well as possible.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is brown and cooked through. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator.  Cut into bars and enjoy!

Rocky Road Bars

So, I thought I’d take a couple of weeks off from blogging and before I knew it, a couple of months had gone by.  Seriously, how it is possibly almost Thanksgiving?

I have been cooking and baking…just not blogging much.  But I do have to say that this is by far the sweetest pumpkin creation this season:

I’m coming back, just in time for the holiday season with a few new recipes that are simple, but do not disappoint.  Who doesn’t love simple at this crazy time of year?  Thanks for sticking with me.

This recipe for Rocky Road bars is rich and delicious.  The shortbread crust balances out the richness of the chocolate just perfectly.

If you’re one of those thoughtful bakers who makes a variety of treats to plate and deliver to friends, consider adding this recipe into your stack of must-bake items for the holidays.

Rocky Road Bars
adapted from King Arthur Flour

printer friendly recipe

For the crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, salted
1/2 teaspoon salt*
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups flour
*If you use unsalted butter, increase the salt in the recipe to 1 teaspoon.

For the topping:
3 cups chopped semisweet or dark chocolate or chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup toasted diced pecans
3 cups mini marshmallows

Heat the oven to 300.  Line a 9×13 pan with foil and grease the foil. (Or just grease the pan.  Using foil is a personal preference because then I can lift the foil out and cut the bars easier.)

In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in the flour. The dough will seem very dry, and won’t seem to want to become together at first.

Press the dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with your fingers.  Prick the dough all over with a fork to  keep it from bubbling up as it bakes.

Bake the crust for 35 to 40 minutes, or until it’s golden brown around the edges and beginning to brown on the top. Make the topping while the shortbread begins to cool.

Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan. Heat in the microwave, or over low heat on a burner, until the cream is steaming and barely beginning to form bubbles.

Remove from the heat, and stir. The chocolate will gradually form a lump in the center of the bowl, then will start to expand as it absorbs the cream. Eventually the chocolate and cream will become one.  Keep stirring until it’s very smooth. It WILL all come together.  If all the chocolate doesn’t seem melted, reheat very briefly, and keep stirring.

Spread the warm chocolate atop the cookie crust. Sprinkle with the marshmallows, then the pecans.

Cover the pan, and place the bars in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes, to set the chocolate a bit. Using a sharp knife cut into bars.

Uncle Denny’s Pancakes

I haven’t seen my Uncle Dennis (but we call him Denny) in years, but he’s got a winning pancake recipe that makes me think of him often.  Years ago he cooked up some of these wonders when we all gathered in remote Ely, Nevada for my grandmother’s funeral.  They were a hit with all of us, and my family has been making this recipe ever since.

My mom likes to add in bananas, Dad likes blueberries, and  my dear friend Heather always threw in chocolate chips when we made them in college.  I prefer to pour batter on the hot griddle and then add something in, rather than mixing it into the batter in the bowl.  But that’s just me.


We even made Uncle Denny’s pancakes while camping in Tahoe by mixing all of the dry ingredients together at home and then packing the butter, eggs and buttermilk in the cooler.

Just recently I substituted one cup of whole wheat flour for the all-purpose, white flour, and I dare say that the pancakes turned out even better.  Uncle Denny’s recipe doesn’t call for vanilla extract, but isn’t just about everything more tasty with a little vanilla?

The rise time for pancakes is what really makes them light.  Try to give the batter at least ten minutes, and if you’ve got twenty, well, that’s even better!

One more thing: if you’ve got left over pancakes, listen up!  Instead of tossing them into the trash like frisbees, put a little butter and syrup on them, let that soak in and then place the pancakes into a Ziploc bag.  They can hang out in your freezer until ready to eat.  At that point, they’ll need maybe 20 seconds in the microwave and then finish off in the toaster.  WAY better (and healthier and cheaper) than anything Eggo or anybody else makes, that’s for sure!

Uncle Denny’s Pancakes
printer friendly recipe

2 cups of all-purpose flour (or substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1-2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Combine dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs lightly and whisk in buttermilk, butter and vanilla.  Combine with dry ingredients.  Mix only until moist.  Let rise 10-15 minutes.

Cook on griddle or frying pan.