Finnish Pins

Today I’m making my dad’s favorite cookie, Finnish Pins. This buttery cookie dough is similar to shortbread, but has an almond flavor and is topped with chopped almonds and pearl sugar.

If you’ve never had pearl sugar before, I strongly recommend you give it a try. It’s quite popular in Scandanavian baking and will add another level of texture to your everyday baked goods. I like pearl sugar because it doesn’t dissolve quickly when exposed to heat or moisture. You get a sweet, crunchy texture when you top these cookies with pearl sugar.

If you don’t live near Ikea or other specialty food stores, you may have to look online. Your local supermarket probably doesn’t carry this sugar. The star of the Finnish Pins is the pearl sugar, so plan ahead for this one. You can use festive sprinkles in a pinch, but you won’t get the same result.

This dough is rolled out into a log shape, cut into pieces then coated with a beaten egg. The egg coating serves a dual purpose. First, it helps the pearl sugar and chopped almonds stick to the cookie. Second, it makes your cookies perfectly golden brown during the baking process.

Butter Late Than Never

My mom and mormor used margarine in this recipe and they turned out just fine, but I prefer butter. If I’m going to splurge on baked goods, I want it to be better than just fine. Besides, you just don’t get the same texture from margarine as you do butter.

The butter needs to be fairly soft to be able to work the dough. But the butter also needs to be cold to obtain the maximum amount of crumbliness during baking. So, once you have all of your Finnish Pins dough rolled out and your pieces formed and topped, stick the tray of cookies in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before baking.

This recipe makes about 200 cookies, so it takes a while to make them. I like to roll out all the dough, form the shapes, then freeze the dough pieces in batches of 50. This way you can just bake a tray of cookies whenever you want them without having to do all the work each time.

If you choose to freeze the dough, save the egg coating and topping for when you’re ready to bake the cookies. The pearl sugar is a sturdy sugar, but will hold up better if you wait to do the topping until the cookies are ready to go in the oven. Also, be sure to wrap the cookie pieces in parchment or wax paper before sealing in a freezer storage bag.

Finnish Pins

A buttery cookie topped with pearl sugar and almond.

Course Cookies
Keyword butter
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 200
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

For The Cookie Dough

  • 4 cups flour divided
  • 2 cups butter room temparature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp almond extract

For The Topping

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup pearl sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds

Instructions

For The Cookie Dough

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F

  2. Beat the butter, sugar and almond extract until well blended. Gradually add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is thick and somewhat tacky. (Reserve at least 1/2 cup flour for sprinkling on your work surface. The tackiness will be gone after rolling out the dough in the flour)

    Finnish Pins dough
  3. Lightly sprinkle a few pinches of flour over your work surface. 

    Finnish Pins floured work surface
  4. Using about 1/4 cup of the dough, form a ball. 

    Finnish Pins roll piece of dough into a ball
  5. Roll the ball of dough into a log shape. Carefully spread the length of the log as you go along until the log is roughly 12 inches long. 

    Finnish Pins roll dough into a log
  6. Cut the long log into pieces approximately 1 1/2 – 2 inches long. 

    Finnish Pins cut log into pieces
  7. Place each piece on a baking sheet lined with parchment. These cookies do not spread out to much, so you can fit a lot of cookies on one sheet.  

    Finnish Pins place small logs on baking tray

For The Topping

  1. Chop the almonds into very small pieces. I used almond slices because they are easier to make a finer chop.

    Finnish Pins chopped almonds
  2. Mix the chopped almonds and pearl sugar. 

    Finnish Pins pearl sugar and almonds
  3. Beat the egg. Using a pastry brush, dab the tops of each cookie with a coating of the egg. 

    Finnish Pins brush dough with egg
  4. Sprinkle the pearl sugar and almond mixture over the cookies. (If your dough is warm and very soft, refrigerate the dough for 15-20 minutes, You’ll get a crumbly, dense texture. 

    Finnish Pins sprinkle topping
  5. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown.

    Finnish Pins

Do you have a favorite ingredient that is not easy to find so you have to plan ahead for? Tell me about it in the comments below. Also, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest by clicking on the link provided.

Cardamom Buns

I grew up in a household with a Swedish mother and Swedish grandmother. These Cardamom Buns were a treat they frequently served with coffee or tea. They’re not the gooey type of buns with frosting found in those franchises at the mall. Although, there is a time and place for those as well, today we’re making Cardamom Buns or what my family always called “Mormor’s Buns”.

Cardamom Buns and saffron bread
Cardamom Buns amd saffron bread 2

Keeping It In The Family

Mormor is Swedish for my mother’s mother. I like the Swedish names for grandparents.. There are different names for each of the grandparents. In the US your mother’s mother and your father’s mother are both called grandmother which doesn’t distinguish whether it’s maternal or paternal. So, you have to clarify when needed. My mother’s father in Swedish is Morfar. If my father was Swedish, his parents would be Farmor (grandmother) and Farfar (grandfather)

I have a few regrets since the passing of my mormor many years ago and the recent passing of my mother. I wish I learned more of their native language and I wish I made sure I had all of our favorite recipes preserved. After my mormor’s passing, my mother and I spent a couple years trying to figure out her recipes. Some of the recipes were just a matter of converting metric to US measurements. Some, however, were a bit more complicated.

These Aren’t Your Grandmother’s Synonym Buns…or rolls or pastry or danish.

My mormor had a favorite handmade teacup that she used for measuring. She also sipped her tea or other beverages out of it when she wasn’t baking. It held just the right amount of flour or sugar or whatever other ingredient she needed. But, it did not measure out equal to a standard US measuring cup. And, as far as we know, it wasn’t a standard metric measurement either. So, when her recipe called for a cup of flour or whatnot, it was a guessing game as to whether it was her tea”cup” or a standard cup.

We finally figured out most of the recipes. A few still need some tweaking. And some my mom knew how to make, but didn’t have a written recipe. I didn’t learn from my mistake after mormor’s passing and just assumed that my mother had the remaining recipes in her recipe book. I quickly realized that many of the things my mom made were from memory and didn’t rely on a recipe. Even though I watched my mom and my mormor make these buns often enough, I didn’t have it memorized. After several attempts, I think I finally got them right though. I hope you enjoy them.

Just A Small Piece of Advice In The New Year

Food plays a big role in many families and their traditions. So, while you try out this recipe, spend time with your family, make sure you have your treasured recipes clearly written down so that you can help keep your traditions alive. You’ll get to spend some fun quality time with those you love now while making sure you’ll be able to share memories with other loved ones later.

Cardamom Buns

A delicious cardomom and cinnamon pastry topped with pearl sugar and chopped almonds. Serves perfectly with coffee or tea. For breakfast or just a treat.

Course Pastry
Cuisine Swedish
Keyword cardamom
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Inactive time 1 hour
Total Time 38 minutes
Servings 32
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

For The Dough

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups butter melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 oz packets of yeast

For The Filling

  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 3 tsp cardamom
  • 3 medium apples peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup raisins

For The Topping

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pearl sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds optional

Instructions

For The Dough

  1. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the 3 sticks of butter.

    Cardamom Buns melted butter
  2. When the butter is completely melted, add the milk then remove from the heat. Use care to not allow the temperature of the liquid to get too hot. 

