Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sunny's Cinna-nilla Cookies

When my friend Sunny discovered my blog she wanted to know why I hadn't made her anything. Of course, I looked at this as an opportunity to try out a new cookie creation and to create my own recipe. Needing a starting place and a little bit of inspiration, she gave me three flavors she enjoyed: cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate (insert creativity here).

After a few hours spent online researching baking websites (including Fahrenheit 350 blog)I figured out what I needed to do to start creating my own recipes for cookies and cakes. There is actually a lot of science that goes into baking; making sure you have the right ratios and correct proportions of ingredients. Alton Brown's book "food+mixing+heat=baking, I'm Just Here for More Food" is actually a great start if you're interested in a simple breakdown of the science behind baking.

Back to Sunny's cookies! I thought and thought about how I could combine all her requested flavors into one cookie and came up with Cinna-nilla Cookies complete with a white chocolate drizzle. These cookies are actually made by using two doughs and then twisting them together.

Being my first attempt at an original recipe, I definitely have some kinks to work out :) Now let me first say that these cookies definitely taste great (almost like a cinnamon roll in a cookie form). However, there are a few changes that need to be made to the recipe for the presentation to work.... OOPS! :)

Cinna-nilla Cookies
A swEEts Original
Bake: 350 Time: 12 minutes

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter, sugar and egg until just blended. Separate mixture into two different bowls.

Bowl #1: Vanilla
Add 1/4 white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup flour
-Combine with hand mixer

Bowl #2: Cinnamon
Add 1/4 brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup flour
-Combine with hand mixer

1/2 cup white chocolate morsels
-Melt morsels in the microwave for 1 minute, mix until smooth

Make dough into 2 individual balls, cover with saran wrap and place in refrigerator to chill for 45 minutes. Once the dough is chilled, use floured hands and a floured surface to roll each ball of dough into two long strands. *I found it easier to break it into smaller pieces and work with dough rolled out to about a foot long strand* Once you have two strands combine the top and braid/twist together (as shown in the the picture).

Then cut these strands into 4 smaller cookies, place on parchment paper lined baking tray, cover with saran wrap and place back in the freezer*. After 20 minutes, immediate place in the preheated oven for 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool and drizzle with melted white chocolate.

*This is where I made a mistake.. I didn't place the cookies back in the freezer before baking, which ended in the blobbed mess of cookie that I got. If you don't want cookies to spread it is important to freeze or chill them first so they will maintain their shape better.
* You could also try chilling the dough and making the cookies more like a cinnamon roll. Start with the vanilla dough- with a floured rolling pin (on a floured surface) flatten the dough into a long rectangle. Do the same thing with the cinnamon dough. Once those are flattened take the cinnamon dough and place it on top of the vanilla dough. Start on the edge and roll up making a log. Cover the log with saran wrap and place in the freezer to chill for 20 minutes. Once chilled you can slice the log (just like you would with slice-n-bake cookies).

Happy Baking!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Black & White Cakies

Cakie (n) pronounced: cake-ie : A light, fluffy cookie that has a consistency much like a cake, but easily eaten in one or two; like eating the top of a cupcake without the bottom.

These cakies are absolutely delicious and are one of my favorites to make, despite the time and effort that goes into icing them. I first attempted these wonderful cakies for my little brother's high school graduation party, where I actually changed the colors of the icing to maroon and orange since he would be attending Virginia Tech that coming Fall.  Being the hit that they were with my friends and family, I decided to make them again for a friend's birthday in grad school. It was during this baking adventure in grad school that my roommate and I coined the term "Cakie." It is my little brother's birthday on Saturday and since these are his favorite cookies (and I know they travel well) I decided to make a batch for him and bring the leftovers in the office for everyone else to try. 

Just as a disclaimer, although this recipe is quite simple and doesn't take much prep or baking time, the icing process does. Each cookie has to be individually iced...twice...and you might have to ice the "white" side a couple times to make the color visible. That being said, it is well worth the effort!  All the great bakers know, if you're not covered with flour and sugar by the end then you're not doing it right! :)

Now, I have to warn you... because these are so light and fluffy you might have a hard time eating just one...just ask some of the girls in my office! I think my co-workers are either going to start to love me or hate me for all the sweets I try out on them.. hopefully not the latter.

Happy Baking!

Black&White Cakies
350 degrees, bake time: 15 minutes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 cup milk

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, making sure to blend completely after each. 
Add milk and extracts. Combine flours, salt, and baking powder (I actually sift the flour for this recipe). Add flour mixture to wet ingredients. *Because of the consistency of this cakie, the completed mixture should not be runny like a cake batter, but still smooth and fluffy.

Using an ice cream scoop, drop spoonfuls of batter on buttered/greased cookie sheet. Make sure to butter or grease the cookie sheets before dropping your cookies. If you have parchment paper you can just line your cookie sheets instead of greasing. 

Once the cakies have cooled, its icing time!

White: 6 cups powdered sugar and water 
Add water slowly as you try to get the right consistency. You want to be able to easily spread the icing with a spoon or pastry brush. Split icing into two bowls (one being heat proof).

