Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies with Vanilla Chai Buttercream

It has been 2½ months since I blogged. I know. I'm totally hanging my head in shame, but I can explain. 

First, our best camera broke. 

My husband and I seriously have the WORST luck with technology. You name it - VCR's, DVD players, stereos, cell phones, and more importantly, cameras. They just seem to break. It's frustrating. Our kids have 6 cameras in their toy box - all of which were working at one time. Buying another camera wasn't in the budget when we really need a new roof. The camera we were making do with takes mediocre & grainy photos, so we resorted to taking photos with film for awhile. I know, right? What's film? I can't believe they actually still develop film. Luckily and thankfully for us, they do. 

We finally went out last week and bought one before my baby boy's first birthday. I wasn't risking his special day to a crappy camera or film. I've gotten spoiled with digital and he deserves it.

Aside from being absent photo wise, we've also had a very busy summer and time just got away from me. 

So, I thought I better get cracking. What does one blog after such an absence and just in time for Fall? 

Something with pumpkin. What else?

I'm really sad to see the my flip-flop weather go, but there is nothing like that crisp weather, watching the leaves change colors, and pulling sweaters out of their summer hibernation to officially kick off the baking season.

I'm so giddy with joy I could almost wet myself. 



2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste


1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 350º. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; set aside. 

In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter until fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add pumpkin.

Slowly incorporate wet and dry ingredients together. 

Using a small ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. 

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the whoopie pies:

When the cookies have cooled completely, place a dollop of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. Add sprinkles if desired.

Yields: About 20 Whoopie Pies.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gluten-Free Chocolate-Cardamom Cupcakes

I love the series Cupcakes Wars on the Food Network. To watch the emotions and ingredients fly all over the kitchen is pure entertainment to me. I especially love that it doesn't matter what cupcakes are the contestants specialty, there no cupcake discrimination and all are welcome.

When the episode aired with Hollis Wilder and her Gluten-Free Chocolate-Cardamom Cupcake, I was all over these, especially since my husband was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance a few weeks ago. I am not a fan of gluten-free baked goods, but I've gotta tell you, these are AMAZING. Like amazing. My mother-in-law, who is also suffers from a gluten allergy, and I ate 2 each as soon as they came out of the oven. We pretty much moaned through them in between huffing the heat away.

Gluten-free or not, these are a must try. 

You will moan through them too.

Recipe adapted from Hollis Wilder of Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly Bakery

*This recipe is meant for the cupcakes to be mini, however, I'm a go big or go home kind of gal in the kitchen, so I modified the recipe to a smaller scale and got about 18 regular sized cupcakes. I also found the directions confusing, so I hooked you up. God love the novice baker....it could have been a disaster.

¼ cup bittersweet chocolate - use a good quality chocolate if possible
¼ cup boiling water
3 eggs, separated - SAVE THE YOLKS! You will need them.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar, divided (If you don't have superfine sugar, whiz granulated sugar in a food processor for 30-45 seconds).
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rice flour 
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup Chocolate-Cardamom Ganache

To make the Chocolate-Cardamom Ganache:

½ teaspoon cardamom (I used a full teaspoon, but I scaled it to coincide with the rest of the recipe)
½ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate - again, use a good quality chocolate
½ cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the cream and cardamom just to a simmer over medium-high heat; pour the mixture over the chocolate. Let stand, without stirring, until cool. Once cooled, stir until incorporated. Do not over stir.

Preheat oven to 325º F. Line cupcake pans with liners.

Melt the chocolate IN the boiling water and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy and stiff but not dry. Add ¼ cup sugar and beat until just incorporated; set aside. 

In another bowl, cream the butter with remaining ¾ cups sugar and vanilla on medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat well. Blend in the melted chocolate.

In a bowl, sift together the rice flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture, beating after each addition until smooth.

Fold in the Chocolate-Cardamom Ganache. Fold in the beaten whites.

Fill the cupcake liners halfway and bake for 23-25 minutes.

Yield: About 18 cupcakes
Happy Baking!

share this on »

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ham & Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

I work with children for a living. Although I LOVE my job and the fact that all my co-workers are under the age of 5, meal times can be pretty stressful. I have come across more children that are picky eaters than not since working in my field. Where I come from, if you are not a foodie, there is something wrong with you. This goes for kids and adults alike.

Since kids need variety, just as adults do, I've had to become creative in the kitchen. I make a point to hide oodles of goodness in my kids food at every meal. They think they're eating muffins, but they are really devouring a good chunk of their daily nutrition.

I came across this muffin recipe when we were in North Carolina via New York en route to Florida in a Dallas newspaper. Take a moment to digest that. I ripped it out and saved it for a time I knew I would be desperate.