    Cardamom Buns melted butter with milk
  3. Add the sugar and cardamom to the butter and milk mixture. Stir until well-blended.

    Cardamom Buns butter and milk well blended
  4. Add the packets of yeast to a large mixing bowl. Test the temperature of the milk and butter mixture to ensure the temperature is not over 130F. Liquid that is too hot can kill the yeast. Ideal temperature of the liquid should be between 120-130F. (If the temperature is too warm, allow it to cool a bit prior to adding it to the yeast.)  Pour the warm liquid over the yeast.

    Cardamom Buns add butter and milk to yeast
  5. Add the salt, then gradually add the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time until you’ve added about 4 1/2 – 5 cups. The dough will still be considerably sticky, but should have some elasticity. That is okay. We’ll incorporate the rest of the flour when we’re kneading it later. 

  6. Leave the dough in the bowl and set in a warm location to rise for approximately 30 minutes or until is has almost doubled in size.

  7. Adding a towel to cover the bowl will help prevent the dough from drying out. 

  8. While waiting for the dough to rise, prepare the filling and topping as described in the directions at the end of the recipe..

  9. Once the dough has risen, generously flour your work surface.

  10. Turn your dough out of the bowl onto your floured work surface. Kneading the dough, incorporate the remaining flour. (Note: you may not need all of the remaining flour. Just add enough flour until it is no longer sticky.) Divide the dough into two equal sections.

  11. Roll out one section of dough into a rectangle leaving the dough approximately 1/3″ thick. (Roughly a rectangle approximately 13 inches by 20 inches.)

  12. Spread a few tablespoons of the room temperature butter over the surface of the dough then sprinkle half of the cardamom mixture over the butter.

  13. Next, sprinkle half of the raisins.

  14. Then, half of the apples (after draining off the liquid).

  15. Roll the sheet of dough into a log shape. Cut the log into 16 equal sections. Place each piece on a greased baking pan or pan line with parchment paper. I like to use paper or foil baking cups. 

  16. Set aside and cover in a warm location to rise again for approximately 15-20 minutes. Repeat the process with the other section of dough.

  17. Preheat oven to 425 F.

  18. Once the buns have risen again, brush the tops of each bun with the egg then sprinkle the pearl sugar and almond mixture. 

  19. Bake at 425 F for 8-10 minutes or until brown.

For The Filling

  1. Peel, core then dice the apples.

  2. Set the apples aside in a bowl. Cover the apples with water and a splash of lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. 

  3. Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and cardamom.

For The Topping

  1. Beat one egg.

  2. Chop the almonds, if desired.

  3. Mix the almonds with the pearl sugar.

Do you have any recipes that were lost with a loved one? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Also, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram so you don’t miss other great recipes.

Beef Stew Comfort Food For A Gloomy Day

Happy New Year. Welcome to 2019. The first day of a new year. A time for a fresh start. Beef Stew is on the menu today. Some of my readers have noticed that I haven’t been posting much lately. As you may recall, my mother was quite ill over the summer. I’m sad to report that she passed away just before Christmas. So, I thought I’d like to honor her memory and share some of my favorite dishes that she made. I awoke to snow, rain and wind this morning. It’s an overall gloomy, humdrum of a day, so it’s a perfect day for one of my favorite comfort foods.

Mother like Daughter…not exactly

My mother made the most excellent beef stew and her gravy was always perfect. It was never lumpy and always had the ideal consistency. I’ve never quite mastered gravy. It’s usually too thick or more likely, too thin because I’m afraid of the gravy becoming too thick, so I undercompensate with the flour or corn starch.

One thing I never quite understood was why she cooked all the components of the stew separately and then mixed them together. It always seemed like a lot of extra work and a lot more pots and pans to wash. Since I’ve been attempting to duplicate her stew, I’ve tried various methods. I’m not a fan of cooking in the crock pot, but in the case of stew, it does seem rather obvious that would be the easiest process.

Trials and errors…many errors

I’ve attempted to just throw all the ingredients in the crock pot, but after 8 hours the potatoes and carrots weren’t fully cooked. Plus, I didn’t like the texture of the beef…it was still quite tough. And the gravy was way too thin.

On the second attempt, I seared the beef before adding the meat to the crock pot and upped the slow cooking time to 12 hours. To my dismay, the carrots and potatoes still were undercooked. However, the meat was much more tender and we’re on our way to a win on the gravy.

Well, I was determined, and on my third try, I started it the night before and let the crock pot go for 16 hours. Finally, it turned out pretty good, but I came to realization that it is really quite ridiculous to cook anything for 16 hours. 16 hours…No wonder my mom didn’t like using the crock pot. I eventually chalked it up to the crock pot not working at its peak performance and thought I would buy a new one before I experimented again.

Some Christmas Wishes Do Come True

I have a very generous friend who always gives the best gifts. She is thoughtful and apparently remembers everything you tell her. One day I mentioned in passing about my 16 hour beef stew and we had a little laugh over it. Well, wouldn’t you know, she got me a crock pot for Christmas. It really made my day and my next experiment of beef stew only took 5 hours in the crock pot.

I may be starting to warm up to the idea of experimenting with other recipes in the crock pot. Stay tuned.

Beef Stew

This comfort food has onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, stew beef and gravy. Chop the vegetables to your desired size. The smaller the chop of celery and onions, the more likely they’ll cook away. If you like a heartier stew, leave the pieces large. Either way, they’ll add a wonderful flavor to your stew.

Course Dinner
Keyword Stew
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Cooling time 1 hour
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds stew beef
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 medium onion chopped to desired size
  • 1 cup celery chopped to desired size
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • 5 large potatoes chopped to bite size pieces
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. Season the stew beef with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

    Beef Stew seasoned beef
  2. Chop the onion to desired size and layer on the bottom of the crock pot. (The order of the vegetables doesn’t really matter, but the vegetables should be at the bottom and the meat should be on top.) 

    Beef Stew onions
  3. Chop the celery to desired size and layer over the onions.

    Beef Stew celery
  4. Add the baby carrots.

    Beef Stew carrots
  5. Chop the potatoes to bite size pieces and add a layer to cover the carrots. You may need more than 5 potatoes depending on size.

    Beef Stew potatoes
  6. In a skillet, over high heat, melt the better and add the olive oil.

    Beef Stew prepared pan with oil and butter
  7. Add small amounts of the stew beef to the hot skillet, turn the pieces to sear each side. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan with the beef otherwise you’ll steam the beef instead of sear it. Searing the beef will lock in the juices and help the meat become tender during the slow cooking process.

    Beef Stew searing beef
  8. Remove the seared beef from the pan and set aside.

    Beef Stew seared beef
  9. Add a cup of the beef broth to the skillet to deglaze the juices and random pieces of beef from the pan. Pour the juices and broth over the vegetables in the crock pot.

    Beef Stew deglaze pan and add to crock pot
  10. Add one cup of flour to the seared stew beef.

    Beef Stew added flour to beef
  11. Stir the beef until each piece is well-coated with flour. The flour will thicken the broth while it cooks. 

    Beef Stew beef coated with flour
  12. Add the flour-coated beef to the crock pot. 

