Year in pictures?

Yeah, I’m a bit behind here. And rather than try and write detailed posts for everything I’ve done since January, I’m just dumping a bunch of pics and one liners about each item and if anyone wants a recipe let me know and I’ll provide the link, this way I can start fresh going forward into holiday baking season!

Is anyone listening to me (if peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis). And I just lost my last reader to that somewhat obscure reference.

Here goes (and not even necessarily in chronological order because lord knows how my computer decided what order to load these)…

1. Spritz Redux: We remade the spritz that got jacked in the prior post for New Year’s Eve. Made in yellow with gold sprinkles. The 4 year old (at the time) was super excited about a cookie gun. Sigh.

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2. Chocolate cream pie – this was for New Year’s Eve too. It was awesome.

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3. I don’t even remember what I made these for but I think they were cake batter cookies. They were good.

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4. Superbowl Sunday football cupcakes. Nothing special, just chocolate cupcakes but frosted in football shapes.

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5. Valentine’s Day sugar cookies with my makeshift royal icing (I never have meringue powder on hand and am too squeamish for raw eggs so I usually just mix milk and powdered sugar). We used these for teacher gifts for preschool.

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6. Valentine’s Brownie Pops. Red velvet brownies cut into heart shapes, frosted with buttercream then shoved onto sticks. Except they were too heavy/dense to keep on the sticks and would roll over as soon as you picked them up. Tasted good though!

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7. St. Patrick’s Day thumbprint cookies. Just your typical chocolate cookies with hershey’s kisses, we just made them holiday appropriate with green sprinkles. I actually found them pretty blah.

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8. Chocolate chip cookie dough pie. The crust is a giant cookie. YES.

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9. Chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream. OMG this frosting. I can’t share these recipes because they were from a dear friend who owns a bakery in California and is sweet enough to share recipes with me to use for the birthday of our twins we lost to prematurity. But this cake and frosting especially was AMAZING.

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10. Passover macaroons. Nothing special/fancy about these but we liked them. They’re not burnt, the bottoms are dipped in chocolate.

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11. Matzo crack. Like Christmas crack but made with matzo. I used sliced almonds for the topping.

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12. Easter cookies to follow Passover. Yeah, we’re confused. Just regular sugar cookies with royal icing but I got meringue powder and made real royal icing this time. It was a pain in the ass.

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13. Easter nest carrot cake cupcakes. These were all about presentation but also yummy! We brought them for Easter brunch at our best friends’ house.

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14. Purple cake. This was just a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, purple because it was the day of our annual March of Dimes March for Babies (and their trademark color is purple).

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15. Pumpkin whoopie pies. These are from just a week ago. I intended to just make soft pumpkin cookies and ice them but they were so cake like they reminded me of whoopie pies so I found a cream cheese frosting recipe and sandwiched them. BIG hit.

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16. Halloween cupcakes. Recipes from my bakery owner friend, both vanilla/almond cake (I tend to swap vanilla extract for almond) and the orange had vanilla buttercream, purple had almond buttercream. Monster and bats.

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17. Tart cherry cobbler. We stupidly signed up for a fruit/veggie CSA this summer (stupidly because we don’t have time to cook all the obscure things they sent and the kids wouldn’t touch most of it). But we did get nice fruit for baking. I had helpers.

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18. Chocolate cake with salted buttercream frosting again. Remade this for Gammy’s (my mom’s) birthday.

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19. Peach cobbler muffins. Another made with CSA haul, we got SO many peaches.

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20. Memorial day berry trifle. Not really “baked”, especially since we used store bought angel food cake for the cake part, but it looks pretty and is a prepared dessert?

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21. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. These were more of a regular cookie (vs cake) consistency than the other pumpkin cookies we used for the whoopie pies. Delicious.

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Ok. Hopefully I’ll remember to post after each treat going forward so I can include more info. Thanks if anyone is still checking here ever!!!

