Overstuffed O’s

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These are like jumbo, gourmet-versions of Oreo’s.  That about sums it up.

I work at the library, and there was this cookbook on the new books display that had the most delicious looking cookie sandwiches on the cover.  I’d seen the book (Baking Out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith) before and hadn’t given it a second thought, but my shift was nearing an end and my hunger probably made the cover look even more delicious.  So, I checked it out and just drank in all of the mouth-watering pictures.  There were multiple problems, however, because the author of the cookbook was a gourmet chef and required many expensive ingredients that we don’t keep on hand.  For example, almost every recipe called for some form of pure vanilla product, including the actual bean.  I quickly did my research and found that beans can range from about $3-5 per bean.  Luckily, I’ve always been intrigued by vanilla beans, so I decided to buy them in bulk (which is far cheaper – more like 50 cents per bean) from Vanilla Products U.S.A .  They are so much FUN!  They are a fragrant bundle of vanilla goodness, and the shipping was really quick too.  If you look really closely, you’ll see little flecks of vanilla bean in the filling, which I added just for the fun of it 🙂

But I digress 🙂

I ended up having a fun shopping trip later on in the week, picking out interesting ingredients like cocoa nibs and 70% dark chocolate.  Yum.  I ended up getting Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate, since we’ve gotten it at Minnesota’s Biggest Candy Store before and loved it.

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Cocoa nibs were one of the most interesting ingredients listed and one I have never heard of before.  They are basically cocoa beans that are dried and roasted and that add a unique chocolate flavor that I thought contributed to making the cookies taste more like real Oreo’s.

One note on the size:  If you’re going for jumbo-don’t-need-seconds kind of size, use a normal 2-in. cup.  However, we found that they were a bit too big for comfort and ended up making a couple mini ones that are just perfect to have one or two.  Be sure to roll out the dough pretty thin as well, since thicker cookies means more frosting than is provided.

Overstuffed O’s

Makes 24 sandwich cookies (my note: makes more if making mini sandwiches)

For the cookies

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valhrona Caraibe 66%), chopped (I used Green & Black’s organic 70%)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup finely ground cocoa nibs

1/4 cup natural dark cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona) – (I used Ghirardelli natural unsweetened)

1 tablespoon finely ground espresso beans (I didn’t have any on hand, so I just added 1 tbsp. more of ground cocoa nibs and it worked fine)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used salted)

1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar (I used light)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 extra-large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

  • To make the cookies, melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth, about 4 minutes.  Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, ground espresso beans, and baking soda.  Make sure to toss any unsifted nibs back into the mixture.
  • Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until soft and smooth.  Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt and beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, until combined.  The mixture will look curdled, but trust me, it will all come together.
  • Add the melted chocolate and beat on low speed for about 1 minute, until blended.  Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.  Add the buttermilk and mix until blended.  Add the remaining flour and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
  • Arrange 2 large pieces of plastic wrap on a work surface.  Divide the dough into 2 pieces, drop them onto the plastic, cover, and shape each into an even, flat disc.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until form enough to roll out.
  • Position the oven racks in the upper middle and lower middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375°F (350°F if using a convection oven).  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners.
  • Put a large piece of parchment paper on a work surface.  Working with one piece of dough at a time, put the dough on the center of the paper and top with another sheet of parchment paper.  Roll the dough to a scant 1/4-inch thickness, stopping occasionally to peel away the paper, dust lightly with flour and reposition the paper so that you don’t get any wrinkles.  If the dough is too hard to roll, set it aside for 15 to 20 minutes until it is softer.
  • Using a round 2-inch cookie cutter, punch out rounds and arrange them about 3/4 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets (they don’t spread much, if at all).  Reroll and cut the scraps once,
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (7 to 9 minutes if using a convection oven), switching the baking sheets’ positions halfway through baking.  (If you like crisper cookies, add a minute or two to the baking time.)  Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool completely.

For the filling

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used salted)

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla bean extract

(My optional route: add half a vanilla bean’s seeds)

  • To make the filling, using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until soft and smooth.  Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until smooth, light, and fluffy.
  • Scrape the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip.  (You can use a 2-tablespoon ice cream scoop instead.)  Arrange half of the cooled cookies bottom side up on a work surface.  Pipe about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each cookie.  Top with the remaining cookies, top side up, and press gently to push the filling to the edges.  Let the filling set so that it doesn’t “splooge” out when you take a bite.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

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(Today’s recipe was taken word-for-word from Baking Out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith, 2012.  The introduction, parenthesized notes in the recipe starting with “I”, and photos are all the property of Lots of life, love, and literature.)

