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Alles Gute zum Fasching!

Alles Gute zum Fasching!

Today we celebrated the final day of Fasching, which is the German equivalent of Carnival or Mardi Gras.  It’s a lot of fun- everyone dresses up, has parties, and eats delicious Berliners and Krapfen (both names for fabulous filled donuts)!  Each year, my oldest son’s school celebrates Fasching with a big parade around base, led by a local band and officiated by the Mayor and Assistant Mayor of Grafenwoehr.  The kids loved being able to wear their costumes almost as much as they loved having an excuse to get out of class and walk around in the sunshine that actually made an appearance today!  (According to our wonderful German Host Nation teacher, “when Angels travel, God makes the sun shine down,” but I have some doubts about how very angelic we were, my own child in particular…)

After the main event, all of the dignitaries gathered for some well-deserved refreshments.  Of course, when the call for American baked goods went out (our cakes and cookies are very different from their German counterparts, so they’re a bit of a rare treat around here), I started making a list of what to bring!  Once I’d finally whittled my wish list from twelve recipes down to three, I ended up making Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Shiny Chocolate Glaze, a fabulous Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake that I found at Odense.com, and one of my all-time favorites, Kransekake Drops.  It was a great day, but let me tell you, I’m completely sugared-out!

Kransekake Drops

Kransekake Drops

Kransekake is a traditional Norwegian cookie that is usually baked in ring forms to make a series of graduated rings that are then stacked into a pyramid with a powdered sugar frosting ‘cement’ and decorated with flags and other trinkets (visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kransekake to find out more).   This is my variation for every-day Kransekake- it’s a lot quicker and more portable than the traditional tower!

Ingredients

  • 1 LB Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 LB Blanched almonds OR 1 LB almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 TSP Almond extract
  • 3 Egg whites
  • Crisco
  • Farina (Cream of Wheat)

Cooking Directions

  1. Crush the almonds in a blender or food processor until they’re a fine powder (skip this step if you’re using almond flour)
  2. Combine the almonds with the confectioner’s sugar
  3. Whip the egg whites until a little frothy and add the almond extract
  4. Combine the almond/sugar mixture with the egg white mixture
  5. Put the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight, until hardened
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350*F
  7. Grease cookie sheets with Crisco and line with farina (I line the pans with parchment or aluminum foil first- it makes clean-up MUCH easier!)
  8. Drop balls of dough on the cookie sheet with a cookie scoop
  9. Bake at 350* until a light golden brown, approx. 15-20 minutes (watch the first batch closely, as ovens vary)
  10. Remove cookies from sheet to cool
  11. Drizzle or dip cookies with either melted chocolate chips or sugar glaze (take ½ LB of confectioner’s sugar and slowly add milk until it reaches a spreadable consistency).  I love these with a drizzle of dark chocolate- it balances out the sweetness beautifully!
  12. Store in a sealed container with a piece of white bread, changing the bread every day or so to keep the cookies soft and moist

Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake from Odense.com

Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake

Originally published at www.Odense.com, a fabulous source for recipes and inspiration!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1-7 oz box Odense Almond Paste, grated (Sadly, I can’t get Odense Almond Paste over here without considerable planning, so I used an 8 ounce can of almond paste from another company that I can get around the holidays.  It worked just fine, but I really do prefer the Odense if I can get it!)
  • 2 lemons (Depending on size, you may want three lemons to get more lemon rind for your cake)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Scant 1/4 cup poppy seeds (I didn’t go scant, but I’m a poppy seed fan…)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4-6 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Optional: 1-2 drops yellow food coloring