    Beef Stew beef coated with flour added to crock pot
  13. Add the remaining beef broth to the crock pot.

    Beef Stew added beef broth
  14. Be sure to cover all the ingredients in the crock pot. Add the Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Resist the urge to stir the pot. It’s best to keep the vegetables at the bottom of the crock pot where it will be the hottest.

    Beef Stew added beef broth to cover all ingredients
  15. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours . Turn off approximately 1 hour prior to serving. The stew will remain hot, but the gravy will continue to thicken. Stir prior to serving. (Cooking times may vary depending on manufacturer make and model.) 

    Beef Stew cook on high

What’s your favorite kitchen gadget or appliance that you got for Christmas? Tell me in the comments below and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest by clicking on the links provided.

Svenska Pepparkakor Swedish Spice Cookies

Today I’ll be sharing Svenska Pepparkakor, which are Swedish spice cookies. My Mormor (Swedish for grandmother on my mother’s side) used to make a full batch of these delightful cookies at Christmastime. The recipe I’m sharing with you is only a quarter of her recipe, but rest assured, if you roll out the dough thin enough, you’ll still get about 300 cookies from this recipe. With all the other cookies I make, I don’t usually need more than that for my holiday sharing, but this recipe can be easily doubled, or more, if you like.

She used to make a huge batch so she could share them with her neighbors, Bingo buddies, friends, and, of course, family. These cookies are best made a week or so in advance of when you’ll need them. The spices will have more time to mingle and you’ll find a much stronger flavor than when they are fresh out of the oven. She would allow my brother and I to sneak a sample while she was baking them, but then they were put away until just before Christmas. Keep these Swedish Spice Cookies stored in an airtight container and they’ll stay perfectly fresh and delicious for a couple months. They’ll probably be long gone before they get stale anyway, but, if you find that you have too many to eat, wrap them up in freezer bags then store them in the freezer for up to a few months more.

The dough for these cookies is very easy to make, the only tricky part is rolling out the dough thin enough. To be made correctly, it needs to be almost paper thin so that the cookies get crispy. Be sure to sprinkle enough flour on your work surface so that your dough won’t stick and you’ll need to be mindful of the thickness of your rolled out dough so that your cookies bake consistently and you get an even crispness of each cookie. Roll the dough too thick and the cookies will turn out soft instead.

These cookies can be decorated with your favorite cookie icing, but they have so much flavor it’s not really needed. Besides the icing will soften the cookie. So instead, try sprinkling some pearl sugar on them to give them an added layer of crunch and decoration.

Svenska Pepparkakor (Swedish Spice Cookies)

A delightful thin, crispy spice cookie. A nice difference from gingerbread.

Course Cookies
Cuisine Swedish
Keyword Spice
Servings 300 cookies
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dark Karo syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 12 tbsp butter
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp orange peel
  • 4-5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda

Instructions

  1. In a small sauce pan, boil syrup, sugar, cream, butter and spices until thoroughly blended. Set aside to cool to room temperature. 

    Pepparkakor mixture
  2. In a separate bowl, combine baking soda and flour. (Do not sift the flour.)

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  4. Gradually add the flour to the syrup mixture. 

    Pepparkakor add flour
  5. Continue adding the flour and stirring until well blended. When the mixture becomes to hard to stir, you’ll need to continue adding the flour by kneading it into the dough until it is fully incorporated.

    Pepparkakor add flour 2
  6. You may not need all of the flour, and depending on the climate, you may need extra. Just add the flour until the dough is firm and no longer sticky. Keep in mind that while you are rolling out the dough, your dough will acquire more flour that is picked up from your work surface. With your hands, shape the dough into a smooth ball until it has a glossy shine. 

    Pepparkakor dough
  7. Let the dough rest while you prepare the cookie sheets. Make sure cookie sheets are clean and free of crumbs. I use parchment paper so that I don’t get crumbs on the next batch of cookies. 

  8. Lightly flour your work surface. 

    Pepparkakor floured surface
  9. Using a knife, cut about 1/8 of a slice from the ball of dough.
    Pepparkakor dough divided
  10. Form the slice into a smaller ball of dough and flatten on your work surface.

    Pepparkakor dough ready to roll out
  11. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until very thin. It should almost be see through. Notice the picture, you can almost see the work surface through the dough. 

    Pepparkakor dough rolled out
  12. Using your desired cookie cutters, cut the shapes in the dough. 

    Pepparkakor shapes
  13. Remove the shapes with a thin, metal spatula and place on the cookie sheet. Save the scraps to add back into the next section of dough you cut out. 

    Pepparkakor shapes 2
  14. These cookies do not spread much, so you don’t need to leave a lot of space between them. 

    Pepparkakor shapes ready for oven
  15. Bake for 4 minutes. (These cookies burn very quickly. If you have rolled them out as thin as possible, they could be ready in as little as 3 minutes. If they aren’t very thin, it could take as long as 8 minutes.) Once they start getting a toasty color around the edges, remove them from the oven. Allow them to cool on the sheet for a few minutes before removing them from the sheet. You may notice the cookies seem a little soft. They’ll continue to cook on the hot cookie sheet. While they’re cooling down, they’ll start to get crispier. 

  16. Continue until you’ve used up all the dough. 

  17. Store in an air tight container or cookie tin.

    Pepparkakor

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What are your favorite holiday treats? Let me know in the comments below. 

Double-Sided Caucus Sugar Cookies

Halloween fun time is over for another year. Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, so in meantime we can celebrate Election Day. As we do our civic duty to shape the country, the state or local government, I’ll show you how to make these fun-shaped Caucus Sugar Cookies for your election night results viewing parties. Does everyone do that with their friends? Or is it just me?

These fun-shaped sugar cookies are double the fun, because they are double sided. One side has your favorite political party. The other side has your state or the United States. Fun, right? Is it still just me? Well, these cookies get my vote, I hope they’ll get your vote, too. 

They’re made by layering pieces of dough. The bottom layer will be of plain dough, with a shape cut out. Then you insert the same shape that has been cut out from another piece of dough of the desired color. Then repeat with the top layer. Then lightly press around the surface of the cookie to make sure the pieces stick together. Be careful not to press too hard, so you don’t alter the shapes.

TIPS FOR A MORE PERFECT UNION

These cookies take patience and involves quite a bit of inactive time. This particular sugar cookie dough rolls out easier at room temperature, but it is best to work cutting out the shapes and layering the dough while it is very cold. Likewise, baking the cookies while very cold gives the cookies a perfect flaky, yet chewy texture with slightly crisp edges. So, once you’ve assembled the cookies, they’ll need to go back into the fridge. 30 minutes to one hour between steps should do the trick.

It’s more efficient to roll out the dough into a square to optimize the amount of shapes you can cut out of each piece of dough. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time making the dough into a square. So, a little trick I use is to make a lightly indented cross in the dough with the rolling pin. Then starting diagonally, from the center, roll out towards the corner. Then repeat for all four corners. Apply light pressure, spread the dough further with each roll of the pin. 

mark the dough with a cross
mark the dough with a cross

I like to roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper. This trick keeps the dough and food coloring from sticking to your work surface and rolling pin. It’s also easier to stack and store your various dough colors until you’re ready for them. Especially if you’re limited on work and storage space, as I am.

