Thursday, December 29, 2011

Apple Toffee Blondies

This Apple Toffee blondie was part of the “Christmas platter” entourage from a few days ago, but it needed its own post. It’s THAT good. 
So, this is how it went down…I had already planned out what I was making for my cookie gifts. (Keep in mind I kept adding recipes to the list after I’d already gone shopping) I finally cut myself off and made a pact that I wouldn’t add anything else. UNTIL I SAW A PICTURE OF THIS BLONDIE. (Thanks a lot Pinterest) It was love at first sight.

I threw caution to the wind. Ignored the fact that I might be overexerting myself by baking too many things in one day. I just HAD to make it and even more importantly, I HAD to taste it.

I was patting myself on the back when I bit into this “little piece of heaven” (direct quote from my pal Dan). This blondie is positively sinful. The combination of tart green apple and sweet crunchy toffee gives the brownie such a nice taste and texture. And the brown sugar frosting? It needs no explanation. I slightly changed up the original recipe a little bit by adding in Heath Bar toffee bits (covered in chocolate) and using a bit more apple and a tiny splash of apple cider and cinnamon.

Out of all the goodies I sent out to my friends and neighbors, this one got all the rave reviews!  But I have to confess more of these ended up in my tummy than in my Christmas platters. Don’t judge me. :)

Apple Toffee Blondies
(recipe adapted from Cookies and Cups)

2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cup Granny Smith apple (I used 3 small ones)
½ cup Heath Bar toffee bits (I bought mini Heath Bars and chopped them up into bits)
1 tsp of apple cider or juice (don’t use too much, the batter should be thick!)
Pinch of cinnamon

The How To
1. Preheat oven to 305 degrees. Spray a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray.

2. Cream butter and brown sugar in electric mixer until smooth.

3. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth.

4. On low speed, mix in flour, baking powder, salt, apple cider and cinnamon. Mix until combined.

5. Fold in the chopped apples and toffee bits until evenly distributed.

6. Spread into prepped pan and bake for 30 minutes until the center is set.

7. Cool completely before slicing or frosting.

Brown Sugar Frosting
½ cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in medium sized saucepan.  Add brown sugar and milk and bring it to a boil. Once boiled, remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in powdered sugar with a whisk. Let mixture cool so it becomes thick enough for frosting. Stir well before frosting the blondies. Spread over blondie and allow frosting to set for 30 minutes before cutting into them.

Voila! And Enjoy!
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Egg Nog Fudge

I know you all were probably expecting an Apple Toffee Blondie post, but I HAD to do this one first. I'm just THAT excited about.

Not sure how many of you will recall a few months back when I mentioned I had attempted a fudge recipe. Sadly, it never made it to the blog. I gave it my best TWICE to nail the Maple Pumpkin fudge and all I ended up with was a brick of fudge you couldn’t cut into followed by a glop of fudge that didn’t even harden. It was a culinary disaster. I felt defeated. SO defeated that I had put off trying another recipe for fear of massive failure.
Until Christmas Eve.

 I had some leftover eggnog from the cupcakes I did last week that I didn’t want to waste, so when I stumbled on this fudge recipe, I decided to put on my big girl panties and try again.

The result? Redemption!! Sweet Redemption!

Despite all my fears, this eggnog fudge was such a success.  It came out with the perfect texture and consistency. The melt in your mouth kind of creamy. Not to mention, it’s egg nog on CRACK. The stuff is so addictive because it’s full of the eggnog flavor without being overly sweet like fudge often can be.  Like I have said before, I’m not a huge fan of drinking eggnog, but baking with it really does bring out the best it has to offer.

The recipe is super simple and don’t skimp on the rum extract. It really reminds you of that old fashioned flavor eggnog has. I didn’t have a candy thermometer on hand (I broke mine IN the fudge I botched the first time) but I did use a digital screen thermometer to gauge the temp. It worked beautifully.  My dad, who happens to be a very good fudge maker, advised once it starts to boil, wait about 5 minutes, while stirring constantly, and it should be ready. Good advice, Pops.

Eggnog Fudge
(recipe from Brown Eyed Baker)

2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup eggnog
Pinch of salt
10½ ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus a little more for dusting the top of the fudge
One 7-ounce jar marshmallow crème (not fluff, CRÈME!)
1 teaspoon rum extract

The How To:

1. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper and let it hang over the side; set aside. (I didn’t have parchment paper on hand, so I sprayed the pan with nonstick spray. It still turned out well!)

2. In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, eggnog and salt over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 8 to 10 minutes, until a candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat. (I didn’t boil 8 to 10 minutes. I let it boil for about 5-6 minutes while I was stirring and then checked the temp with a digital thermometer. It was done in about 6 minutes or so. This could vary depending on your stove top.)

