Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mini-Muffin Financiers

I had never even heard of financiers until Dennis discovered a spot near his office that gives them away with each cup of coffee.  Financiers are small French cakes, not too sweet and perfect for breakfast.  Dennis has been requesting a homemade version for a few months now so I decided that could be his Christmas morning treat.  I was worried that the recipe would be too involved but it’s actually quite simple.  You just have to plan ahead as the batter needs to sit for a few hours before you can bake it up.  I just whipped up the batter the night before, then baked up a few financiers each morning.  There are apparently special financier pans but I found a recipe using a mini-muffin pan.  I really need another baking pan like I need another hole in the head.  

These got two enthusiastic thumbs up from Dennis.  The original recipe calls for placing a raspberry on top of each before baking but since it’s December I left that out.  I’m looking forward to baking up batches in the summer topped with fresh berries.  A few of those and a good cup of coffee and I can almost pretend like I’m back in Paris.

Mini-Muffin Financiers Recipe (from Leite’s Culinaria)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus, plus more for the pan
1 cup confectioners sugar 
1/2 cup almond flour 
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 large egg whites, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy pan over medium heat, warm the butter until it melts and the milk solids settle and stick to the bottom of the pot and turn golden brown and slightly caramelized, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Sift the confectioners’ sugar, almond flour or ground almonds, all-purpose flour, and baking powder into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on low speed, then add the egg whites, honey, and vanilla, and mix on low speed, scraping down the bowl, until combined. Add the cooled melted butter and their solids and mix until incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. (You can actually keep the batter in the fridge, at the ready, for up to several days.)

When you’re ready to bake the financiers, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Butter a 12-cup mini muffin tin. Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full of batter. Bake on the center rack until golden brown around the edges and firm in the center, about 14-16 minutes.

Let the financiers cool in the pans for 5 minutes then run a thin knife or offset spatula around the sides of the muffin cups or financier molds. Turn the financiers out onto wire racks. Serve warm or let cool on the rack and serve later that same day.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

On the hunt for another cookie to add to my Christmas cookie binge, I came across this recipe from Eat, Live, Run.  Peppermint is the quintessential Christmas flavor that only improves when chocolate is added.  The original recipe called for putting white chocolate on top but wanting to make them a bit more colorful I smashed up some candy canes also.  Have I mentioned that a mallet can be one of your most handy kitchen tools? 

My holiday baking spree resulted in 4 varieties of cookies so for these I actually mixed the dough the prior weekend, then froze the dough balls.  You can just place them on a cookie tray to freeze them, and then place inside a freezer bag once they’re completely frozen.  I ended up not even using all of the frozen cookie balls so once we finish all of the Christmas cookies (probably around Valentine’s Day) then I can bake up a fresh batch.  Enjoy these and happy holidays!
Chewy Peppermint Cookies (adapted from Eat, Live, Run)

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 eggs
1 tbsp instant coffee
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
4 candy canes, crushed

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add peppermint extract.

In another bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, coffee, baking powder and salt. Add to wet ingredients and fold in chocolate chips.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto lined sheet trays and bake for 12 minutes. Let cool completely.

Melt white chocolate chips in the microwave (stirring after each 30 second interval) and scoop into a small plastic bag. Snip off end and drizzle cooled cookies with white chocolate.  Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top.

That reindeer looks hungry.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crock Pot Chicken Soup

Nearly every week Dennis and I go through the same routine when it comes to dinner.  We stare blankly at each other, shrug, then default to burgers, pasta, etc.  I usually get home around 7, then have to go pick Dennis up at 7:45.  That doesn't leave us with a lot of time to prepare anything if we want to eat before 9.  Once the weather started getting cooler and Dennis became less willing to grill outside in the freezing cold I decided to finally break out the crock pot that my mother-in-law had given us.  After only a few instances of using it I can admit it - I'm in love.

There's really nothing easier than using a crock pot.  We set ours on a timer so it turns on after we've left for work and keeps cooking until we get home.  I was a little nervous about doing this the first time, but it works out great and I love coming home and smelling dinner cooking away.