Once you’ve cut out the shapes, you’ll have quite a bit of scraps. Just gather up the scraps of like colors, knead the dough, roll it back out, cut more shapes then make more cookies. Just make sure you flip the cookie cutter or dough so the shapes are facing the right way on each side of the cookie. Then, when you’re down to the last of your dough, just cut out the shapes and bake them 

This process works well for any shaped cookies you want to do. Just be sure to measure out your pieces of dough big enough to fit your largest cookie cutter. Since you’ll be layering the pieces, you’ll want all the pieces the same size. Otherwise you get an imperfect pattern on your cookie.

When layering the pieces of dough, be sure to match up the shape rather than the full pieces of dough. You’ll trim the excess dough and neaten up the edges once they’re lined up, so you need not worry about the pieces being even. Be careful when trimming the edges paying close attention to the bottom shape. If the state is on the bottom, you don’t want to inadvertently secede part of the state to the scrap pile. 

sugar cookie assembly line up the shapes
sugar cookie assembly line up the shapes
sugar cookie assembly flip side of cookie
sugar cookie assembly flip side of cookie

As you can see, the donkey cookie cutter is about twice the size of the others, so there will be some very large cookies in the batch. Maybe the lucky individual who gets this big cookie can share half of the cookie with someone who doesn’t have a cookie.

 

Sample of double sided sugar cookies

Double Sided Caucus Sugar Cookies

These cookies are easy to make, can be made ahead of time and frozen or baked fresh the same day. The layering of the dough gives you a cookie with a shape on each side. 

Course Dessert
Keyword Cookies
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Inactive time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

  • 5 cups flour divided
  • 3 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups butter softened to room temp
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp almond extract or other desired flavor
  • food coloring desired colors
  • sprinkles for decorating if desired

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, add the extracts, then add the eggs on at a time.

  2. On low speed, gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Keep on low speed until all the sugar is added so you don’t get a cloud of sugary powder all over your kitchen. Then increase the speed until the sugar is fully incorporated.

    sugar cookie dough
  3. Reduce to low speed and add the salt then gradually add the flour (for the same reason noted above) until the dough starts to form. You may not need all 5 cups of the flour. The dough should be firm enough to form into a ball without crumbling, yet shouldn’t be so sticky that it sticks to your hand. I prefer to hand mix the flour after adding about 3 cups of the flour so I can get a feel for the texture of the dough. Empty the bowl of dough onto a clean, dry, lightly floured work space. Gradually add more flour by kneading the dough, until the dough is a texture that can be formed (like Play Doh). Reserve remaining flour to sprinkle onto the dough as needed while rolling and assembling the cookies. (I usually have a little flour left over when done.)

    sugar cookie dough texture
  4. Form the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into portions as determined by how many colors you’ll be using. For this project, you’ll need more plain dough than the colored dough.

    sugar cookie dough divided
  5. Form one section of dough into a ball and poke an indentation into the dough. Then add the food coloring. (I prefer the gel food coloring.) Adding just a little goes a long way. Be careful not to add too much. You can always add a little more if it’s not enough, but can’t remove it if it’s too much. 

    sugar cookie dough adding food coloring
  6. Knead the dough until the food coloring is well incorporated. Then place between two sheets of wax paper. Roll out into a thin layer (approximately 1/8 of an inch). The layer should be thinner than a usual cut out cookie dough since we’ll be layering the dough. Refrigerate the dough until needed. Since the dough is so thin, it is much easier to handle if it is very cold.

    green sugar cookie dough
  7. Repeat this process with each color of dough and the plain dough. Remember to refrigerate each section of dough for at least 30 minutes once it is rolled out.

    sugar cookie dough rolled thin
  8. IF YOU’RE MAKING A LOT OF THE SAME SHAPE COOKIE: When the dough is cold enough to handle without it being limp, remove the top layer of wax paper. Cut out your first desired shape. Leaving at least one inch between your shapes so you’ll have enough dough to cut out the square pieces later. Add the cut out shape to a “scrap” pile to roll out later. 

    sugar cookie dough with shapes cut out
  9. IF YOU’RE MAKING A VARIETY OF SHAPES: Cut your refrigerated dough into square or rectangle pieces large enough to fit your largest cookie cutter. Then cut the desired shape out of each piece. 

    sugar cookie dough squares 2
  10. Cut the same shape of the desired colored dough then insert the shape into the whole cut out of the plain dough. If the dough doesn’t fit exactly, you can easily press the dough into the shape or stretch it to fit. Hint: If you are making a lot of a particular cookie, you can layer the sheet of the plain dough (with the shapes already cut out) over a layer of the desired colored dough. 

  11. Repeat this process with your desired flip side of the cookie shapes. Cut your dough into squares around your filled in shapes. Remember to flip the dough so your shape is facing the right way after assembling the cookie.  (Note: In this picture, the top side of the cookie is the elephant and the bottom of the cookie is the State of Maine. So in order for the State of Maine to be facing the correct way after assembly, it needs to be facing backwards in this step.)

    sugar cookie assembly
  12. Line up the shape in piece of dough that will be the top of the cookie over the shape of the bottom piece of dough. Some of the plain dough may be hanging over, but that will get trimmed in the next step. It’s important that the shapes be lined up so that portions of the shapes don’t get trimmed off.

    sugar cookie assembly line up the shapes
  13. Trim the uneven edges of the cookie paying close attention to the bottom cookie so that you don’t accidently cut off part of the state. Lightly press the two pieces together so they stick together without applying too much pressure to change the shapes.

    sugar cookie trim the edges 2
  14. Trim the corners of the cookie if you want a more round-ish cookie. Or you can leave them square if you prefer. Don’t worry if the shape has a flaw in the dough, it will bake out. But if you find you have a hole in the shape, you can lightly pack a small piece of the same color dough to fix it. 

    sugar cookie assembly rounded edges 2
  15. If they are assembled and trimmed correctly, you’ll have a double-sided cookie with a different shape visible on each side. Gather up any scraps of the same color, roll it out then make more cookies. Repeat until you’ve used up all the dough. If you don’t have enough dough remaining to do the double sided cookies, just make single shape cut outs until you use up all the dough.

    sugar cookie assembly flip side of cookie
  16. Refrigerate the assembled cookies for at least 30 minutes. 

  17. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. 

  18. When laying out the assembled cookies in preparation for baking, decide ahead of time which cookie you want to look prettier. The bottom side will have baked markings, but your shape will hold during the process.

  19. Leave the assembled cookies in the fridge until they are ready to go in the oven.
  20. Bake 5-12 minutes. 5 minutes for a single cut out cookie. 5-10 for medium sized (3 or 4 inch) double sided cookies. 10-12 minutes for the large double sided cookies (5 inches or larger). It’s best to keep an eye on them starting at 5 minutes. When the edges are slightly golden brown but the center still looks a little soft, they are done. 

    baked sugar cookies 2

How do you spend Election Day? Do you think you’ll try these for cookies for Election Day or another occasion? Let me know in the comments below. For more fun recipes, don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Caramel Apple Brownie Crisps

How do you like them apples?