3. Using a wooden spoon, work quickly to stir in chopped white chocolate and nutmeg until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in marshmallow crème and rum extract. Beat until well blended and then pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle a little ground nutmeg on top. Let stand at room temperature until cooled, then refrigerate overnight until firm.

4. When completely cool, cut into squares. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Makes about 64 pieces, depending on how generous you are with cutting. J

I am SO proud of this fudge! Wooo!

I can officially say I will no longer be afraid to make fudge. This opens up a huge door of possibilities. Anyone have some great fudge recipes they’d like to share?
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Friday, December 23, 2011

A Tempting Trio: Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies, Egg Nog Cookies and Peanut Butter Blossoms

A plate of extreme yumminess.
I cannot believe it will be Christmas in FOUR DAYS. The holidays have totally crept up on me and I’m definitely NOT prepared. I will be that girl on Christmas Eve, scrambling to get the rest of her shopping done. Why I torture myself yearly with this ritual is beyond me.

I may be behind on my shopping, but I never get behind on my baking. I was especially excited for Christmas this year because I knew I wanted to do something special. I remember when I was little our neighbors would always bring over baskets filled with homemade goodies. I looked forward to this every year. (I told you, I’ve been a sugar addict ALL my life.)  Popcorn, cakes, cookies and fudge. You name it, it was on the plate. In honor of that fond memory I wanted to start my own tradition by doing it for my neighbors and loved ones.

Only one slight problem. My brain was overwhelmed with ideas and recipes I thought I’d never be able to narrow it down. I’d pick up all the stuff for one recipe and be in the grocery store the next day picking up more crap.  Before I knew it, I had 10 things I wanted to bust out in one baking day. Insane, I know.

I was however, able to cut myself off to a reasonable number and ended up with a baking roster anyone would be proud of.

Here was my line up…

·        Mint Chocolate Chip cookies  (click here for recipe, I have made these before!)

·        Peanut Butter Blossoms

·        Egg Nog cookies

·        Chocolate Chip M&M cookies

·        White Chocolate Pretzel Treats

·        Apple Toffee Blondies (you will have to wait for my next post for this recipe!)

I'm a baking MACHINE.

My goal for this mission was to create easy, yummy treats that would remind people of the holidays. Nothing too fancy, just some lovin’ from my oven. I spent about 9 hours total in the kitchen this past Saturday and I had an absolute ball! I was a hot mess by the time it was over. Covered in flour, chocolate and food coloring! But the end result was so worth it. I came out with a wonderful plate of love that I was so eager to deliver to my friends. And I’m sure I can safely say they were happy when I showed up on their doorsteps J

Today I’m sharing the recipes for 3 of the cookies I made. Super simple and delicious! My two favorite things about a cookie recipe!

Stacy's yummy pretzel treats.

You will be able to find the pretzel recipe on Stacy's blog, Delightful Dish. She has been making these for years and I owe her a million times over for letting me borrow the idea. The mint cookie is feature on a previous post, and the Apple Toffee Blondie? Well, you will just have to wait for that one. And trust me, it’s worth it. These things are little bars of HEAVEN.

Click on "more" to get my recipes! :)
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Monday, December 19, 2011

EggNog Cupcakes

 i wish i had one of these RIGHT now.

Did anyone ever mention that a baking addiction makes you gain weight? ! I’m shocked to report it does (Note sarcasm here.)

In an attempt to make my new fitness goals successful (drop 10 pounds of “sugar” weight), I made a vow at the beginning of this month to lay off baking until Christmas Eve. I failed miserably and lasted 12 days. Hey, it’s better than nothing. In my defense, the ingredient I used for this recipe just couldn’t be resisted, especially since it’s only in the grocery stores once a year. Carpe Diem ladies and gentlemen!

Eggnog! Love it or hate it, it’s a Christmas staple. My dad has a deep and personal relationship with the stuff. I’m not partial to it, but it IS super fun to bake with!
I recently scored my first mini muffin pan and decided to make these cupcakes in the miniature version. Holy Cupcake, Batman! These little guys were so quick to make. I was able to bust out like 50 mini cupcakes in 15 minutes! I will definitely be using the mini tin more often! (I also did a few in the larger size with some batter I had leftover.)

how cute are these little bubs?! :)

There isn’t much to say about these holiday treats, except they are so tasty and full of eggnog flavor. They were also demolished in hours. The cake is light and airy with hints of spice. The eggnog frosting was just as sumptuous. I topped them off with a little ground nutmeg for aesthetics, but a cinnamon stick would look quite fancy too!