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Heavenly Peanut Butter Cookies

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For all y’all peanut butter cup fanatics out there, these have you completely covered.

Any time I have DQ Reese’s blizzards they have been amazing . . . but there’s that chocolate.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as crazy about chocolate as Willy Wonka, but there’s something about crunching into hard chocolate in soft ice cream that doesn’t fit.  It’s the same thing as nuts in bread – personal preference of course, and maybe some day I’ll change my mind, but for now these cookies are ranking in top position for my ice cream toppings.

I made these and chopped them up lately for when we visited our camping friends – homemade ice cream was on the menu and everyone brought toppings – and I just told everyone that they were essentially Reese’s peanut butter filling.  Everyone absolutely loved them!  They’re the peanut butter equivalent of oatmeal cream pies – yum!  Was that anyone else’s childhood dessert?  It was up there with Nutty Bars for me 🙂

Some notes on the cookies:

  1.  Slightly under bake them.  It’s hard to tell, but if the edges are the slightest golden and they look set, consider them done.  The softer they are, the more they taste like Reese’s filling :).  If they get a bit more done, don’t worry, a little crunch is fun too.
  2. The more filling the better, but be sure there’s enough for all the sandwiches.

Heavenly Peanut Butter Cookies

For the cookie dough:

3 cups quick oats

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread with Honey)

1 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

For the filling:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 cups smooth peanut butter

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a medium bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (oats, flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.) Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl (or mixer), mix peanut butter, softened butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  • Pour dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture, stirring until just mixed. (Don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the bowl.)
  • Place rounded teaspoonfuls of cookie dough on an ungreased, foil-lined baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between each one. (I used a jelly roll pan and was able to fit 5 short rows of 4 cookies – 20 total). Using your fingers, gently pat dough down so they form small semi-flattened circles.
  • Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool completely on cookie sheet before removing.
  • While the cookies are baking, whisk together the powdered sugar and peanut butter until light and airy, about 5 minutes.
  • On your work surface, place half of the cookies upside down. Whisk the filling to lighten it. Spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each upside down cookie. Place second cookie on top of filling and press together until filling just comes to the edges!  Makes approximately 2 dozen SANDWICH cookies (48 total cookies).

(Today’s recipe comes completely from One Good Thing)

Carmelitas

Carmelitas

Carmelitas.  Doesn’t that just sound like an amazing Hispanic dessert oozing with caramel and bursting with sweet glory?

Well it is.  Plus chocolate.

Actually, I’m not so sure about the Hispanic part, but Renee from Two in the Kitchen looked them up and said,

“After doing a little digging into the short history of these bars, (I can’t help it, I am a history teacher after all!!) as near as I can tell, the term carmelita was fist used in the 1967 Pillsbury Bake-Off by Erlyce Larson who called her treats “Oatmeal Carmelitas“.  Or at least, I couldn’t find a reference to the name before that time period.  These bars are made with caramel ice cream topping and they won first prize!”

My dad isn’t a fan of the chocolate part (he believes it will be amazing with white chocolate, so I’ll be whipping those up pretty soon), but these bars are heavenly soft, caramel bursting, chocolate peppered goodness.

Carmelitas Bars

I was at a friend’s grad party the weekend before 4th of July, and she had the best, most varied kinds of bars that I’ve ever seen.  I had quite a few, which only contributed to my coming down with a sore throat and fever later in the week, but anyway.  I was craving bars of all kinds, so when I scrolled across these on Pinterest, I knew I had to make them.

They are incredibly sweet and rich.  If you’re the grazing or snacking type, even better, because they’re best eaten in small portions.

If you’re uncertain as to what caramel to use or can’t find what the original recipe recommends, I’ve used Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels & Kraft Caramel Bits with great success.

REMINDER: Don’t cut the bars until at least 4 hours later or after they sit overnight.  It they’re cut right away, they will not hold their form at all.  They might be a good gooey mess to put on top of ice cream, but that’s it.  I haven’t experienced it first-hand, but the blog I got the recipe from stated this reminder several times.