Everywhere I look this time of year is pumpkin-spice-this and pumpkin-spice-that. Although I am a sucker for the delicious seasonal trend, I must admit that I am a bigger fan of everything apple. Apple pie, baked apples, apple crisp, caramel apples, apple stuffing and pork chops. These Caramel Apple Brownie Crisps, however, are a perfect pairing of chocolate, caramel and apples and will surely be a hit at any Autumnal event. 

I may have mentioned a time or two before that I love brownies and cookies. This recipe is like a combination cookie and brownie. It’s the best of both of the baked confections worlds. It’s crispy, yet soft and chewy, and depending on whether or not you like toppings, there are many possibilities. You can eat them without a topping, but with so many options, why would you? The crisps go great with a ganache, peanut butter frosting, icing, or glazes. 

This Treat Does the Trick Everytime

This caramel apple sauce topping, by the way, is excellent on cheesecake or vanilla ice cream, too. I love this caramel apple sauce so much, I could eat it by the spoonful. I won’t do that though. Because I’m a grown up and need to exercise a little self control. Besides, today, it’s going on the brownie crisps that I cut into fun Halloween shapes. ‘Tis the season and all, so what’s better for a Halloween gathering than Caramel Apple…Brownie Crisps?

Caramel Apple Brownie Crisps

Caramel apple is a perfect flavor for the season. These brownie-like cookie crisps are excellent with the caramel apple sauce or can be enjoyed without the topping.

Course Dessert
Keyword Brownies
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

For the Brownie Crisps

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 2 extra large egg whites
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

For the Caramel Apple Sauce and Topping

  • 3 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced I use Ida Red
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vanilla Crown Royal optional
  • 3 tbsp butter divided
  • 1/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Seasonal sprinkles or candy toppings

Instructions

For the Brownie Crisps

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees then line two 11 1/2 X 15 1/2  X 1 with parchment paper.

    Brownie crisp ingredients2
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter then gradually add the chocolate chips. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Add the vanilla and allow to cool while you prepare the next steps.

    Melted chocolate
  3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.

    Flour and cocoa
  4. In a large bowl, separate the egg whites from two of the eggs and add two whole eggs. Beat until the egg yolks and whites are well incorporated then slowly add the sugar and beat until frothy. 

    Separated eggs
  5. Add the chocolate and vanilla mixture to the egg mixture. Then gradually add the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix. Just stir until the flour is incorporated. 

    Eggs and sugar
  6. Divide the batter between two parchment-lined baking sheets then spread the batter out to the edges. 

    Brownie batter spread out
  7. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. The batter will be almost set, but still very soft. Cut the brownie into squares of desired size or use cookie cutters for fun shapes. Don’t separate the shapes. Cutting the shapes before the brownie is done baking will give each piece a crispy edge. Return to the oven to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes watching closely so not to burn them.

    Partially baked dough with shapes
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before separating the pieces. (If you’re using a cookie cutter, you will have miscellaneous pieces of various sizes and shapes…use them as a topping, save them for nibbling or pulse them into crumbs in a food processor and save for use in a pie crust another time.)

For the Caramel Apple Sauce Topping

  1. In a medium saucepan bring apple cider, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to a boil. 

  2. Add 1 tbsp. of the butter to the boiling mixture. Once the butter has melted, reduce heat, add the apples and Vanilla Crown Royal, if desired, then simmer until the apples are tender. (Approx. 10 minutes.)

    Apple caramel sauce
  3. Remove the apples from the liquid and reserve for another use.

  4. Return the liquid to a boil then add the remaining 2 tbsps. of butter and Vanilla Greek yogurt. Stir until well incorporated.

  5. In a small bowl, add the cornstarch and about a 1/2 cup of the boiling cider liquid. Whisk until smooth then gradually add the mixture to the cider and whisking constantly so not to burn the sauce. Whisk until thick and smooth. Set aside to allow to cool before topping the brownie crisps.

  6. Spread a small amount of the sauce onto the smooth side (bottom) of the crisps. Top with sprinkles, crisp crumbs or candies of your choice.

    Apple Caramel Brownie Crisps

Let me know what you think in the comments below and be sure to not miss a single recipe by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

The Ultimate Comfort Food – Beginning With Mirepoix

Do you know what I like about mirepoix (pronounced meer pwa)? Besides the fact that it is fun to say, it’s the basic foundation of many soups, stews and sauces. It’s commonly made up of aromatics such as carrots, celery and onions. I’m adding garlic and green bell peppers to the trio because I find it packs a lot more flavor. It’s the beginning of many layers of flavor I’ll be using today in my hearty homemade tomato sauce which then goes on to the star of the show, American Chop Suey.

Sweat or sauté

The idea of mirepoix is to sweat the vegetables over a low heat for about an hour in a small amount of fat. I like to use a little butter and extra virgin olive oil for an additional layer of flavor. You don’t necessarily want to sauté the veggies because that method cooks the product too quickly and you will get a much different flavor result. Sweating is similar to sautéing, however, at a much lower temperature and for a longer period of time. Sweating softens the veggies, releases water from them without browning. This will draw out their natural sweetness and will be helpful later when we add the tomatoes. The reward for your patience in the slow cooking of the veggies is that the sweetness from the mirepoix will neutralize some of the acid from the tomatoes.

There are many different combinations to make a mirepoix. The possibilities are endless. Most often you will see a basic mirepoix is 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery. That is an excellent starting point. However, you may want to experiment with the ratios to find different flavors that suit your tastes. I find I like more carrots than onions and that is what I use in this recipe.

As I mentioned, mirepoix is found in many foods. I like to make a big batch of it so I can have it on hand for a quick soup or stew. Depending on the dish you’re making, you might even consider adding some bacon to the mixture for additional flavor. Likewise, ginger adds a lot of flavor and goes well if you use a mirepoix when making a stir fry. For other recipes, which I will share another time, I use different combinations.

The. Ultimate. Comfort. Food.

For now though, get ready for American Chop Suey, the ultimate comfort food. I’ve made this dish countless times for lunches or casual get togethers. People always seem surprised that this dish has mozzarella cheese in it. How could it not? I mean, all of the ingredients are just screaming to be covered in cheese. *Disclaimer* I am a cheese fanatic. If I could find a way to add cheese to my breakfast cereal that isn’t gross, I would totally do it. Stay tuned, you never know what challenges await.

American Chop Suey

A hearty pasta dish packed with a hearty tomato sauce, ground beef and mozzarella cheese.

Course Dinner
Keyword Pasta
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Mirepoix

  • 2 cups carrots shredded or diced
  • 2 cups red and green bell peppers diced
  • 1 cup onion diced
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • pinch salt

Hearty Tomato Sauce

  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 12 oz can tomato paste (optional - as needed)
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef

American Chop Suey

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 3-4 cups mozzarella cheese shredded

Instructions

Mirepoix

  1. In a large skillet over low heat, drizzle olive oil  to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the butter until melted.

    Mirepoix ingredients
  2. Shred the carrots, dice the onions, celery and bell peppers, mince the garlic. Add to the skillet. Toss the ingredients until well coated. Add the pinch of salt. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for approximately one hour. (Be sure to keep an eye on the vegetables, you shouldn't hear loud sizzling while it's cooking and your ingredients shouldn't turn brown. If this starts happening, reduce heat.) 