This is perfect cupcake for the eggnog lover in your life. Here’s how to make them…
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Brie and Pear Tart

I have to confess I spent over 7 hours in the kitchen during the Thanksgiving holiday, whipping up sweets I hoped would impress my family.  I ended up with 3 delightful delicacies I was quite proud of. You’ve already seen the first two from my previous posts, so with the last recipe I wanted to make something more savory. I opted for a Brie and Pear Tart that was quite the showstopper. Not only was the tart yummy, dancing on the lines of being sweet AND savory, it was so beautiful to look at. I don’t think I’ve ever made something so pretty that I didn’t want to cut into it!

 I am a huge believer that anything tastes better with cheese. And Brie just happens to be one of my all-time favorite cheeses. This pairing of pear and brie was harmonious. The brie was bright and creamy and had a slight nutty flavor; I could have eaten it in chunks. What makes this recipe so great is it’s quite simple. With a small amount of effort, you end up with this luxurious looking pastry that will assure to turn heads. This would be a beautiful first course or appetizer to share at your Christmas table!

nom. nom. nom.

Read on to see what you will need...

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

White Chocolate Cranberry Cupcakes

I wanted to share another treat I made Thanksgiving weekend. This cupcake would also make a great holiday gift for friends, co-workers and neighbors. I especially love this combination of white chocolate and cranberry. Having some tart from the cran mixed with the sweetness of the white chocolate hit a home run for me. My brother doesn't even LIKE cranberry and he ate them. Trust me, this speaks volumes about the yumminess of this cupcake.

I used fresh cranberries for the recipe which really gave it amazing flavor. Throwing in some orange juice and zest gave it a little more zing. I topped the cake with a white chocolate orange frosting that was so heavenly I could have skipped the cake altogether. (Not really, but it was delicious!)

I don't know how often Cranberry Sauce makes it to the Christmas table in your household, but this would be a great replacement! I couldn't be happier with how these turned out and the flavor I was able to achieve.

see those cranberries peeping out of the cake? they are amazeballs!

White Chocolate Cranberry Cupcakes

6 (1 ounce each) squares white baking chocolate  (I used Ghiradelli)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (if you can't find fresh, don't be afraid to use dried)

The How To:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake tins with liners.

2. Chop 6 of the chocolate squares and set aside.

3. Beat butter and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.

4. Add eggs, orange zest and 3 tablespoons of the orange juice; mix well.

5. Add flour and baking powder; beat until well blended.

6. Fold in chopped chocolate and the cranberries. (you don't need to chop up the cranberries)

7. Bake approximately 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes to wire rack. Cool completely.

White Chocolate Orange Frosting

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 (1 ounce each) squares white baking chocolate, melted
3 tablespoons orange juice
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Mix in white chocolate. Mix in orange juice and powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Pipe or smear onto cupcakes.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

The holidays are just around the corner! Don’t you just love this time of year? Grumpy people seem to be happier. The weather is crisp and cool. Cheery decorations are everywhere you look. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of my favorite seasons. So in the spirit of Christmas I wanted to share an addicting cookie recipe that makes a great holiday treat that you could easily gift as well!

I was so eager to make these Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies when I stumbled upon the recipe on Pinterest (most amazing website ever, it’s a baker’s dream!) that I couldn’t wait until Christmas, so I made them for Thanksgiving.  Mr. Sugarcoated teased me a little for this because he said the color of the cookies reminded him of Christmas and NOT Turkey Day.  I ignored him and my family was very appreciative that I did. They LOVED these cookies.  The fusion of mint and chocolate into a tasty sugar cookie is a masterpiece. Plus they are GREEN!(I’m a sucker for colored baked goods)  The recipe is super easy to follow and it makes a ton of them so you could easily bag them up in some cute holiday wrap and send them over to your neighbors! Genius, right?  You should hop on this gravy train, people.

Here’s how to make them...

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

(recipe from Betty Crocker)

1 pouch Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix (you can do a cookie from scratch, but they are so easy this way)

½ cup butter or margarine, softened

½ teaspoon mint extract

6 to 8 drops of green food coloring

1 egg

1 cup Andes mints

1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks

The How To:

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, mint extract, food coloring and egg until soft dough forms.

2. Stir in Andes mints and chocolate chunks.

3. Using a small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool 3 minutes and remove from cookie sheet. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

yeah, they're in a christmas bowl. i got excited.

See? Pretty darn easy right? Since the cookie isn’t from scratch, this semi-homemade recipe is super easy for all the novice bakers out there. You can’t mess this one up and your family and friends will just die over these goodies. Happy Holidays! J
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