I find it’s helpful to consciously remove oneself from the premises of this delicious smelling dessert and try to do something distracting during the 4 hours 🙂

Carmelitas

3/4 cup butter, melted (1 1/2 sticks; I use unsalted butter but salted may be used)
3/ 4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-rolled old fashioned oats (not instant or quick cook)
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
35 caramel squares, unwrapped (I used Werther’s Originals Baking Caramels which are slightly bigger than cellophane-wrapped caramels; if using those, I recommend using a couple more)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste, if you prefer salted caramel sauce
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used a combo)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Lining your pan is highly recommended for ease of cleanup due to the stickiness of the caramel; set pan aside.
  2. In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, add the butter and heat on high power to melt, about 90 seconds.
  3. Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
  4. Add the flour, oats, baking soda, optional pinch salt, and stir until combined. Mixture will be quite thick.
  5. Add half of the mixture to the prepared pan (just eyeball it), and smooth it with spatula or the back of a spoon, to create an even, smooth, flat layer; set remainder aside.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes. While it bakes, make the caramel sauce.
  7. In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, combine the caramels, cream, and heat on high power in 60-second bursts to melt caramels, stirring after each burst. It will likely take about 4 to 5 minutes total to melt; heat until mixture can be stirred smooth. Alternatively, combine caramels and cream in a medium saucepan, and heat over medium-low heat to melt, stirring nearly continuously, until mixture can be stirred smooth.
  8. Optionally stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste, for salted caramel sauce; set sauce aside.
  9. After 10 minutes, remove pan from the oven and evenly sprinkle with the chocolate.
  10. Slowly and evenly pour caramel sauce over the chocolate.
  11. Evenly crumble reserved oatmeal-brown sugar mixture over the top.
  12. Return pan to oven and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes (I baked 16 1/2), or until edges are lightly browned and center is bubbling slightly.
  13. Allow bars to cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving, giving the molten caramel time to firm up. This can take up to 4 hours, or overnight, at room temperature. You can speed it up by placing pan in fridge with a sheet of foil over the top to prevent fridge smells. If you don’t wait for bars to cool completely, they’ll be a literal hot mess. They’ll taste fine (don’t burn yourself), but they won’t slice neatly with clean cuts. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

(Today’s recipe is taken directly from Averie Cooks at http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/12/carmelitas.html )

Fudge Ripple Monster Cookie Bars

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I have my dream job at the library and I absolutely adore it!  I love books and I love our librarians, so it’s a really fun mix 🙂

On one of my shifts in nonfiction, one of the cookbooks happened to catch my eye.  It was Sally’s Baking Addiction – the same Sally that now has the fabulously famous blog and who has half a million recipes on Pinterest.

Of course, I checked it out.  Since it was the week of prom and I was going to do my friend’s hair, I also checked out 2 hair styling books and another baking book.

We’re celebrating my brother Alex’s birthday today since we weren’t able to last week, so I took the opportunity to make his white sheet cake and these amazing little bars.

I have a thing with peanut butter and chocolate combinations, so this recipe is definitely one that popped out when I was browsing the cookbook.  Plus, the oatmeal texture that brings back nostalgic monster cookie making memories?  Irresistible.

First off, preheat oven to 350°.  Lin the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 in. baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving the overhang on all sides.  Set aside.

Whisk the flour, oats, and baking soda together in a large bowl.  Set aside.  Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together in a large bowl on medium speed until cream, about 2-3 minutes.  Add peanut butter, egg, and vanilla on after the other, mixing after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the mixer running on low, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined.  Do not overmix.  Press two-thirds of the dough evenly into the prepared baking pan.  Stir in the M&Ms into the remaining dough.  Set aside while you make the fudge ripple filling.

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the sweetened condensed milk, butter, and chocolate chips.

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Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour the fudge over the bottom layer of dough.

DSC_0146Mold the remaining dough containing M&Ms into flat pieces and layer on top of the fudge filling.  You won’t have enough dough to make a single layer, so some of the filling will be exposed.

DSC_0152Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.  Allow to cool completely.  Lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars.  Bars stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Personal note: I didn’t really get the foil step and don’t really think it’s necessary with the way they turned out, so if you want to delete that step, go for it.

Also, make sure not to have too many M&Ms on the top layer, because they make the bar a bit too crumbly.

