Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies

I've never been a big fan of chocolate chip bar cookies. In my opinion they are usually dry, crumbly and boring. So I was a little hesitant to try this recipe but the delicious looking pictures, great reviews , and simplicity convinced me to try it. And I am so glad I did! These bars are a simple chocolate chip cookie dough and they bake up so soft and delicious, even better than most regular chocolate chip cookies! Yum! I'm thinking it would make a good base for a pizza cookie. I think I will try it next time I want the girls to help with the baking.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (from www.mykitchencafe.blogspot.com, orginally adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
2 1/8 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 T) melted butter, cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips
*Line a 9x13 with foil, letting the edges hang over and lightly grease it.
*Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.
*In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugars together.
*Add the eggs and vanilla and combine well.
*Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined, being careful not to overmix.
*Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
*Spread and press into the prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 24-28 mins.
*Allow the bars to cool to room temp. and then lift them out of the pan and cut.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cheese Ball

I love me some cheeseball!! How about you? Are you a lover or a hater? Or maybe a lover who doesnt want to admit it? Because sadly cheeseballs have gotten the bad rap of being, well..."cheesy". Unlike me of course! :) Well, apparently Little Bug loves her some cheeseball too because that was her Valentine request! So in place of dinner we had a few appetizers- cocktail meatballs, fruit (that Bug skewered onto party toothpicks herself), this cheeseball (it was a whole ball when we started! :) and some delicious ganache covered fudgy heart brownies that will probably make an appearance here next year (sorry they didn't make it up this year- sound tempting enough to keep you loyal readers for another year?).

This cheeseball had a fairly mild taste, but can be adjusted in so many different ways to accomodate your personal preference. Try different spices or cheeses or cover it in different nuts, or leave nuts off altogether. I think it tastes best to make it a day ahead to give the flavors a chance to meld. Make one for your next party and have a "ball"! (sorry, had to throw another one in there! :)

Cheese Ball (adapted from my kitchen aide recipe book)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups (roughly) shredded cheese, I used sharp cheddar
2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
sprinkling of paprika
1/4 c (roughly) finely chopped pecans
(I usually add a dash or two of hot sauce, but forgot with this one)

*Combine all the ingredients except for the pecans and mix well, either by hand or with a mixer.
*Shape the mixture into a ball (sometimes I just use my hands, sometimes I use wax paper or seran wrap, its a little messy, just do the best you can and dont worry, the pecans do a great job of smoothing it all out)
*Roll and scoop the chopped pecans all around the cheese ball.
*Wrap in seran wrap and finish shaping if necessary. Place in fridge until ready to serve.
*Let it come to room temp. before serving so it is easier to spread or dip (about 30 min).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Homemade Oreos

Giving these cookies the name of "oreo" seemed a bit of a stretch. Don't get me wrong, these were very good, just not quite oreo. They were the same in the chocolatey, creamy, deliciousness factor. They were different in that the cream filling tasted different to me and the chocolate cookie was much softer (which could probably be remedied by baking them longer).
If you are a die hard oreo fan, you may not like these because they may not stack up. But if you are looking for a cookie similar to an oreo and aren't too particular, these were very tasty, fun to make and look great. I would recommend making them, just don't judge them too harshly against the real deal!

Homemade Oreos (from www.smittenkitchen.com)

For the cookie:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 T. softened butter

1 egg

For the filling:

1/4 cup softened butter

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

*In a mixer thouroughly combine all the dry ingredients for the cookie.

*With the mixer running on low add the butter then the egg and mix until it comes together in a lump.

*Take small pieces of the dough form a rough teaspoon sized ball of dough and flatten slightly.

*Bake at 375 degrees for about 9 min. Allow to cool before filling.

To make the cream filling:

*Place the butter and shortening in a mixer bowl and combine.

*On low speed gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 min until light and fluffy.

*Spoon or pipe about a teaspoon size of cream on one cookie and top with another, smooshing the cream evenly to the edges.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chewy Caramels

Valentine's Day is less than a week away. Instead of the classic heart boxed chocolates why don't you really knock the socks off your sweetheart and MAKE 'em something sweet. These caramels would be the perfect treat!