    Mirepoix simmering

Hearty tomato sauce

  1. While the vegetables are sweating, in a separate skillet, over medium heat, brown the ground beef. Add half of the broth, and all of the seasonings. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

    Ground beef for tomato sauce
  2. After the mirepoix has simmered for the hour, add the remaining broth to the mixture and bring to a low boil. 

    Mirepoix plus broth
  3. Combine the mirepoix mixture and the ground beef mixture. Then add the crushed and diced tomatoes. Continue to simmer up to another hour. The sauce will thicken and get sweeter the longer it cooks. If the sauce is too thin for your liking, you can gradually add some of the tomato paste a little at a time until your sauce reaches your desired consistency.

    hearty tomato sauce
  4. Meanwhile, cook one pound of pasta according to the package directions.

    Elbow macaroni

American Chop Suey

  1. When the pasta is cooked to your desired tenderness, gradually add the sauce and mozzarella cheese to the pasta and mix thoroughly. 

    American chop suey assembly2

Chocolate Cupcakes with whipped cream filling

cupcakes2
cupcakes2

I chose to make these chocolate cupcakes today for several reasons. First, these cupcakes are one of my favorites as well as a favorite among my friends and family that have had them. So, I’m counting on them being a hit for some other special people, too. Second, I recently purchased some new Russian piping tips that I have been dying to try, so this is the perfect opportunity to see if they measure up to the hype.

Russian piping tips
Russian piping tips

As some of my readers may have noticed, I’ve been on hiatus for a few months. Well, my mother had been sick, so sharing my recipes had to be put on the back burner temporarily. She is getting better every day, but she had to spend time in a local nursing and rehabilitation facility. She made some friends while there and she took a liking to some of the staff as well. I wanted to show my appreciation with a small token of what I do best. CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES.

cupcakes
cupcakes

I also had a friend’s birthday recently. She doesn’t ask for much, but she has been hankering something chocolatey. So, these chocolate cupcakes should do the trick.

They’ve got lots of butter and eggs, so they’re rich and moist. As an added bonus, I like to add a little fresh, whipped cream, peanut butter or jelly to center of these chocolate cakes, so you get a little surprise in each bite. There’s no limit to the possible types of frosting to finish them off either.

If you need some tips on making the perfect texture of cake, I provide a lot of information in my article Italian Cream Cake and Tips For A Better Batter.

Icing, glaze, ganache, frosting, or fondant?

So, what’s the difference between them all? It depends on who you ask. You’ll probably get a different answer from from different parts of the country and different parts of the world as well. But, I’m going to tell you what I call them so we can be on the same page for the purpose of these recipes.

Generally, though, frosting is thick and fluffy. The mixture is made from a base of dairy products, such as butter and/or cream cheese, and powdered sugar. It’s fluffy enough to stand on its own in various shapes made by piping, yet thick enough to spread with a spatula.

Icing generally has a thinner, glossier texture and is made with a powdered sugar base and water or milk and often times food coloring will be added. This mixture hardens somewhat when it dries, so it is perfect for decorating cookies.

A glaze also has a thinner, glossier texture and is made with a powdered sugar base, but generally uses a fruit juice for added flavor. This mixture can be easily poured over your scones, donuts or other pastries and cakes.

Chocolate ganache is the best of both of the worlds of frosting and icing. It’s thick enough to be a substantial addition to your cake, much like that of frosting. But it’s also thin and glossy, like an icing, that can just be poured over your desserts.

Fondant is a thick paste made of sugar, water and egg whites or meringue powder which, when dried, it can be rolled out into a sheet then laid out and formed around the cake.

Fun fact

Powdered sugar is also known as confectioner’s sugar, icing sugar or 10X sugar. The 10 in 10X represents the number of times the granulated sugar has been processed to make it into the fine powdery substance that easily dissolves. Powdered sugar is also a preferred sugar used by candy makers…or confectioners.

Cream filled Chocolate Cupcakes

A rich, moist, dark chocolate cake with a creamy filling.

Course Dessert
Keyword chocolate
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Cooling and decorating 4 hours
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 42 cupcakes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unsifted unsweetened dark cocoa
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules + 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

For the cake:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine cocoa with boiling water, mixing together with a wire whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool completely (about 2 hours).

  2. In a small bowl, mix the instant coffee granules with the warm water until thoroughly dissolved. Add to the cooled cocoa mixture.

  3. Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda.

  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners. (I would recommend baking no more than 24 cupcakes at a time, otherwise you may need to adjust your baking time and temperature. This recipe would require baking the batter in two batches.)

    You can also make this recipe into a 3-layer cake using three, 9 inch cake pans.

  5. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, at the setting for creaming, cream the butter and the sugar for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

    Cake batter adding flour
  6. Add the vanilla then the eggs, one at a time, just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. Overmixing will flatten your fluffy butter mixture.

    Gradually adding the cocoa
  7. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the cocoa mixture (in thirds) beginning and ending with the flour mixture, just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. Overmixing will flatten your fluffy butter mixture and will alter the structure of your cake.

    Mix just until the ingredient is added
  8. Fill cupcake cups approximately 3/4 to the top of the liner and bake for 13-15 minutes. There should be a few moist crumbs on a toothpick when inserted to the middle of the cupcake. The cakes will finish baking while they are cooling down. Allow the cakes to cool for about 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.

    (If you prefer the layer cake, divide the batter evenly between 3 cake pans, bake 25-30 minutes or until a few moist crumbs remain on a toothpick when inserted into the middle of the cake.)

    whipped cream2

For the filling

  1. Whip the heavy cream, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar on high speed of electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

    Filling tip
  2. Once the cupcakes are cooled, using a decorating bag fitted with a filling tip, fill the bag with the whipped cream. Insert the tip into the cake and gently squeeze until the cupcake is filled with the cream.

    (If making the layered cake, simply spread the whipped cream between layers.

    Glass stand
  3. If you have trouble filling your decorating bag, try wrapping the opening of the bag over the rim of a tall glass. This will keep the bag open while you are scraping your bowl and filling the bag. You can also rest your bag in the glass when not in use to avoid a messy work area.

  4. Decorate with your favorite frosting or check out my favorite recipes below.

    filled cupcakes

No matter how you choose to top these delicious miniature cakes, any one of the following recipes will be sure to please the crowd. I’m partial to either buttercream, ganache or cream cheese frostings for cake and not really a fan of fondants because I prefer a fluffy, whipped texture as opposed to the sheet of sweetness. I’ve only used store bought fondant before, but I have a few recipes I want to try. Who knows? I may change my mind and give fondant another chance. Look for my recipes for icings and glazes in the near future. I think you’ll enjoy the pastries that go along with them too. 

Buttercream Frosting

Course Frosting
Keyword Frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup crisco I use butter flavored crisco
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk if needed
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The butter should be at room temperature. If they are too soft, return to the refrigerator for a few minutes.)

  2. Add the vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

  4. You may not need all the confectioner’s sugar. If your frosting becomes to thick, gradually add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

    buttercream divided

Cream Cheese Frosting

Course Frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp milk if needed

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The butter should be at room temperature. If they are too soft, return to the refrigerator for a few minutes.)