Spritztastrophe

I won’t share the full details since I’ve made and blogged this before, but just in case anyone thought I no longer had the more than minor mishaps, may I present Ex-spritz-it A:

 

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I think it was a combination of being on too low a rack in the oven and that for some reason the recipe I’d printed last year said 12-15 mins baking when it really should have been 8-10 (as I found when I googled and found another blog with the same recipe). Not sure why last year they were fine but whatever.

God Bless America

It’s time for Apple pie! Personally, I think only pumpkin oriented desserts are Thanksgiving appropriate, but my husband loves apple pie so I decided to make one for him. It is, after all, the American dessert and Thanksgiving is our quintessential America holiday (except doesn’t Canada have one too?).

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I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen – it’s a doozy and a lot of work. As usual, because I’m a lawyer and wary of copyright infringement accusations, I’ll mostly just summarize the process and let you link back to the source for real instructions.

Dough Ingredients:

3 cups unbleached flour
salt
sugar
shortening (not a fan – but every crust recipe I found used it so I just did it
unsalted butter, chilled,
ice water

In a food processor combine dry ingredients (I only have a tiny food processor so I used a pastry blender instead) – then add shortening and continue processing (or blending, in my case). Add butter, cut in to crumb consistency. In medium bowl, sprinkle w/ cold water, fold in until sticks together as a dough. Divide into two pieces, flatten, cool before rolling out.

Roll dough to 12-inch disk. Transfer to pie plate and press in. Refrigerate.

At this point, the source didn’t include the specific lattice top instructions, and I got irritated with most of the web tutorials so I pretty much played it by ear. It’s not rocket science. I cut it into many strips, laid one across the top, another perpendicular, then alternated adding strips in each direction and weaving under/over the previously placed strips as necessary.

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Only thing I’d do differently is more strips and closer together.

Filling –

3 Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium)
4 McIntosh apples (I couldn’t find these so I used honeycrisp)
1 lemon (for juice/zest)
sugar
flour
salt
cinnamon (don’t even think of puttin’ that stuff in…actually, do – I’m quoting song lyrics…just to be clear)
nutmeg (sweet, sweet NUTMEG)
allspice (you know it leaves me cold as ice)
1 egg white

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat rimmed baking sheet and oven to 500°F.

Peel, core and cut apples into quarters then slices,  toss with lemon juice and zest. Mix part of sugar, flour, salt and spices. Toss with apples. Put into pie shell. Put on the lattice top per my prior note. Lower oven to 425, put pie on heated baking sheet and bake about 25 mins, rotate and reduce to 375, bake another 30-35 minutes (until bubbling and crust is golden brown).

Cool on wire rack at least 4 hours. Place next to your passable pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving!

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Pumpkin Cake!

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My brother’s birthday often coincides with our annual Halloween get together, so it seemed only fitting that he get a Halloween themed cake. I went with something that looked cute but wouldn’t have me up until 2am baking entirely from scratch so I decided on a bundt cake from cake mix. Didn’t really use a specific recipe other than borrowing from numerous things I saw on Pinterest.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes cake mix (I used chocolate – accidentally used 2 different mixes. Sigh. Different shades of brown).
  • Ingredients box mixes call for (typically eggs and oil I think).
  • Buttercream icing (powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, food coloring). I have any number of recipes on other posts for it. Do NOT used shortening because (a) it tastes bad (meaning you’ll have to start over with real butter if you’re like me), and (b) it says this on the box which is terrifying:photo 2
  • Glaze – I don’t even remember the recipe I used but I think it was mostly cream cheese, milk and powdered sugar. Sorry, I’m lazy, but you can google glaze recipes.
  • One green ice cream cone.

Bake the 2 cakes according to package instructions. Note that I used a shit-ton (technical term) of cooking spray to ensure clean removal from Bundt. Here I am with my weapon and wearing the awesome R. Kelly “Hot and Fresh out the Kitchen” apron the husband got my for Mother’s Day.

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Stack one cake on top of the other upside down to make a pumpkin shape. Drizzle with the glaze, then decorate detail with buttercream. Stick ice cream cone in middle for stem.

Mine was kind of a hot mess, but it tasted good!