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour fluted pan. (I used a baking spray with flour- MUCH easier with a pan that has a lot of detail!)
  2. Grate 1 tablespoon of lemon rind on smallest hole of grater, being careful not to get the pith (white part of rind). Set rind aside. Squeeze juice and reserve for icing.  (I felt that the cake needed a bit more lemon rind- I used closer to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  3. In a mixing bowl beat grated Almond Paste, sugar and butter on high speed until well combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat on high three minutes, or until light colored and fluffy.
  5. Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. Mix grated rind and poppy seeds into flour. Add flour mixture to batter alternately with sour cream. Beat on low until just combined and smooth. Do not over mix.
  6. Spoon batter into pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake turns golden and a toothpick inserted near cake middle pulls out clean.
  7. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Invert cake on wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with icing or dust with powdered sugar.
  8. Icing: In a small bowl mix the powdered sugar, 4-6 teaspoons of lemon juice and almond extract until smooth. Add a drop of yellow food color if desired. Drizzle icing around top of cake and let it run down the sides. (Again, I felt a need for a bit more lemon- I just kept adding more juice until the taste was strong enough, and then I added a bit more powdered sugar to get the texture where I wanted it to be.  I also doubled the icing recipe, because there can never be too much lemon glaze!)
  9. For an extra festive touch decorate with marzipan lemons or grated lemon peel. (As seen in the picture above, I went with the lemon peel this time- there wasn’t enough time for marzipan artwork…)
  10. To Store: After completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap. The cake will last three days at room temperature or one week if refrigerated.
  11. To Freeze: Wrap un-iced cake first in plastic and then with foil. Freeze for up to one month.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Shiny Chocolate Glaze

For the full Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe, visit my Muffins for the Masses post from last December!

It’s been a busy day of baking, celebration, and running backwards to keep ahead of the kids during the parade while taking many, many pictures, so I’m about ready to call it a night.  I hope that you have a great Fasching, Carnival, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or whatever else you may call it.  Enjoy, and happy baking!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Cakes, Cookies

 

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Sweets for my sweeties…

My oldest, back when he had Michelin Man rolls and had no idea that these pictures could come back to haunt him later in life...

So, has your Valentine’s Day sugar rush worn off yet? If you were to sneak a peek at the list of chocolate industry-supporting holidays, Valentine’s Day would probably be right up there near the head of the pack. For weeks (since before Christmas in some stores) we’ve been inundated with chocolate hearts in every size, flavor, shape, and color, to the point that they all started to look the same and kind of lost their appeal!  (Don’t get me wrong- I like a good piece of chocolate as much as the next girl, but given a choice, I generally prefer my sweets in the form of baked goods.)  As the holiday rapidly approached and our household pestilence slowly receded, I realized that it was WAY past time to plan for my holiday baking.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!

First on the list was my oldest son’s class Valentine’s Day party. Cupcakes, fruit, and all of the other party basics were already covered by the other fabulous room moms, but we have a few kids with allergies to consider, so I usually plan to make something egg/nut/corn syrup-free so that everyone can share the sugar high. My first plan was to bake up some of these Chocolate-Dipped Brownies from Sweetapolita, using egg replacement powder instead of real eggs.  I baked up a test batch on Monday morning (I’m still leery of the whole fake egg thing), and they were great!  After a day of cutting out PTA Valentine’s hearts, I raced home and threw together a triple batch.  That’s when something went tragically and inexplicably wrong, resulting in three trays of very pretty brownies that were hard as bricks on the bottom. (My best guess would be that baking, doing mental math, and negotiating preschool peace treaties at the same time is just a BAD idea and should never be attempted.)  By the time that I discovered the problem after an evening of prepping Valentines and cutting out red paper hearts, it was about 3am, so I called it a night and decided to try again in the morning.

Down to the wire and suffering from a severe case of sleep deprivation, I decided to skip the brownies and move on to my (untried and untested) back-up recipe, these fabulous Meltaway Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting that I discovered via Pinterest over at Landee See, Landee Do.  Thankfully, the baking gods were smiling that morning, so the cookies were fabulous!  (Please note that there are only two cookies on that plate- that was all that was left for a picture out of a double batch by the time my camera battery charged.  Yes folks, they were that good.)

Meltaway Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 C Butter
  • ¾ C Cornstarch
  • ¾ C Powdered Sugar
  • 1 C Flour
  • 1 Recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
  1. In a medium bowl, cream butter until fluffy.
  2. Add cornstarch & sugar and blend well.
  3. Beat in flour until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Drop by small teaspoons (a cookie scoop worked well) onto a parchment-covered baking sheet & flatten out with the bottom of a glass. (You’ll need to dip the glass in powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  If you’re making these for yourself, smooshing them down by hand works well, too!)
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Cool on wire rack & frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.  For the classroom cookies, I simply frosted each cookie and added a dash of red sugar.  Once that quota was filled, I started to play around with the remaining cookies and decided that I liked them even better sandwiched together with a dollop of frosting in the middle as well as the bit on top!