Well, desperation came knocking on the door this summer. Aside from the usual picky suspects, my daughter's eating habits have gone down the toilet since school let out and my son will eat anything within his grasp, I want to make it count.

My daughter calls them pizza muffins.

I call them a lifesaver.

Recipe adapted & slightly modified from The Dallas Morning News Newspaper

3 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour (or a combination of both)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
4 tablespoons flax seeds
3 large eggs
cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (I used fresh chives in this recipe, but you can also use a finely diced medium onion and toss it in)
1 cup diced ham
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or use cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, salt, cayenne pepper/chili powder, and flax seeds.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and butter.  Stir in the scallions/chives/onion, ham, cheese, and bell pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just moistened.  

Scoop the batter into prepared pan (heaping ¼ cup each for unlined muffin pan or scant ¼ cup each for lined.

Bake the muffins for 20 minutes or until the tops are browned. Let the muffins cool in pan for 15 minutes then loosen the edges with a knife (if necessary). Transfer muffins to cooling rack. Serve warm.

Yields: 12 yummy muffins

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eton Mess

Wikipedia's definition of Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue, and cream. It is often served at Eton  College's annual cricket match against the students of Winchester College.

My definition of Eton Mess is a delectable English treat that consists of delicious, fluffy, marshmallowy clouds stacked on sweet, light, feathery snowflakes and intertwined with juicy, red strawberries that desire to be enjoyed with a magical harp playing softly while cherubs with the face of John Krasinski dance half naked around me, throwing rose petals, sunbeams, and sprinkled covered wishes my way.

This is seriously good stuff and the perfect dessert on a summer day. Although there is some debate as to whether a banana or strawberry should be used (apparently the creator of this dish used bananas as the fruit of choice), I decided to go with the strawberries and throw in a blueberry sauce. 

I'm such a rebel.

Adapted from The Joy of Baking

3 egg whites at room temperature
¾ cup superfine sugar (if you don't have superfine sugar, simply take granulated white sugar and process it for about 30-60 seconds in a food processor)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 200º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat egg whites with mixer until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract.  

Note: The meringue is done when it holds stiff peaks and when you rub a little between your thumb and index finger it does not feel gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers.

Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag. I used a ziploc bag and a star tip to pretty it up a bit, but you don't need a bag or tip at all; you can use 2 spoons. Dollop onto prepared sheets. 

Bake the meringues for approximately 1½ to 1¾ hours, rotating the baking sheet from front to back (about half way through) to ensure even baking. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp. (The meringues will release easily from the parchment paper.)

Leave the meringues in the oven with door cracked to finish drying several hours or overnight. They can be covered and stored at room temperature for several days. 
Blueberry Sauce:

A pint of blueberries
3 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons orange juice

Place ingredients over stove and bring to a boil for about 7 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Be sure to de-stem and take out any wonky blueberries before placing on stove.

To assemble:
Start with a few meringues at the bottom of dish you will be using and begin the layering process of meringue, fruit, whipped cream, and blueberry sauce. Serve immediately.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!

share this on »

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Strawberry Pretzel Squares

My church threw the best BBQs growing up. We were only a small congregation of about 75 people, but the food that would arrive was that of a 1000 people. Aside from all the usual hot dogs, burgers, potato & macaroni salads, the ladies of the church knew how to bake.

There was always an array of cakes, cookies, pies, and tarts. A staple dessert at the BBQ (and one of my most favorite summertime desserts to this day) is Strawberry Pretzel Squares. We also knew it as Strawberry Pretzel Salad.

When I was 11 years old, the only thing that stood between me and this gorgeous dessert was a scrawny boy named Keith. His mom made it and he KNEW how much I loved it. He was a year older than me and wouldn't let me near it until I kissed him. Boys were so icky until I was about 14, so on a scale of 1 to 10 on the Gross-o-meter, he was a 12. Of course, our Moms thought it was so cute. Gag.

I looked him up on facebook a few years ago. I love facebook just for that reason alone. I'm a total lurker. I don't necessarily want to befriend old acquaintances per se, I just like to see how kind Father Time is to people I grew up with.

Time served Keith very well. Although I don't know how many women Keith has held ransom to this dessert since, but to be fair, it is a dessert worthy of a kiss.

No matter how scrawny the boy is.


Recipe adapted from my Mom

2 cups crushed pretzels
¾ cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese
¾ cup sugar
1½ cups whipped topping, I used Cool Whip
2 packages strawberry gelatin, I used Jello Brand
1 pound fresh strawberries
(The original recipe actually calls for 2 packages of 10 ounce frozen strawberries. I LOVE fresh fruit and will use it if it's available. This step is delicious either way)

Note: This is a dessert that requires a few steps until completion. For best results, do not use shortcuts and allow for cooling and chilling times as indicated.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Using a blender, chop pretzels into very small pieces. 

