Valentine’s Day Cookies

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Finally a Royal Icing you want to eat!

INGREDIENTS:

Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour

Royal Icing
510 g powdered sugar, divided
2 1/2 ounces egg whites (1/4 cup; 70g), from 2 large eggs
2 teaspoons rum or water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons heavy cream (more for thinning royal icing, if desired)
Gel paste food coloring, optional

DIRECTIONS

Cookies
Preheat oven to 350° F. In the bowl of your mixer cream butter and sugar until smooth, at least 3 minutes. Beat in extracts and egg.

In a separate bowl combine baking powder and salt with flour and add a little at a time to the wet ingredients. The dough will be very stiff. If it becomes too stiff for your mixer turn out the dough onto a countertop surface. Wet your hands and finish off kneading the dough by hand.

DO NOT CHILL THE DOUGH. Divide into workable batches, roll out onto a floured surface and cut. You want these cookies to be on the thicker side (closer to 1/4 inch rather than 1/8).

Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

Royal Icing
Measure 450g of powdered sugar and place in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add egg whites, rum, vanilla, salt, and cream of tartar. Stir with a flexible spatula to form a smooth paste, then set over a gently simmering water bath in a 3-quart sauce pan and stir until paste is hot to the touch, or about 150°F. Transfer to stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add remaining 60g of powdered sugar and mix at low speed to combine. Increase speed to medium and beat until thick and frosting-like, about 20 seconds or until the mixing bowl feels cool to the touch.

To thin the icing, reduce speed to low, add cream, and continue mixing until smooth. Remove bowl from mixer and lift paddle attachment, moving it in a figure 8 pattern as icing streams back into bowl. If the figure 8 disappears in exactly 8 seconds, the icing is ready to use as a cookie glaze. If it melts away faster, thicken by adding a spoonful of powdered sugar. If it takes longer than 8 seconds to disappear, thin by adding a few drops of cream. Repeat this test, making adjustments as you go, until the figure 8 takes exactly 8 seconds to disappear.

To Color the Icing, if Desired: Divide icing among several small bowls, one for each color you’d like to prepare. Cover each with plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface. Working with one bowl at a time, stir in a few drops of gel paste. When your desired color has been achieved, immediately transfer to a disposable pastry bag. Frost as desired.

Cookies frosted with royal icing can be stored up to 1 week at room temperature; in a pinch, their shelf life can be extended to about 10 days with refrigeration.

 

 

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Hot Chocolate Brownies

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Cayenne gives this brownie a spicy kick for Valentine’s Day.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup butter
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cayenne

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 8×12 or 9×13 (for thinner brownies) pan and line with parchment paper.

Melt butter and chocolate over the stove, whisk to combine and let cool a bit. In a separate bowl add sugars and eggs and whisk for about two minutes.  Add vanilla. Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, cayenne, and salt over the mixture and fold in until combined.  Don’t over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out the top evenly.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes.  After about 15 minutes lift parchment from pan and let cool before cutting into squares.

Damn Good Blueberry Pie

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There are many recipes for blueberry pie.  Why not try them all?

INGREDIENTS

Crust:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup crisco
6-7 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Filling:
4 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed, drained
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Flour (for dusting)
1 large egg

DIRECTIONS

Crust:

Stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea-size. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to side of bowl Repeat, using 1 tablespoon water at a time, until all the dough is moistened. Divide in half. Form each into a ball. Cover each ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making pie filling.

Filling:

Toss blueberries, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and ¾ cup raw sugar in a large bowl. Let sit 30 minutes to soften berries and extract juices.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Roll out bottom crust and then fill with blueberries. Roll out top and cover making sure edges are crimped. Bake pie 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375°. Continue to bake, checking at the 60- and 75-minute mark and loosely tenting with foil if browning too quickly, until crust is deep golden brown and juices are thick and vigorously bubbling.  Could take up to 90 minutes.  If you let it rest of 20 minutes the filling will be runny but if you let it cool for 4 hours, it will set nicely.  Either way it is delicious.

 

Nancy’s German Chocolate Cake

Nancy loves German Chocolate Cake and it is her birthday!

INGREDIENTS

Cake:
1 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pans
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk

Filling:
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 cup milk
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Frosting:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat two 9-inch round cake pans with oil and dust with flour. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

Microwave the chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl on high power for 45 seconds; remove and stir. Microwave again at high power in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until the chocolate has melted completely; set aside.