This recipe was my first attempt at chicken soup in the crock pot.  I cut up the vegetables the night before then plopped the chicken on top and put it all in the fridge.  The next morning I put it in the slow cooker and had chicken soup waiting for me when I got home.  I did run into a slight problem as the original recipe called for a slow cooker that's larger than what we have.  I ended up not measuring how much water I added, making sure I covered the chicken while also leaving a bit of room at the top so it wouldn't overflow.  This made enough soup for at least 4 servings so if you don't want leftovers you can cut the recipe in half.  But the only thing better than using a crock pot for dinner one night is having leftovers from it for another night.

Chicken Noodle Soup (from Good Housekeeping)

8 cups water (or however much you can fit in your slow cooker)
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
medium stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 small onion, chopped
2  bay leaves
.5 teaspoon(s) dried thyme
Ground black pepper
1 whole(s) (3 1/2-pound) chicken

2 cup(s) egg noodles, uncooked

In 4 1/2- to 6-quart slow-cooker bowl, combine water, carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place whole chicken on top of vegetables. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on low setting 8 to 10 hours or on high setting 4 to 5 hours.

Boil water for noodles, then cook noodles.  I only cooked as much as we wanted for that night, then the next night I threw uncooked noodles in the broth as it warmed up.  I think that's better than having the noodles sit in the broth for a day or more.  

Transfer chicken to cutting board. Discard bay leaves and shred chicken.  Once the noodles are cooked, ladle soup into bowls and add noodles and chicken.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is it possible to improve upon a chocolate chip cookie?  This recipe answers that question with an emphatic “Yes!”  The original idea from Bread & Butter included bananas, but I left that out since I wasn’t sure how people would react to banana in their chocolate chip cookies.  But her idea of putting a dollop of Nutella in the middle of each cookie – genius.  I started off putting a bit too much Nutella in the thumbprint, which led to a few of them falling apart.  So just use a light hand with the Nutella.  Oozing out the top is a-ok; not so much when it’s coming through the bottom of the cookie.

Dennis moved these to the top of his favorite cookie list, the sort of comment that makes my heart go aflutter.  Make these for family, for co-workers, for friends, for yourself.  Just make them.

Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Bread & Butter)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper or Silpat.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.
Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough by the spoonful onto the prepared cookie sheets.  Put a small thumbprint in each cookie, then drop in some Nutella.  Cover up the Nutella with some more cookie dough, pressing lightly so it adheres to the bottom part.

Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Soft Ginger Cookies

One of my favorite flavors is gingerbread, whether it’s found in a latte from Starbucks or a freshly baked treat.  For Thanksgiving this year I was tasked with bringing a dessert (surprise, surprise) so I wanted to find something that people would want to eat after stuffing themselves silly with turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes….

Our cookie preference is always for chewy versus crispy, so I knew I didn’t want a traditional gingersnap but something that was softer.  Google to the rescue!  This recipe from All Recipes was exactly what I was looking for, not to mention that it provided enough cookies so I could leave some for my parents while we were able to hold onto a few ourselves.  I made a few changes to the original recipe, subbing in brown sugar for half of the white sugar and increasing the spices slightly to really bring out that gingerbread flavor.  I also rolled the cookies in turbinado sugar, which provided a nice contrast between the crunchiness of the sugar and the softness of the cookie.  I absolutely loved these cookies, enough that they’ll be added to the regular rotation.  Try them out!

Soft Ginger Cookies (adapted from All Recipes)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 heaping teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and white and brown sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in turbinado sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased or Silpat covered cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.  Place the remainder of the dough in the refrigerator in between batches so it’s easier to handle. 

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 32 cookies.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Butterscotch-Chocolate Chip Rice Krispies Cookies

After making these last week I still had half a box of Rice Krispies left over.  I didn’t want to make Rice Krispie treats again so I went on a hunt for a cookie I could throw them into.  Success!  This recipe originally called for just butterscotch chips but I thought throwing in some chocolate chips would help cut the sweetness of the butterscotch.  These cookies do take a bit of time to make as they have to chill before baking.  But I just made sure I cleared a space in the fridge then threw the trays in there while I let the oven pre-heat.  I don’t think these are cookies you really want sitting around for a few days as the Rice Krispies lose some of their crunchiness and become chewier.  So if you make them just plan on sharing so you won’t have to worry about that. 

Butterscotch-Chocolate Chip Rice Krispies Cookies (adapted from Baking Blonde)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons hot water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup butterscotch chips

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg, beating until combined. Mix in hot water and vanilla. Add flour mixture, in two batches, beating just until combined. Using a wooden spoon, fold in butterscotch chips and Rice Krispies. Cover and refrigerate for 30 min. or longer. 