In a bowl, combine pretzels, butter, and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Press into a 9 x13-inch pan and bake for 8 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. 

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Fold in the whipped topping, and spread over the cooled crust.

Refrigerate until well chilled or about 3 hours.

In a small bowl, prepare gelatin as instructed on box. Once prepared, place in fridge and chill until slightly thickened. (When I mean thickened, it will have a 'ripple' when jiggled.)

Pour gelatin over cream cheese mixture and add fresh strawberries on top, pushing down gently until submerged. I add the strawberries after so they are evenly distributed across the dish. If using frozen strawberries, add them TO the gelatin and then pour over cream cheese mixture. 

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight for best results.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Black Bean Brownies with Goat Cheese Topping - Gluten-free!

Yes, you read right.

Black Bean Brownies with Goat Cheese.

Would you believe me if I told you they are unbelievably tasty? If you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, you are gonna. love. me.

My husband recently had some testing done for gluten intolerance and the results came back positive. We've suspected he's had one for a long time; it was just a matter of proving it. Of course, for someone that bakes predominately with wheat flour, I realized I needed to find some recipes that are gluten-free so my husband can enjoy a tasty treat every now and again.

I'm awesome like that.

I went to Whole Foods the other day and noticed a chocolate cake recipe using black beans hanging out in the canned beans section. A co-worker of mine sent me a very similar recipe not too long before that for brownies, but at the time, I put it in the 'Will Try Someday' section of my ever growing recipe folder. When I saw this recipe again, I felt the beans were calling me, either that or I'm losing my mind. Let's say it was the beans.

I'm kind of glad they did. It's a nice change up from traditional brownies, although I will never give those up.

But I wouldn't pass on these either.


1 19-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
cup melted butter
¼ cup cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup finely chopped coconut
a pinch of ancho chili powder
cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Goat Cheese Topping
½ cup (4 ounces) goat cheese
1 egg
1½ tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Place the black beans, sugar, eggs, melted butter, cocoa, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure all the beans are completely pureed. If you don't have a food processor because a previous recipe broke it, you can also use a blender.

Remove the blade or transfer into a bowl and gently stir in the chocolate chips, coconut, chili powder, and walnuts if using.

Transfer brownie mixture to the prepared pan. Drop goat cheese mixture onto brownie mixture and swirl using a skewer.

Bake the brownies for 28-30 minutes, or until just set in the center. Cool before cutting into squares.

share this on »

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes

If you've ever moved away from home, you know how tough it is. Aside from missing the obvious, one thing you miss terribly is the food.

Oh, the food.

I can’t tell you how often I crave food from home. When I was pregnant with both my kids, my cravings were almost animalistic for my Mom's homemade macaroni and cheese, pizza from our local tavern, iced tea that is brewed and packaged right in town, and the biggest craving by far was for Butterscotch Krimpets by Tastykake

Ah, Tastykake. You delightful baked good manufacturer.

Tastykakes are mainly available in the Philadelphia area, Southern New Jersey, Northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as random parts along the east coast - mainly touristy areas.

Last year while my family and I were vacationing in Florida, we found a shelf of them and I literally jumped up and down I was that excited! I may have even wet myself, but I can’t confirm as I did knock my daughter’s water cup out of her hand. I ended up walking out of the store with 6 boxes and very wet shorts.

Of course, I was craving them today and naturally, I wanted them now. I knew I had a copycat recipe for a Tastykake, but I couldn’t remember which one.

Then I found it. Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes.

I jumped up and down I was so excited! I think I may have wet myself, but I can’t confirm, because I knocked my daughter’s juice cup out of her hand.

She really needs to step back when she sees Mom going for the high kick.


4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups peanut butter
1½ cups of GOOD chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet choco chips)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine wet ingredients; eggs, milk, vanilla and butter. Set aside.

Combine dry ingredients; flour, sugar, and baking powder.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients until well blended.

Pour mixture onto a well greased jelly roll pan (use at least a 10x15 size if possible) and bake for 15 -20 minutes.

While cake is still hot, spread peanut butter carefully over cake evenly.

Freeze for about an hour to solidify. Once frozen, use a circlular shaped cutter, glass, or cup to cut cakes. I used a child's cup as it yielded a perfect Kandy Kake size.

*NOTE You can certainly skip the cutting into circles step. To finish cake off, melt chocolate in micorwave for about 30 seconds and mix until smooth. Pour chocolate directly on top of CHILLED peanut butter. Return to fridge to harden and cut into slices/bars.

Moving on with the cut out cake....

Melt chocolate in a double boiler, dip rounds, and let cakes cool on parchment paper.

Keep chilled for best results and the all important 'snap' factor upon biting into the cake!

Yields: About 18 cakes.

Happy Baking!

share this on »