  2. Add the vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until frosting is smooth and creamy.

  4. You may not need all the confectioner’s sugar. If your frosting becomes to thick, gradually add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

    cream cheese frosting

Peanut Butter Frosting

Course Frosting
Keyword Peanut butter
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup crisco
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 4-5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The butter should be at room temperature. If they are too soft, return to the refrigerator for a few minutes.)

  2. Add the peanut butter.

  3. Add the vanilla.

  4. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

  5. You may not need all the confectioner’s sugar. If your frosting becomes to thick, gradually add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency. If the frosting is to thin, gradually add additional confectioner’s sugar.

    cupcakes

Chocolate Ganache

Course Frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp instant coffee granules

Instructions

  1. In a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate.

  2. Add instant coffee granules. Stirring until smooth.

  3. Gradually add the heavy cream and continue stirring until well incorporated and mixture is smooth and creamy.

  4. Decorate by dipping the tops of the cupcakes into the mixture or pouring the mixture over the cakes. The mixture will harden as it sits. 

    cupcakes

Chocolate Frosting


Course Frosting
Keyword chocolate
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cooling time 1 hour
Total Time 20 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, combine the chocolate pieces, cream and butter.

  2. Stir until all chocolate pieces have melted and mixture is smooth.

  3. Remove from the heat.

  4. Gradually add confectioner’s sugar whisking until sugar is fully incoorporated and mixture is smooth. It may be necessary to to place the pan in a bowl of ice to help with the cooling down process. 

  5. Decorate as desired. 

    cream filled chocolate cake

M&M Cookies A Memorial Day Favorite

If You’ve Had One, You’ve Had Them All?

Homemade cookies are one of my favorite things to make. I know, I say that about everything, but here’s the thing, homemade cookies are not only delicious, they are also easy and quick to make, how can you not love them? Pretty much every drop cookie out there has been derived from the basic Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. But, does that mean that if you’ve had one, you’ve had them all? No, it doesn’t. There are so many variations available, how do you know which one to pick? I’ll share my M&M Cookies recipe today and then we’ll discuss what makes them soft and chewy, light and cakey or crisp and crunchy. We’ll also look at some mishaps in the kitchen and explain how to prevent cookie disasters.

But First, Some History

In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day, I thought it would be fitting to discuss the role U.S. soldiers played in the popularity of chocolate chip cookies.

The chocolate chip cookie, the official state cookie of Massachusetts, was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She was the owner and chef at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.

The original, Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie, rose to popularity during WWII. American soldiers stationed overseas would receive care packages, which included these cookies, from family in Massachusetts. The soldiers would share the cookies with soldiers from other parts of the U.S. and soon, those soldiers were writing home asking for them. That led to many letters being sent to the Toll House Inn requesting the recipe causing the cookie craze to take off.

Ruth sold the rights to use the recipe to Andrew Nestle for $1.00 in return for a lifetime supply of  Nestle’s chocolate. I think Ruth got the short end of the stick in that deal. But, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

M&M Cookies

This recipe is based on the Toll House Cookie Recipe. A couple simple modifications of increasing the amount of brown sugar and swapping out the chocolate chips for M&Ms make these a fun substitution for the original cookie.

Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword Cookies
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 48
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mini baking M&Ms

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

    M&M Cookies ingredients
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugars and vanilla. Beat until creamy. 

    M&M Cookies dough
  4. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat until each one is well blended. 

  5. Gradually add the flour, a little at a time. Mix until well blended. 

    M&M Cookies dough 2
  6. Stir in the M&Ms.

    M&M Cookies M&Ms
  7. Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet. (I just use a teaspoon. For more uniform shapes, you can use a melon baller or small ice cream scoop.)

    M&M Cookies spoonful
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes. (I usually check them at 7 minutes...if they are starting to brown at the edges, I removed them from the oven and allow them to remain on the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes. They'll continue to "bake" while cooling down.) Move to a wire rack or a sheet of parchment paper to continue cooling. 

    M&M Cookies cooling

Soft and Chewy, Light and Cakey or Crisp and Crunchy?

What’s your preference? I prefer soft and chewy with a slight crisp around the edges. That can be a hard combination to master. You can look at a 100 different recipes and they’ll all have different measurements, but finding the one that gives you the texture you want is easier than you think.

In the Toll House Cookies recipe, the main ingredients which dictate what texture your cookies develop into are butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. A typical cookie dough recipe will have 2 sticks of butter and equal parts of granulated sugar and brown sugar. You can customize your cookies with a few simple alterations.

Here are a few hints:

For instance, if you’re going for crisper cookies, you’ll want a recipe to have more butter and a larger amount of granulated sugar than brown sugar.

If you prefer a light and cakey cookie, your recipe will use less butter and significantly less sugar (but still using more granulated sugar than brown sugar).

For the soft and chewy variety, you’ll just need to adjust the sugars. More brown sugar will yield a softer, chewier cookie.

Cookie Catastrophes

Cookies spread too thin

When you’re making your dough, keep an eye on the texture of your dough. If the butter is too soft, your dough may be too warm and your cookies could spread too thin while baking. When you soften your butter, you should be able to press into the butter with the side of a knife and feel a little resistance. If you press down and your knife plunges to the bottom, the butter is too soft. You can return the butter to the refrigerator for a few minutes. Or, if you’ve already made the dough, place the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before spreading out the dough to bake.

Thin cookies can also be caused by not using enough flour. Try adding a little bit more flour a tablespoon at a time.

Cookies browning but are not overbaked

When you purchase your ingredients to make the cookies, keep in mind that using dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar can change the color of your cookie, so they may appear to be browning too quickly. If you choose to use corn syrup or molasses as your sweetener, you may notice that the cookies start browning before the cookie is baked through.

Also, it is possible that the oven is just running too hot. Reduce the temperature by 10 degrees. If you don’t notice a significant change, reduce the heat again.

Cookies are too cakey and very pale

The likely culprit of this blunder is too much flour. This can be tricky to fix, but adding a couple more tablespoons of butter just might save the dough.

OH NOOOOs

Have you ever gone shopping for all your ingredients then realize after you have returned home that you forgot something anyway?

Well, I do it all the time, so I have a list of adequate substitutions for just such an occasion. I wouldn’t recommend substituting every ingredient, but in a pinch, one will do. I mean, if you forgot everything, how bad could you want to make them anyway?

BUTTER substitutes cup for cup with margarine or shortening.

TABLE SALT can be replaced with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (you may also want to pulse it in the food processor a bit before adding it to your dough).

SUGAR can be swapped out for honey. 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar for 1 cup of honey plus 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. (Also, reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees to avoid burning.)

BROWN SUGAR Light or dark can be used in place of the other. If you don’t have either, you can make some by pulsing 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons of molasses in a food processor.

EGGS can be replaced by using 2 eggs whites in place of 1 large egg. Or 1/4 cup of egg product per egg.

SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE can be substituted with any other type of chocolate, fruit, nuts, or chopped up candy bars of any variety. I’ve even used leftover cake pulsed in the food processor and mixed it with the cookie dough. I call them Cake Crumble Cookies. They are pretty good, too.