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Pumpkin Truffles

These were good – we broke in the fall season with these as our first pumpkin based treats. Easy to make and yummy!

 

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Recipe via Pinterest/Blog “Simply Designing”. Not much to even repeat (and specific amounts, instructions, at source site, ingredients as follows:

  • white chocolate chips (or white Candiquik which we used and worked just fine).
  • canned pumpkin puree
  • cream cheese, softened
  • gingersnap cookie crumbs (I beat the crap out of them in a ziploc).
  • graham cracker crumbs (see note above re: crap, beating out of)
  • powdered sugar
  • orange zest (I skipped this – not worth the effort)
  • ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Pretty much melt a bit of the white chocolate mix that melted portion with everything else other than a small amount of graham cracker crumbs set aside, put in fridge to set, roll into balls, dip in remaining melted white chocolate and sprinkle remaining crumbs atop.

YUM!

Lucky Charms Cupcakes

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These were delicious. And as you can see, my little friend liked both making and eating them.

 

Unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me now figure out where I got the recipe. I know I’d pinned it, but the one still on my Pinterest is NOT green, so I must have found another. Regardless, I think if you use pretty much any white cupcake recipe and add green food coloring, you’d be set. For frosting I used the marshmallow fluff frosting (below), then topped the green cupcakes with the frosting, plus a few Lucky Charms and green sprinkles, and….voila! (and yes – it’s “voila”….not “wala”….omg that irritates the shit out of me. Almost as bad as people writing “back peddling”…but I digress).

 

Marshmallow Frosting Recipe:

1 cup room temp butter
1 7 oz. jar Marshmallow Fluff
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

 

Mix it all up. Top a cupcake with it.

Easter Bark

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This was so freaking easy AND looks pretty. My main 2 criteria for baking (admittedly, if it doesn’t look pretty I’m far less likely to want to make it since I have an unhealthy focus on aesthetics). From “Butter, with a side of Bread” blog and all over Pinterest this spring: http://www.butterwithasideofbread.com/2013/02/easter-marshmallow-bark.html

I’ll leave the specifics to the source site, but pretty much melt white chocolate with a bit of shortening, stir in mini marshmallows, press into a pan and sprinkle with candy sprinkles, and once dry/cool, cut into egg shapes (or bars or whatever) with a cookie cutter.

Red Velvet Valentine’s Cookies with Cream Cheese frosting

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Finally – Valentine’s baking success!!!

Found this recipe on pinterest and chose it among 3 contenders, in part because it used a box mix which meant much easier to make with a 3.5 year old helper while the 1.5 year old napped. Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Ingredients:

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1 box red velvet cake mix (original recipe used Duncan Hines, I used Betty Crocker; I’m sure it doesn’t matter what brand you use)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for rolling the cookies
Heart shaped cookie cutter, optional

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside. [Note – I have no effing idea what a silpat is. LOL. I used parchment paper. Which as I learned with Hanukkah cookies, is very much NOT interchangeable with wax paper (the latter of which should NOT be used in an oven while baking.]

2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and flour. Whisk until clumps disappear. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake mix, flour, eggs, oil and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Take about 1 tablespoon of cookie dough and form into a ball. Roll the ball in powdered sugar until fully coated. Place cookie dough balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until edges are set and cookies begin to crack. [Another note – the recipe seems to imply you can roll the dough into balls BEFORE rolling in the sugar. Not so much. It was painfully sticky and gooey, and I messed up my first cookie trying to do that. After that, I would get a dollop with my tablespoon (I very much overfilled each to make bigger cookies to accommodate my cookie cutter size), drop the whole dollop into a shallow bowl of powdered sugar, then roll it until it could be handled easily, THEN roll into a ball.]

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3. Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes. If desired, cut cookies into heart shapes, using a heart shaped cookie cutter. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Eat the cookie scraps:)

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I didn’t get a pic of the scraps but I think my son ate about 12 cookies’ worth of scraps. LOL. He was a fan. I wouldn’t kick them out of bed either.