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Enjoy! 😀

Fudge Ripple Monster Cookie Bars

Monster Bars

1 1/3 cups (170g) all-purpose flour

2/3 cup (60g) old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) salted butter, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar

1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar

3/4 cup (185g) creamy peanut butter

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup (150g) M&Ms

Fudge Ripple Filling

7 oz. (200g or 1/2 x 14 oz can) sweetened condensed milk

1 tbsp. salted butter

1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350°.  Lin the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 in. baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving the overhang on all sides.  Set aside.
  • Make the bars:  Whisk the flour, oats, and baking soda together in a large bowl.  Set aside.
  • Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together in a large bowl on medium speed until cream, about 2-3 minutes.  Add peanut butter, egg, and vanilla on after the other, mixing after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  With the mixer running on low, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined.  Do not overmix.
  • Press two-thirds of the dough evenly into the prepared baking pan.  Stir in the M&Ms into the remaining dough.  Set aside while you make the fudge ripple filling.
  • Make the fudge ripple: In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the sweetened condensed milk, butter, and chocolate chips.  Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour the fudge over the bottom layer of dough.
  • Mold the remaining dough containing M&Ms into flat pieces and layer on top of the fudge filling.  You won’t have enough dough to make a single layer, so some of the filling will be exposed.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.  Allow to cool completely.  Lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars.  Bars stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

(All recipe and steps copyright from Sally’s Baking Addiction, 2014)

Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Last of the recipes for my bake sale: chocolate chip cookies.

I want to apologize for how long it’s taken me to get all of these bake sale posts on.  The day I made these cookies and the Glazed Clementine Buttermilk Scones, I had just enough time to get everything done and the kitchen halfway decent before I had to rush off to youth group.  I also want to do a shout out to my mom who always supports me in my baking and often helps clean up my mess when I don’t plan my time well enough to do it myself before an event.  I love you , momma ❤

Isn’t this spring weather fantabulous?! (yes, that is a word)

I’m loving every second of it – especially since I just finished school. (Hallelujah, hallelujah, halle-eh-lu-yah!)

Also, since it’s spring, our bush in our backyard is bursting with beautiful white flowers.  Their short lives begged me to pick them and enjoy them as long as possible, so . . .

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. . . aren’t they gorgeous?

All right, back to cookies.

Abby found this recipe from good old Betty Crocker a long time ago and we’ve only strayed from it once or twice to experiment with other recipes.  However, this is the one we always come back to and use consistently.  We whip them up for my chocolate-loving great aunt and uncle and I used the same recipe to make 6 batches of these cookies for Abby’s grad party a couple years ago.

Classy Chocolate Chip Cookies was a title that came to mind when naming these, but they’ve been so faithful in turning out every time that Tried and True seemed more appropriate.

A fun little addition to the original recipe I tweaked was adding the chilling process.  It’s not necessary, but it definitely is the difference between a flat (but good) cookie to the plump, thick ‘n’ chewy cookie in the featured picture.  Chilling and making each little dough ball into a mini tower instead of just balls are two steps that make a big difference in the outcome.

For a visual, the mini dough ball towers should look something like this:

THE Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com One of the most popular recipes!

Again, don’t feel that these steps are necessary, but they do make a yummy difference 🙂

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup margarine or butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)

  • Heat oven to 375˚
  • Mix butter, sugars, and egg. Stir in flour, baking soda(mix baking soda in with the flour a bit before mixing all together), and salt (dough will be stiff). Stir in nuts if desired and chocolate chips.  Cover and chill for 2 hours or up to 3 days.
  • Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Mold into tall balls. Bake until light brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Centers will be soft.) Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet.

Best Frosted Brownies Ever

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Second in the line of bake sale goodies: brownies.

These brownies are heavenly.

For chocolate lovers, these come only second to my sister’s out-of-this-world chocolate cake.  I really need to make that cake and get it on here, because I didn’t use to like chocolate cake and now I LOVE it like no other dessert.

I actually have made this brownie recipe 5-7 times, but I have never had a chance to take pictures of them until now because they always vanish like . . . like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

I don’t think I will ever love unfrosted brownies from here on out, because of how absolutely perfect these are.  Most of their supreme yumminess comes from the frosting that you put on while the brownies are still warm because that chocolate confectionery goodness sinks into the brownies and adds that irresistible aspect to these beautiful little desserts.

But enough talking about them.  It’s time for you to taste them for yourself 🙂

First, melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl.  Transfer the melted butter to your mixing bowl and stir in the cocoa until smooth.

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Next, add flour and sugar and beat together.  Add eggs, vanilla, and opt. nuts and stir until combined (until there are as few lumps as possible).  The original recipe says not to over stir, but you do want the batter to be relatively smooth.

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Pour into greased or floured  9×13 baking pan*

(Original recipe notes)* An additional part of this recipe said that if you want to double the recipe, use a large baking sheet.

Additional Note * This batter will not be runny like a cake mix. You might have to spread it out over your pan with a rubber spatula.