Preheat oven to 375. Scoop out tablespoons of the dough and roll into balls. Place all balls on one baking sheet, and chill at least 30 min. Remove from fridge and place 12 balls on cookie sheet at a time. Bake until the middle looks just set and the edges begin to turn a light golden – about 8-12 minutes. Remove and let sit on the sheet for a minute. Move cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Snickerdoodles were not a cookie I grew up with.  But last year I tried my hand at Snickerdoodle Blondies and loved the cinnamon sugar combination.  So when I was looking for a treat to pull us out of our Halloween candy coma I thought something simple would be best.  These cookies come from The All American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett, one of my favorite cookbooks to flip through. 

My first batch came out rather large – like giant cookies.  But for the other batches I put the dough in the fridge, letting it chill for a bit.  I also made my scoops a bit smaller and the cookies came out a bit thicker and spread less.  These were a big hit.  They had the perfect hint of cinnamon and sugar.  My co-workers gobbled them up, and my boss even named them one of his favorites.  I’m definitely adding these to the Christmas cookie rotation.

Best Ever Snickerdoodles (The All-American Cookie Book)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tarter
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 Tbs light corn syrup
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar combined with 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon for topping

Preheat oven to 375ยบ and line baking sheets with a silicone mat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, salt and nutmeg, set aside.  In another large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and corn syrup together until well blended and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla, beating until well blended and smooth.  Beat in half of the flour mixture until evenly incorporated.  Stir in the remaining flour mixture just until combined.  Let the dough stand for 5-10 minutes.  Mix together the additional sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.

Roll portions of the dough into generous 1 1/2 inch balls with lightly greased hands (dough will be soft).  Roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar.  Place on the baking sheets, spacing about 2 3/4 inches apart. 

Bake the cookies 8-11 minutes, or just until light golden brown at the edges.  Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, about 2 minutes.  Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Salted Brown Butter Crispy Bars

We had snow here last weekend.  In October!  No one was prepared for it.  We made it through unscathed (except for the boredom that hit on Saturday afternoon) but my parents lost power and had to head to a hotel.  Oh, and did I mention that my mom’s birthday was on Monday (Halloween)?  I’ll have to bake her something special when we see them for her belated birthday celebration.

You’d think that being stuck indoors for that long would have inspired me to try something time-consuming. Instead, I found myself looking for something comforting and simple, yet different.  It didn’t take me long before I came across the perfect recipe, thanks to Smitten Kitchen.  Her take on the classic Rice Krispie treat is so crazy good that I couldn’t wait to try it.  The first change she makes is to brown the butter, giving the treats a slight nutty flavor.  This was my first time browning butter and her directions were spot on.  As soon as the butter started to turn brown I took it off the heat, then threw the marshmallows in.  Once the marshmallows melted into the butter, making an ooey gooey mess that I was tempted to eat on its own, you add in the Rice Krispies and a touch of salt.  These are perfect for to satisfy a sweet/salty craving and couldn’t be easier to make.  They’re a great improvement on a classic childhood treat.

Salted Brown Butter Crispy Bars (from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes about 16 2-inch squares

4 ounces (1/4 pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) a 9-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Keep an eye on the butter, as it goes from browned to burned very quickly.

As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, stir in the marshmallows and turn the heat to low.   

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. Press the bars down with waxed paper, sprayed with cooking spray.  Let cool, then cut and enjoy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shortbread Candy Bars

In the days following Halloween, it’s not unusual to work through the candy overflow by having a candy bar with every meal.  But after the initial euphoria and sugar high fade you’re still left with piles of leftover candy.  One way to ensure the candy isn’t still lying around by next Halloween is to make a batch of these shortbread bars.  The buttery shortbread crust is first baked, then topped with chocolate chips and the candy of your choice.  We tried it out with dark chocolate peanut butter cups, but any chocolate candy would work.  I asked Dennis for feedback and, in his words, you can’t go wrong with shortbread covered in chocolate and peanut butter.  It’s like adding bacon to anything.  Hmm, maybe that’s an idea for a future treat…

Shortbread Candy Bars (from Everyday Food)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups assorted chocolate candies or roughly chopped candy bars (12 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and salt on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. With mixer on low, add flour in three additions and beat until combined (dough will be crumbly). Press dough evenly into a 9x9 baking dish (a great way to do this is to press down through saran wrap so the dough doesn’t stick). Bake until golden brown and firm, 25-30 minutes.