Note [from original recipe] -you don’t have to cut the cookies into heart shapes. They are great round too!

So, instead of leaving it at that, I really wanted to do some decorating as well (part of why I had originally shied from this recipe, as I love decorating desserts) so I decided to take it up a notch and borrow a cream cheese frosting recipe from one of the other contenders to decorate our cookies.  Frosting from Joy the Baker’s Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe (adapted by her from Hummingbird Bakery cookbook). The original recipe was a cinnamon cream cheese, but I just wanted regular cream cheese frosting so I left out the cinnamon.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted (I never actual sift. Oh well.)

3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature (As usual I cheated and stuck in microwave to desired consistency.)

4 ounces cream cheese, cold (Joy the Baker used room temperature, mine was probably midway between cold and room temp)

Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment (I don’t think I have a paddle attachment so I used the standard attachment).  Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed. (I think I did something wrong because mine was still pretty much just powder after this step but I continued as instructed).

Add the cream cheese all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated. (Again, still way too dry, so I took it upon myself to VERY slowly add whole milk until desired consistency. I probably added 1 tbsp total).

Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.Do not over-beat as the frosting can quickly become runny.

My own additional step – add one drop of red food coloring (liquid, not gel) to make pink.

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Then, I put the frosting in a frosting bag with a small decorative tip and piped onto each cookie, and sprinkled red and white crystal sugar on the frosting.

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HUGE fan of these. So much that I considered making more after they were gone in a day (we wrapped up a decent # of them for various Valentine’s gifts to teachers, nanny, etc.).

Mince Meat Cookie Dough

This is just getting shared because it’s utterly comical.

We came home from vacation on Thursday to an empty fridge. Friday picked up necessities but forgot baking stuff (eggs, etc.). I had planned on making Valentine’s cookies with the little ones only to discover upon pulling out my various recipes that we were missing eggs, together with various other necessary ingredients.

In an attempt at improvisation I decided we could just make eggless cookie dough to eat raw. But they REALLY wanted Valentine’s cookies. So I decided to add some red food coloring too…

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Tasted fine, but not pretty. A facebook friend pointed out that it looked like ground meat. Cookie FAIL.

Cake Batter Truffles

Got this recipe from Elise Bakes and was going to file away for some future date, but the 3 year old dictator in our home was demanding a Christmas Party to use the candles that he’d been carrying around in a bag for a week, so we modified to New Year’s Party and decided to have a little celebration of 2013’s birth.

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Recipe as follows:

Ingredients:

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  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup yellow cake mix, dry
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3-5 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp sprinkles
  • 16 oz white candy melts or vanilla chips [I strongly recommend the latter … see below.]

Instructions:

  1. Beat butter and sugar until combined.

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  1. Add flour, cake mix, vanilla, and salt and beat until combined throughout.

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  1. Add milk by the tablespoon until you reach a dough consistency (Elise said she usually ends up using just 3 tbsp, I think I actually used close to 4.5).  The dough will be sort of crumbly, but you should still be able to form balls out of it.
  2. Mix in sprinkles and form balls out of the dough.

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  1. Chill balls in the freezer for 15 minutes or so.
  2. Melt candy melts according to package directions and using two forks, dip the balls in the melts.  Let harden before moving.

Yeah, so that last step there is where it gets interesting. I started with Candiquick and melted according to package instructions. It seemed like it was getting too thick so I tried to reheat it. Still didn’t work, got thicker, kept trying, etc. and here’s where we ended up:

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Not so much. I guess I overheated and burned it. Classy. Luckily I had a bag of the Hobby Lobby vanilla melts in the cabinet so I used those next and did better. Only issues was it was still thicker than I pictured and hard to smoothly roll the balls in it to get evenly coated. Plus they dried FAST so half were dry before I could sprinkle them so I had to add a bit in top to use the sprinkles. The two different candy melt options explain the color disparity here too, ivory (vanilla melts) v. white (candiquick).

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P.S. – We MAY have had a three year old running around the kitchen yelling “I wanna dip my balls in it” at some point in the course of making these. I plead the fifth.