What’s your favorite cookie? Do you approve of using candy bar bits instead of chocolate chips? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to like us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mini Pavlova

This dessert is what I save for the most special occasions. I made these Mini Pavlova for Mother’s Day this year and I have to say, if you want to make an extraordinary dessert, This. Is. It. The delicious meringue literally melts in your mouth. It’s like little clouds of heaven topped with lemon curd, fresh fruit and whipped cream.

The first time I made this, I was very intimidated by the thought of the meringue. But it’s actually fairly easy to make and I’m going to share all the tips so you can look like a pro on your first try, too.

No Need To Share, There’s Enough For Everyone

I don’t recall where I got this recipe, but I remember that recipe serving suggestion was for one large meringue that would be cut into individual servings. I like the idea of the miniature Pavlova that can be customized for each guest’s taste at the dessert table.

Leftovers of a large Pavlova with all the toppings would need to be refrigerated. The cold temperature and the moisture from the lemon curd would affect the texture of the meringue.

Making individual meringues that can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature preserves the structure of the meringue and can be kept up to a couple of weeks.

Berries, Citrus, Creams and Curds Galore

There are so many combination of fruits that can be used as a topping. I like the idea of setting out a whole buffet style dessert bar. There would be a wide variety of berries and citrus fruit along with stone fruits and tropical selections, too.

You can use the basics for making lemon curd and switch out the zest and juice of lemons with oranges or limes. Providing a variety of curds to mix and match with the various fruits. Not to mention the different variations of whipped cream that can concocted.

What Can’t You Do With Meringue?

A friend and I were recently discussing the endless possibilities of uses for the meringue shells. We came up with many options, but edible bowls for ice cream is something I am going to have to try soon. That would be fun. I once ran out of curd but had one lonely meringue left, so I used chocolate pudding and whipped cream. It was nowhere near as elegant as the Pavlova, but it was actually pretty tasty.

I’m thinking there must be some savory options that haven’t been explored yet as well.  Hmmm? Well, I’m starting to get sidetracked here. Back to the Pavlova.

Making The Meringue

Using room temperature eggs will give your meringue more volume. For the meringue, you will only use the egg whites. So, about 30 to 60 minutes before you are ready to start, separate your eggs. Reserve the yolk for the curd.

Beat the egg whites and add the ingredients as described in the instructions of the recipe. If you’re a multitasker in the kitchen, be sure that you are starting with a clean, dry bowl, beaters or whisk that are free of any fatty residue. Your eggs won’t stiffen if there is any residue remaining on your bowl or utensils.

This process can take about 20 minutes. The egg whites will eventually form stiff peaks. You’re almost done. Just take a pinch of the meringue and rub it between your fingers. It should feel silky and sticky. If it feels gritty from the sugar, beat for another minute or two.

Once the meringue is done, use care not to disturb the meringue too much as you could deflate the air you just beat into it. You should carefully spoon the meringue onto your parchment lined baking sheet and gently spread the mixture to create a bowl-like shell. I like to delicately transfer the meringue into a cake decorating bag and pipe the meringue into neat bowls. Whichever way you decide to get it to the oven, there are some more tips to consider while baking.

Baking Meringue DOs and DON’Ts

You DO want to bake at a low temperature…ideally 250 degrees. You’re basically drying out the stickiness of the meringue. But, meringue is delicate, so it needs to be done slowly. DON’T bake at a higher temperature to try to get it done quicker. It’s going to take as long as it’s going to take.

You DO want to keep the oven door closed while the meringue is baking. Your meringue will crack if there is a change in temperature. DON’T open the door every 5 minutes to check on them. They will need to bake for 60 minutes. If you peak through the window and see that they are starting to get brown, reduce the oven temperature by 15 or 20 degrees.

When they are done baking, DO turn off the oven. DO leave the meringues in the oven for at least an hour so they can continue to dry on the outside. DON’T remove them from the oven sooner, due to the above-mentioned change in temperature.

Pavlova

A delicate meringue dessert that will literally melt in your mouth. This is the best dessert for showcasing fresh fruit, curd and cream.

Course Dessert
Keyword Meringue
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Inactive time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 12
Author Lisa

Ingredients

For The Meringue

  • 6 extra large eggs (separated) room temperature whites for the meringue (reserve yolks for the curd)
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (from the curd ingredients)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • various berries or other fruit as desired

For The Curd

  • 6 egg yolk (from the meringue)
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon zest from approx. 5 lemons
  • 1/2 cup fresh freshly squeezed lemon juice from approx. 5 lemons
  • pinch salt
  • 8 tbsp butter diced into small cubes

For The Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp confectioner's sugar

Instructions

For The Meringue

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat the room temperature egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on high speed (check your manufacturer's setting for aerating egg whites) until soft peaks form. The soft peaks can be made by pulling the beater out of the eggs whites.

  3. Continue beating on high speed. Gradually add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time. Stiff peaks will form and when the meringue no longer feels gritty, beat in the lemon juice and the vanilla.
    Pavlova meringue
  4. Gently fold the cornstarch into the meringue. Be careful not to mix the meringue as it could deflate the air that you just beat into it. 

  5. Spoon 6 mounds of meringue onto two large parchment lined baking sheets. Leaving a couple of inches space between each mound. Carefully spread the meringue and shape it into the form of a bowl. (Or gently transfer the meringue to a cake decorating bag and lightly pipe the meringue into a bowl shape.)

    Pavlova meringue shells
  6. Bake for 60 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow to cool down for another hour. Do not open the door during the baking or cooling process. Changes in temperature will crack your meringue. (During the baking and cool down process, proceed to the instructions for making the curd and whipped cream.)

    Pavlova baked shells
  7. Once the meringue has fully cooled, spread a spoonful of curd on top of the meringue.

    Pavlova assembly
  8. Spread fresh whipped cream over the lemon curd.

    Pavlova assembly2
  9. Top with fruit of your choice. I used raspberries, blackberries, mango, strawberries, and kiwi.

    Pavlova2

For The Curd

  1. In the bottom portion of a double boiler over medium heat, bring 1 or 2 inches of water to a low simmer. Reduce heat to medium/low.

    Curd ingredients
  2. In the top portion of the double boiler, add the egg yolks and the whole eggs. Gradually add the sugar a little at a time, whisking constantly to keep the mixture smooth. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and salt.
  3. Continue whisking over medium/low heat for approximately 8 minutes. If the heat is too high or there is a long lapse in the whisking, you will end up with lemon flavored scrambled eggs. So, keep whisking until the mixture is thoroughly cooked and the sugar is dissolved.

  4. Remove from the heat. Add small amounts of the cubed butter pieces at a time. Continue whisking until the butter melts and is incorporated into the mixture.

  5. Strain the mixture into a medium bowl to remove any remaining solid zest pieces.

For The Whipped Cream

  1. Add the confectioner's sugar to a large bowl of a mixer. Add the heavy whipping cream and whip the cream for about 5 minutes or just until the cream forms stiff peaks.

Recipe Notes

Allow the egg whites to come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes to an hour prior to beating. This will help give the meringue more volume.

So, what do you think? Give it a try and let me know how you did in the comments below. Also, please like us on Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to hear more from you and see what you’re cooking.