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 (3oz.) Package Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 C Powdered Sugar
  • ½ t Vanilla Extract
  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Color with food coloring if desired.

After an afternoon packed with baking, class parties, and WAY more sugar than I should ever consume in a 24 hour period, it was time to grab the kids and run for home so that I could prep our Valentine’s Day dinner.  I’d been pondering dessert for a week or so, because I try to do something special each year, and it was a really tough choice!  Normally I go for something that’s high on the chocolate level, like a flourless chocolate cake or a chocolate cheesecake, but this year I decided that I wanted something a bit lighter to follow what is inevitably a big meal eaten later in the evening.

After careful consideration, I settled on a Chocolate Angel Food Cake recipe that I found in the November/December of Cooking with Paula Deen(Side note- I JUST received the November/December issue last Friday.  GO APO MAIL!)  It was a nice, easy recipe to put together, and definitely a departure from our norm.  The chocolate taste was subtle, almost overwhelmed by the cinnamon (I’d probably cut the cinnamon in half next time around), but what struck me as odd was the faint taste of coffee when there’s no coffee in the mix!  I served it up with a drizzle of chocolate and caramel syrups, a puree of strawberries and raspberries, fresh berries, and both plain and chocolate whipped cream (to make the chocolate cream, just add a dash of Ghirardelli sweetened cocoa powder to the whipped cream near the end).  It would probably also be very good with ice cream and hot fudge, or in a trifle with chocolate mousse and berries!

Paula Deen’s Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Mocha Sauce

Makes 10-12 Servings

  • 12 Egg Whites at room temperature
  • 1 t Cream of Tartar
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 3/4 C Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/2 C Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 C Cake Flour
  • 1/4 C Cocoa Powder (Paula says Dutch process, but we had Hershey’s- you know how that goes…)
  • 1/4 t Cinnamon (I might cut this to 1/8 t next time)
  • Mocha Sauce (I didn’t use this since my husband isn’t a huge coffee fan, but I’ll include it for you all, just in case- it probably compliments the mysterious coffee flavor in the cake quite nicely!)
  1. Preheat oven to 375* F
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.
  3. Add cream of tartar and salt, and beat until soft peaks form.
  4. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.
  5. In a small bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar, flour, cocoa, and cinnamon.  Sift.  (I’m bad, I hate sifting with a passion, so I didn’t do this- I just fork fluffed…)
  6. Gently fold cocoa mixture into egg white mixture until combined.
  7. Spoon batter into an ungreased 10″ removable-bottom tube pan.
  8. Bake for 32-35 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.  Remove from oven.
  9. Immediately turn the pan upside down, and place on the neck of a funnel or wine bottle to cool completely.  (This keeps the cake from sinking.  I didn’t quite believe it until I saw it, but the cake actually stays in the pan quite nicely while balancing upside down on a wine bottle!)
  10. Gently run a knife around the outer edge of the pan to release the sides.  Remove the cake from the pan by pushing up on the removable base, and then run a knife along the inner edge and bottom as needed to release the cake from the base.
  11. Serve with warm Mocha Sauce (or berries, ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream…), if desired.

Warm Mocha Sauce

Makes 1 Cup

  • 1 C Chocolate Sauce (Paula recommends Hershey’s)
  • 1 T Instant Espresso Powder
  1. In a small saucepan, heat chocolate sauce over low heat.
  2. Add espresso powder, stirring until dissolved.

And there you have it, our official 2012 Valentine’s Day sugar rush!  Aside from the brownie catastrophe, everything turned out just the way I wanted it, so I’d call the holiday a success.  The only real problem that I ran into was that I was so tired by the time that I’d cooked and eaten dinner, given everyone their Valentines, and gotten the kids settled, that I fell asleep on the couch while my husband took a work call- BEFORE DESSERT!  Luckily, the cake stayed safely balanced overnight on that wine bottle, and it’s just as good the second day…

One final note- if you created something special for Valentine’s Day, head on over to Sew BitterSweet Designs for the Valentine’s Day Showcase link party!  Melissa has thrown the floor open to her readers, and three lucky winners will win some fabulous prizes for linking up to their Valentine’s Day creations.  Definitely too good to miss!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Cakes, Cookies, Other Baked Delights..., Recipes

 

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Break out the PMS Cookies!