Now I'm not a candy maker and so attempting these was a bit scary, especially when I poured them into the pan and the top had this crater-like look that pooled with the melted butter. I thought I had cooked it too long and it was going to shatter when I tried to cut it. But to my surprise and delight they were fabulous!! Perfectly chewy and creamy and down right delicious!

This is what it looks like while it is boiling:
Chewy Caramels (from http://www.lafujimama.com/- check out her website for more process pictures)

2 cups sugar
8 oz. butter
1 3/4 cup light corn syrup (or dark if you want darker, richer caramels)
14.5 oz. evaporated milk
1 1/2 T. vanilla

*Butter a 9x13 pan and set aside.
*Place the sugar, butter, corn syrup and evaporated milk in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan (no smaller than 3 qrts) and cook over high heat, constantly stirring until it reaches 210 degrees on a candy thermometer.
*Reduce the temperature to medium heat and continue to cook and stir until it reaches 245 degrees. (This will take awhile, just be patient and dont turn up the heat)
*Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla, stirring quickly.
*Pour the caramel into the prepared pan and allow to cool several hours or better, overnight.
*Work the whole slab of caramel out of the pan when cooled completely and cut into small squares.
*Wrap in pieces of wax paper.
Or take it up a notch and dip them in melted chocolate. Mmm...Bliss!:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Soft White Dinner Rolls

This past fall I told y'all that I was going to be working on improving my yeast bread skills. From a major lack of yeast bread posts lately, you probably thought that I had given up on that idea. Actually I have been making a lot of things, many different types of dinner rolls, a pudding-based cinnamon roll, and others. The problem wasn't in a lack of breads, but in a lack of pictures! I just couldn't seem to get pictures taken before everything was eaten! I know, pathetic excuse, but sadly true! But it's a different story with these soft white dinner rolls. I finally got to the camera before my family got the goods!!

And I am so glad I did because these babies are fantastic and really quite easy! They are extremely soft with a wonderful chewiness to them a delicious buttery taste! Yum! Try them, I dont think you will be disappointed! I've actually made them twice now and I'm sure I will make them again. I think the potato flakes, although a seemingly unusual ingredient, is a key factor in making them soft. All of the recipes I have tried this winter that called for potato flakes have turned out terrifically soft.

This is another fantastic recipe from King Arthur Flour.

Soft White Dinner Rolls

1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) dry active yeast
7/8- 1 1/8 cup lukewarm water (7-9 ounces)
3 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 T sugar
6 T softened butter
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes

*Sprinkle a pinch of sugar into 2 T. of warm water, add the yeast and allow to proof until dissolved and bubbly, about 15 min.
*Combine the yeast mixture with all the other ingredients in your mixer bowl. Knead for about 5-7 min. in your mixer, with a dough hook, or a little longer if kneading by hand.
*Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, allow to double, about 1 hr.
*Punch down and turn dough out onto a very lightly greased surface. Divide into 16 equal parts.
*Take each piece and roll in a cupped hand on top of an ungreased and unfloured surface, keeping your pinky always in contact with the counter until you have a smooth ball.
*Place 8 rolls each in two lightly greased 9 or 8 inch round cake pans. (or make 15 rolls and place in a 9x13)
*Cover and allow to rise until they puff and touch eachother, about an hour (Im sorry Betsy!!)
*Bake at 350 degrees for 25 min. Brush with melted butter immediately when after taking them out to create a soft top.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sugar molds


I know some of you have seen these before on my personal blog, but they are just too cute not to post again around Valentine's Day. These shaped sugars take serving coffee and tea to a whole new level. Making your guests feel pampered couldnt be easier. Or package them up cute and surprise the coffee-lover in your life.
The how to:
*Add 2 tsp. of water to 1 cup of sugar and mix together until you get the consistency of wet sand.
*Pack the wet sugar into plastic candy molds, pressing firmly. Scrape of excess for a smooth finish.
*Immediately and gently pop the sugar molds out onto a tray lined with wax paper.
*Let it sit and harden overnight. Then store in an airtight container.
-Look for a mold that is 1-1 1/2 inches across
-I usually press and unmold them one at a time because otherwise I have trouble with them "crumbling" if I try to do the whole tray at one time.
-Try tinting the water with food coloring before mixing for colored sugar molds.