Bake 20-25 minutes at 350° or until done.  I usually have to bake it for 30-35 minutes in my oven, but ovens vary, so go for the 20 minute time-frame and just add time until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Frost the brownies only about 5-10 minutes after they come out of the oven.  The brownies will absorb the frosting a bit and make the whole outcome 100% more wonderful 😀

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Best Frosted Brownies Ever

1 cup of Butter

1/2 cup of Cocoa (I used unsweetened)
2 cups of All Purpose Flour
2 cups of Sugar
4 Eggs

4 teaspoons of Vanilla

1 cup of Chopped Nuts (optional)

  • Preheat your oven to 350°.
  • First, melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl.  Transfer the melted butter to your mixing bowl and stir in the cocoa until smooth.
  • Next, add flour and sugar and beat together.  Add eggs, vanilla, and opt. nuts and stir until combined (until there are as few lumps as possible).  The original recipe says not to over stir, but you do want the batter to be relatively smooth.
  • Pour into greased or floured  9×13 baking pan and spread out with a spatula.
  • Bake for 20-25 or until toothpick comes out clean.

The Chocolate Icing Recipe:

To make while the brownies bake
1/4 cup of softened Butter
1/4 cup of Evaporated canned Milk (regular milk is fine)
1/4 cup of unsweetened Cocoa
3 cups of Powdered Sugar
Dash of Salt
Mix all together and frost as desired.

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies

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Post Update!      9-6-15

With fall nipping at our heels, one thing that is helping the transition is looking forward to these succulent cookies.  As you can see, I was so excited about them last time that I couldn’t wait 8 months until they were relevant, so I posted them in February :D.

Of course, they are much more relevant now, and the only thing holding me back from cracking open my cans of pureed pumpkin is a thin strand of self control and the desire to be healthy as long as possible.  Now that my sister took my Frosted Brownies out of the freezer,  that self control is going to be gone as soon as my sore throat goes away.

So, enjoy these to the fullest and have fun this fall!

Hello!

So . . . this might be really bad, but when I go on Pinterest for food recipes, the ones that really stand out the most are the desserts.  Those superb photographs of succulent, moist cake and super soft cookies are enough to make anyone salivate.  I personally love to bake and was known as the sugar queen in my family when I was younger, so that might be why sweets are such a weak spot :).

You know how in late September, early October when suddenly everything is pumpkin?  I heard it somewhere that no one drinks a pumpkin spice latte any other time of the year, but something in October makes it irresistibly amazing.  Is it the brilliant burst of colors, the chilly tang of the air? – or perhaps it’s just the prospect of sipping hot cider by a bonfire with your best buddies.

I know that all this sounds irrelevant since it’s the middle of winter and the last thing anyone wants is the chilly tang of the air, however – this fall I discovered the most fabulously wonderful pumpkin cookie recipe ever.

Don’t be deceived by the pumpkin ingredient, because this dessert is one that will end up on the most-asked-for-cookies list all year long.

These delectably sweet and spiced rounds of deliciousness are THE most beautiful cookie creation I have yet stumbled across.  They are soft and pumpkin-y with a frosting to die for, and you simply cannot trust them to last for any length of time once they are out of the oven.  Since the amount of one batch in this recipe is equivalent to two batches in any normal cookie recipe, you may want to put them in the freezer because a) They get kind of on the too soft side after being in room temp. for more than two days and b) It may slow their consumption a teensy bit.  No guarantees on that last point, though, speaking from experience with desserts in the freezer 😉

A quick side note on the choice of topping: the frosting is an immensely better complement to the cookie, but if you only like white chocolate chips with your pumpkin cookies, go for it – but try the frosting first.

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Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies

2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
4 cups all-purpose flour

White chocolate chips (optional)

Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar (add until desired consistency/firmness)
ground cinnamon sprinkled on top (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat the 2 cups of butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, the 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and the nutmeg. Beat until combined. Beat in the eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Stir in optional white chocolate chips.
  • Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
  • For frosting, in a small saucepan heat the 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cookies. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.  Enjoy!

Ultimate Marble Cake

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Hola!

A couple days ago we celebrated Abby’s 20th birthday!

Wow.  We are getting old, just like my friend Hannah said in response to Abby’s birthday.

I remember when I was little and was thinking about when I would be 16, then Abby would be 19 and Alex would be 21, and thinking how incredibly old and far-off into the future that sounded.  However, now that it’s a year after the “incredibly old and far-off into the future” age, all I’m wondering is where the time went.  Wasn’t it last year that Abby and I were playing pioneer girls in our backyard with our ever-available neighbor friends?  It makes me think of how fast time goes and remember that God has only allotted a certain period of time on earth for all of us.  I’m not even guaranteed my next breath, much less the rest of the day.  Just thinking that reminds me of how big God really is and how insignificant I am without Him.  Don’t you love those moments?