We’re still battling the ‘everyone’s sick, so anything complicated is unappealing’ cooking funk, but after I read Lisa’s Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Buttercream recipe in the Valentine’s Day Showcase this afternoon, I knew that something had to be done to get me past the intense chocolate craving that resulted.  After some deep contemplation (it’s amazing how much deeper everything seems when you have enough cold medicine in your system), I remembered something wonderful:  I have frozen cookie dough!!!

Frozen cookie dough is a wonderful thing!

Back at Christmas time, I made up a batch of PMS Cookie dough.  Since it’s a big recipe, I was able to bake half and then roll the other half into balls and freeze it for an emergency just like today!  Of course, right about now, you’re probably asking yourself, “What on Earth are PMS Cookies?…”

A few years ago, I was playing around with some cookie recipes and couldn’t find anything that quite fit my cravings, so I decided to experiment a bit and create my very own Frankencookie that included some of my favorite go-to flavors.  After a lot of test batches (a fattening labor of love that I suffered through for the sake of culinary excellence), the PMS Cookie was born!  As I mentioned above, this is a BIG recipe, so you may want to either cut it in half or plan on freezing either the dough or the baked cookies (it never hurts to lay in an emergency stash).  Also, these cookies are VERY chunky.  Like, shake the mixer almost off of the counter chunky.  If you’re not a huge chunk fan, you can cut all of the add-ins in half without any major consequences, although somewhere I may shed a tear because you’re missing out on all of those wonderful, calorie-laden bits and pieces… LOL

PMS Cookies

Makes…. a lot.
  • 1 1/2C Butter, softened
  • 1 1/2C Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/2C Dark Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 2C Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 3 TSP Vanilla Extract
  • 5C + 4TBS Flour
  • 2 TSP Baking Soda
  • 1 TSP Salt 
  • 1C Milk Chocolate Chips
  • 1C Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips 
  • 1C Dark Chocolate Chips
  • 1C Roasted, Salted Almonds, coarsely chopped (I use the Diamond smokehouse ones)
  • 1C Pretzel Sticks, coarsely chopped 
  • 20 Caramels, cut into morsels (I did 9 pieces from each caramel) OR 2C of the Kraft caramel bits (little chip-sized balls for baking)
  • Parchment Paper
  1. Preheat oven to 350*. Wait impatiently for oven to heat and butter to soften. Yell at German oven that takes forever to heat and never does what you want it to.
  2. Beat butter, sugars, and peanut butter at medium speed with a heavy duty mixer until creamy. Defiantly lick peanut butter off the measuring cup, just because you can.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, using more force than is really necessary on the eggs and making a mess. Beat until blended.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Get a face-full of flour when you accidentally turn the speed up too high. More yelling.
  5. Beat in remaining ingredients just until combined. Sample cookie dough while wistfully thinking “Salmonella- would that get me a night alone in the hospital?…”
  6. Drop by tablespoonfulls (I used a cookie scoop, but as long as they’re smaller than beer steins, you’re good) onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Eat more dough because really, who needs 5 dozen cookies kicking around the house?…
  7. Decide whether or not to flatten the cookies- they stay mounded if you don’t, but will work either way. Flattening is cathartic, and makes it easier to spread extra peanut butter on them later…
  8. Bake at 350* for 10-14 or until desired degree of doneness (okay, we’ve already established that they’re good RAW…)  Note: If you’re using frozen dough, they’re going to probably take a little bit longer than normal- just keep an eye on them and play it by ear.
  9. Remove to wire racks, burning mouth in the process while trying to sample the finished product, and cool completely (about 15 minutes).
  10. Tell child that they’re ‘mommy cookies’, and boys don’t like them (well, he probably wouldn’t…)!
  11. Eat smeared with additional peanut butter, possibly with a side of Swedish fish depending on just how bad the hormones hate you this month.

Ready for the oven! Please note: I was good, I only made a dozen of these tonight!

Finally baked! Twenty minutes never seemed so long...

The finished product! Now, off to enjoy some cookies with a Nyquil chaser...

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5 Comments

Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Cookies, Recipes

 

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