Beat the granulated sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate. Alternate beating in the flour mixture and the milk, adding the flour in three additions and the milk in two, starting and ending with the flour, until just incorporated. Add half the milk, and mix until just incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and milk, making sure not to overmix. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, run a thin spatula around the edges and then turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. (They will have a sugary “crust” on the top. This is from the melted chocolate and is not a problem. It will soften once the cake is assembled or if the layers are baked the day before.)

For the filling: While the cakes cool, spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake, tossing once, until toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Finely chop. Whisk together the milk and egg yolks in a medium saucepan until smooth. Add the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, vanilla and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 5 to 6 minutes. (It will be similar to the thickness of eggnog.) Pour the mixture into a large bowl. (Don’t worry if it seems thin. The coconut and nuts will bind it.) Stir in the coconut and pecans; set aside to cool.

For the frosting: Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat 1 cup of the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming but not boiling, and pour over the chocolate. Let stand a few minutes, and then whisk until smooth; let stand at room temperature (or put in the refrigerator if your kitchen is hot) until thick but not set, 20 minutes to 1 hour. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons cream to the chocolate mixture, and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 1 minute (do not overbeat, or it will become hard and grainy). The frosting should hold medium peaks and will continue to firm up a bit as it stands. Spoon about 1 cup frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.

To assemble: Put one cake layer right-side up on a serving plate, and top with half the filling. Top with the second cake layer and the remaining filling, spreading it to about 1/2 inch from the edge. Frost the sides, and decorate around the top edge of the cake with the frosting in the pastry bag.

Loosely cover the cake with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight. Unwrap and serve.

Angie & Izzy’s Wedding Cake

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INGREDIENTS

Cake
450g cake flour
2 cup whole milk at room temperature
12 large egg whites at room temperature
4 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. vanilla extract
700g granulated sugar
8 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
3 sticks 338g unsalted butter softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Italian Buttercream
800g granulated sugar
1 cup water
16 egg whites
2 pounds butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Cake
Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans. (Use butter and flour, line with parchment).  Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into a medium bowl and stir with a fork until blended.

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. (just to sift and incorporate ingredients) Add butter, cut into cubes and continue beating on low for about 1-2 minutes.
Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to flour mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat for about 1 minute.
Pour batter evenly between two prepared cake pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs and has no wet batter clinging to it, about 27 to 30 minutes. Allow cake to cool in pan about 5 minutes then carefully flip onto a cooling rack to room temperature.

 

Buttercream

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil. While your sugar mixture is heating, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  When your sugar reaches about 230 degrees on the candy thermometer, begin to whip eggswhites at medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not over beat!

Once your sugar reaches 240 degrees, remove it from heat immediately, and with the mixer running, add it to your egg whites in a stream and beat on high speed. Continue to whip your meringue until no heat remains in the bowl. You can place your hands along the sides of the bowl to check – it should feel like it’s at room temperature. Now, with the mixer still running, add your butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; then, beat in vanilla. If your buttercream appears curdled, keep beating until smooth.  Makes appx. 6 cups.

Red Velvet Cake

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Marcus wanted some Red Velvet Cake, so I made him one.  I found the recipe here.

INGREDIENTS

Cake:
3
cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter cut into cubes
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 – 8- ounce pkgs. cream cheese room temperature and softened
12 tablespoons butter 3/4 cup, softened
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a standing mixer, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat the butter into the flour mixture, one cube at a time. Continue to beat until it resembles coarse crumbs.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil, red food coloring, and vanilla.
Add the buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and beat the batter until thoroughly mixed. Take a spatula and scrape the sides of the bowl.
Spread into two greased 8 or 9-inch cake pans and smooth tops with a spatula. Bake for 16-22 minutes, depending on the depth of pans. If the cake layers are thin, they will cook for less time than the thicker layers. Let cakes cool. Run a knife around edge of cake pan and flip over. Frost with cream cheese frosting.
Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. If using a Kitchenaid mixer, use the whisk attachment. Add powdered sugar and mix until creamy. Add vanilla extract to frosting and stir until combined. Spread on cooled red velvet cake. Cover tightly.

Classic Birthday Cake

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This is King Arthur’s Flour Recipe of the Year.

INGREDIENTS

Cake

2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup milk (whole milk preferred)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pats
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Frosting

1 1/4 cups cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy)
1 cup + 3 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted if lumpy)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup hot water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
16 tablespoons (1 cup) butter, softened

INSTRUCTIONS

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the center. Lightly grease two 8” x 2” or 9” x 2” round cake pans; for extra protection against sticking, line the bottom of the pans with parchment rounds (you can cut these yourself or use precut 8” or 9” rounds), and grease the parchment. If your 8” pans aren’t at least 2” deep, use 9” pans.