Time hasn’t just flown by without some good lessons, though.  One of the many I’ve learned was when Abby was in 9th grade.

My mom decided by the time Abby was a freshman that we needed to know how to cook, bake, and be comfortable in the kitchen.  Thus began cooking class.  Abby would look up recipes to make (this is pre-Pinterest, y’all, so she really deserves some respect here 🙂 ) and learn any tricks or seemingly foreign procedures that were in it.  Cooking lingo such as roux, mince, and dredge were also learned.

However, THE biggest accomplishment of her cooking career, in my opinion, has been her chocolate cake.  OH. MY. WORD.  That cake is at the apex of all chocolate cakes.  It’s tender, moist, and so perfectly chocolate.  I’ll have to get the recipe up here sometime soon, because it is seriously out of this world.  We make it for every single birthday and holiday, except my dad’s because he’s a white cake sort of guy.  Did I mention that it was topped with my grandma’s famous Swedish tea ring (kind of like a cinnamon roll, except better) icing?  This cake is also a blue ribbon winner at the county fair, so I believe it’s safe to say that you must try it at least once in your life.  This cake has also taught me that cakes from scratch are always better than store-bought.  Don’t worry, I ate store-bought cakes for most of my childhood and I still had some after my preference was changed, but store-bought just doesn’t compare to the real deal.

Now you must be wondering why I’m raving about this amazing chocolate cake when you clearly see a picture of marble cake as the topic of this post.  I will explain in a few simple words.  Abby didn’t want chocolate cake for her birthday cake this year.  Now, I didn’t really prefer to resort to buying store-bought (my exact words were, “That’s heresy!” in response to my mom’s suggestion that we buy store-bought, but I was purposefully being a little dramatic), so I looked up a new cake recipe to make.

Abby said she wanted marble, so I looked among the surprisingly slim pickings on Pinterest and found Sally’s Ultimate Marble Cupcakes.  Her recipe centered around cupcakes, so I kept all the original recipe and just modified it by cutting out the parts that said “cupcake” and replacing it with “cake” and by adding the parts necessary for the cake part that weren’t in the original.  Now, the recipe was a bit obscure about the pan size for a cake, so I thought that I’d just double recipe to make sure.  The result for a 9×11 pan size was extremely thick, so I highly recommend sticking to one batch, but still doing the 9×11 in. pan.

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This cake is really good.  It doesn’t quite make it to Abby’s chocolate cake, but it’s close.  It’s moist, flavorful, and has that certain savory quality that you just don’t find in cakes from the store.  The frosting is also wonderful and the fact that there’s both chocolate in vanilla frost together makes each bite all the more scrumptious.  I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we did!

Ultimate Marble Cake

Ingredients:

 CAKE

1 and 2/3 cups (210g) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1/4 cup (60g) yogurt*

3/4 cup (195ml) milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup (21g) unsweetened cocoa powder

MILK CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1 and 3/4 cups (210g) confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup (21g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 Tablespoons (30ml) heavy cream or half-and-half (you can use milk, but it will be less creamy)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Salt, to taste

VANILLA FROSTING

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 and 3/4 cups (210g) confectioners’ sugar

2 Tablespoons (30ml) heavy cream or half-and-half (you can use milk, but it will be less creamy)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Salt, to taste

  • Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×11 in. pan.
  • Make the cake: in a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 minute. Stir in egg, yogurt, 3/4 cup milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick. Transfer 3/4 cup of batter to another medium bowl. Mix in cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon milk until combined. Chocolate batter will be extremely thick.
  • Spread all the vanilla batter into the pan. Spoon the chocolate batter in various blobs throughout the vanilla batter and swirl through the chocolate with a knife.  Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Bake for 20-24 minutes if making cupcakes.) Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.
  • For the chocolate frosting: sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder to assure there are no lumps. Set aside. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sifted sugar/cocoa powder alternately with the heavy cream and vanilla. Beat on low speed after each addition. Once all added, beat on high speed until creamy and combined for at least 2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  • For the vanilla frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  • Frost cooled cake with a knife or with a piping bag/tip. If you’d like to just make 1 kind of frosting and not both, make sure you double the frosting recipe of your choice to make sure there is enough for all cupcakes.
  • Store cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days and in the refrigerator up to 5.