Black: Over a double boiler, mix constantly until the chocolate is melted. *Since you're working with chocolate, your black half may not be as dark as you like it. Add 1 drop of black food coloring (if you have it) to make your "black" half darker.

Using a pastry brush, paint the black icing on half of each cookie. Once the icing has had a chance to set, ice the other side with the white icing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baking with Guinness and Bailey's

 If you haven't noticed, almost all of the baking I do is for others or at least inspired by others. That's actually one of the reasons why I love baking so much.. sweets make people happy and can always make a bad day better, or good day great! Not to mention, they're just yummy to eat :) This cake happened to be a birthday cake for a friend/co-worker inspired by his favorite little puppies: Guinness and Bailey. At the moment, his dogs are with his wife in Ohio so what better way to have them with him for his birthday a la cake!

This cake happens to be a dense Chocolate-Guinness Cake filled with a layer of Bailey's Buttercream Icing and covered with home-made Whipped Cream. The scent of Guinness and chocolate could be found throughout my apartment last night while the cake baked and the Bailey's Buttercream icing is one that I am already trying to figure out how to use more and more (it is absolutely DELICIOUS!) I definitely think this is going to be my new St. Patty's Day dessert.

Chocolate-Guinness Cake
350 degree, 35-40 minutes

1 cup Guinness Stout
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

For this recipe you're going to have 3 different mixtures that will eventually all be combined. 
The first mix consists of the sour cream, vanilla and eggs: cream together and set aside.
Next, on the stovetop simmer butter and Guinness and add cocoa (whisking constantly until combined). Combine chocolate-Guinness mixture and sour cream mixture.
In separate bowl whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar. 
Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet mixture.

Pour into Springform pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Place baked cake on cooling rack. Once cooled, tort the cake by cutting it horizontally in half...making two cakes. (The Bailey's icing goes in between these two layers)

 *I use a Kitchen Aid mixer (which I highly recommend for anyone who likes to bake) so I mixed the sour cream and eggs with that and used it as the main bowl that everything was later added to.

Bailey's Buttercream Icing
1 cup crisco
1/2 cup butter
5-6 cups powdered sugar*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Bailey's Irish Cream (I recommend adding to your taste)

Cream crisco and butter. Start to slowly add powdered sugar, add vanilla extract and Bailey's.
*It is difficult to give the exact amounts of sugar and cream, because frsoting is all about having the right consistency. That is also why I suggest slowly adding those ingredients. If the icing looks to thin and runny, add more sugar.. if the icing is too stiff feel free to add more cream.. you get the point I hope!

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 small container of Heavy Whipping Cream
4 TBS powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp sugar

Whip cream until soft peaks form. Once cream is starting to stiffen whip in sugars and vanilla.
Feel free to add more or less sugar depending on how sweet you want your whipping cream!

Fill your cake with a layer of Bailey's Buttercream Icing, and then cover completely with Whipping Cream. Use extra Bailey's to decorate the top and voila! 

Happy baking!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Super Simple Crunchy Oat Bars

With only 4 main ingredients these are the easiest homemade Crunchy Oat Bars (and of course delicious). They whipped up in a matter of 15 minutes and need only 30 minutes of bake time. When I saw this recipe the first time I knew it would be easy enough to add all sorts of goodies to the simple base. I decided to try a couple different additions this first time around. The first batch were made with a special friend in mind- I planned to make these as a part of a care package, and he loves coconut so these are Cranberry-Coconut Crunchy Oat Bars (these are the bars featured in the photo). The second batch I made for myself and they happen to include apples and my favorite, cinnamon. 
As I cleaned up the kitchen, surrounded by the faint scent the cinnamon and coconut baking in the oven, I found myself conjuring up different variations to try for next time.

Super Simple Crunchy Oat Bars
325 degrees, 30 minutes

2 sticks of butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 TBS corn syrup
3 cups Quick Oats

On the stove top, use a pot to melt butter, adding sugar and corn syrup.
Once ingredients are blended, turn heat off and mix in oats.

This is your base.

Grease a cookie sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper-a baker's best friend). Press mixture into the cookie sheet, flattening with a spatula.

Cranberry-Coconut Variation
Add: 3/4 cup dried coconut
         1/2 cup dried cranberries

Apple-Cinnamon Variation
Add: 1/2 apple, chopped
        1 tsp white sugar  
1 to 2 TBS cinnamon (depending on how cinnamon-y you like them)

*Feel free to add more of the 'extra' ingredients if you wanted more of the flavor to pop. You just want to make sure there is enough of the base to keep the ingredients together.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

PB & Chocolate Cookies

Who doesn't love chocolate and peanut butter? I wanted to make some of my friends who are starting their last semester of grad school a care package and one of them happens to love the chocolate peanut butter combo, so I came up with this: A simple chocolate cookie wrapped around a yummy peanut butter filling. It's like a reese's peanut butter cup in a cookie form. 

PB & Chocolate Cookies
375 degrees, 8 minutes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter

Combine flour, cocoa and baking soda
Mix butter, sugars and 1/4 cup peanut butter- once blended beat in egg and vanilla

Filling: Mix remaining peanut butter and powdered sugar

Roll peanut butter mixture into little balls and then cover with chocolate dough. Press with bottom of a glass.