Weigh your flour; you’ll find its weight by toggling to “grams” at the top of the ingredient section above. Or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, either using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, if using, until thickened and light gold in color, about 2 minutes at medium-high speed. If your stand mixer doesn’t have a whisk attachment, beat for 5 minutes using the paddle attachment. The batter should fall in thick ribbons from the beaters, whisk, or paddle.

Add the dry ingredients to the mixture in the bowl and mix — by hand or on low speed of a mixer — just enough to combine. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then mix again briefly, to fully incorporate any residual flour or sticky bits.

In a saucepan set over medium heat or in the microwave, bring the milk just to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and oil, stirring by hand until the butter has melted.

Slowly mix the hot milk-butter-oil mixture into the batter, stirring on low speed of a mixer until everything is well combined. Scrape the bowl and mix briefly, just until smooth.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. You’ll use about 2 3/4 cups (about 580g) in each.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top feels set, 26 to 30 minutes for two 9” pans, or 38 to 42 minutes for two 8” pans; a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the cakes should read 205°F. Remove the cakes from the oven, carefully loosen the edges, and allow them to cool for 15 minutes in the pans. Then turn them out of the pans and transfer them to a rack, right-side up, to cool to room temperature.

To make the frosting: In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, stir together – by hand or mixer – the cocoa powder, 1 cup (113g) of the confectioners’ sugar, and the salt. Stir in the water and vanilla, scraping the bowl if necessary.

Add the butter and remaining confectioners’ sugar, stirring to combine. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the frosting at medium-high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until lightened in color and fluffy, stopping halfway through to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

To assemble the cake: Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate; tuck pieces of waxed or parchment paper underneath the edge of the cake to keep the plate clean. Spread the bottom layer with about 1 cup of frosting, enough to make a 1/4” to 1/2”-thick layer. Center the second layer bottom-side up (for a flat top) over the frosted layer and press gently to set it in place.

If your schedule permits, place the cake in the refrigerator or freezer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours) to firm it up. This will make the layers less likely to slide around as you work, and the cake won’t shed crumbs as you frost. If you’re pressed for time, you can skip this step.

To finish the cake: For the best-looking cake, do the frosting in two steps. First, spread a very thin layer of frosting around the sides and across the top; this is called a crumb coat. You should be able to see the cake through the frosting in spots, it’s that thin. Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes to let this layer set. Again, skip this step if time is a factor.

Once the cake is chilled, use the remaining frosting to coat it thoroughly and evenly. If you have any leftover frosting, you can use it to pipe decorations on the top and/or around the base.

Store the cake, covered, at room temperature, or in the refrigerator if your kitchen is hot. Let it come to room temperature before serving.

Storage information: The cake will keep at room temperature, covered with a cake cover, for up to three days; in the refrigerator, covered, for up to one week, or in the freezer, well wrapped, for up to one month.

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

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When just saying “thank you” isn’t enough.

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt + a bit for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Beat together the shortening, sugars, egg, vanilla, and peanut butter until smooth.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to the peanut-butter mixture, beating gently until everything is well combined. It may take awhile for this rather dry dough to come together; and when it does, it’ll be quite stiff. Only if necessary, drizzle in enough water to make the dough cohesive.

Drop the cookie dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets (a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here), leaving 2″ between them.

Use a fork to flatten each cookie to about 1/2″ thick, making a cross-hatch design. Sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt if you like. 

Bake the cookies for 12 to 16 minutes, until they’re barely beginning to brown around the edges; the tops won’t have browned. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Coconut & Lemon Curd Muffins

INGREDIENTS

2 cups flour
2/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup melted, browned butter
1/2 cup coconut

DIRECTIONS

Melt and brown butter and put aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix in coconut.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg, milk, vanilla, and cooled melted butter until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon or rubber spatula until just combined. The batter will be lumpy. Do not over-mix or the muffins will become tough. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners or spray with nonstick spray.

Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups using small ice cream scoop.

Bake at 425 F for about 10 minutes, lower oven to 350 and bake for additional 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

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Another great recipe from King Arthur Flour.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper, or lightly grease with non-stick vegetable oil spray.

Beat together the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and add to the butter mixture in the bowl. Mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and mix briefly. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2″ to 2″ between cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12-18 minutes, (depending on the size) until they’re a light golden brown, with slightly darker edges. 

Remove the cookies from the oven, and as soon as they’re set enough to handle, transfer them to racks to cool.