Scatter chocolate chips on top of shortbread. Bake until soft, 1 minute. With the back of a spoon, spread chocolate evenly over shortbread. Scatter candies over top. Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate briefly to set chocolate, then cut into 16 bars.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Honey Corn Muffins

I apologize for my absence but Dennis and I took a much-needed trip to Europe where we traveled around Italy, Barcelona, and some other spots along the way.  We ate a lot of great food; I can’t understand why there’s not a gelato shop on every NYC corner.  The U.S. is really missing out!

Anyway, on to these muffins.  I grew up with Jiffy mix corn muffins, usually slathered with grape jelly and eaten for breakfast.  It wasn’t until I grew to love barbeque that I began to appreciate corn muffins as an essential part of a savory meal.  Eaten with a spicy chili they cut the heat and really help balance the meal.  I personally like sweet corn muffins – apparently that’s a Northern thing as Southerners don’t like theirs as sweet.  I won’t take sides on the debate, but I’ll just say that these were exactly what we were looking for.  Not only were they sweet and moist, but they were sturdy enough so they didn’t fall apart when dipped in chili.  I love it when I find a go-to recipe, and that’s exactly what this is.

Honey Corn Muffins (adapted from The Food Network)


1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup honey (The best way to measure honey or any other sticky substance is to spray the measuring cup with cooking spray first.  Not only does it make it easier to clean the measuring cup but you’ll also get the full amount without any sticking to the cup.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

Spray a 12-cup muffin tin and evenly divide the cornbread mixture. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. 

If you’re looking for something a bit different, cut the muffins in half, spread some butter on each side, then grill, butter side down, in a skillet.  Once they’re nice and brown they’re good to go.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Peanut Butter (or Caramel) Mini Brownies

At a library book sale recently I saw The All-American Cookie Book languishing on a shelf.  I couldn’t believe no one had grabbed it yet and snatched that puppy up for myself.  I’d heard of this book and its author before, but hadn’t yet tried any of its recipes.   A quick flip through it and it wasn’t long before I had dozens of recipes that I wanted to try.  This week, though, I was going for something that wouldn’t make too many treats as we’re heading on vacation at the end of the week.  There’s nothing sadder than cookies or brownies that don’t fulfill their purpose.  This recipe made 24 mini brownies, just enough for us to keep a few and my co-workers to finish the rest.

This recipe might be a great one to make after Halloween when you have some leftover candies and are looking for something to do with them.  Why not stuff them into the middle of a brownie?  Be careful when you’re baking them as I slightly over-baked them.  Keep an eye on them - it’s probably better to slightly underbake them then keep them cooking for too long.  Another heads up – you definitely want the candies to be well-chilled.  Inserting them into the brownies will cause them to melt very quickly if they’re not cold enough.  Okay, enough with the fine print.  Bake these up and you won’t regret it.

Peanut Butter (or Caramel) Mini Brownies (adapted from All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett)

5 T. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped up
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped up
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 T. smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 Reese’s mini peanut butter cups or Rolos, chilled and unwrapped (I threw them in the freezer for about an hour before I baked)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Coat mini-muffin pan with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, microwave butter and chocolate on 50% power for 1 minute.  Stir well, then continue microwaving at 50% power at 30-second intervals.  Stop microwaving before the chocolate completely melts.

Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture until well blended.  Let cool to warm.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  Beat the egg and peanut butter into the chocolate mixture.  Add the vanilla and stir vigorously until the mixture is smooth and shiny.  Stir in the flour mixture until incorporated.  Spoon the batter into the mini-muffin cups, then set on a baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 10-14 minutes, or until almost firm when pressed in the centers.  Immediately press 1 peanut butter cup or Rolo candy into the center until flush with the surface of the brownie. 

Transfer the muffin pans to a wire rack and let stand until the brownies are completely cooled.  Remove from pans gently.

Makes 24 mini-brownies.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins

I wasn’t even planning to bake this Sunday as I already whipped up a batch of these for a Jersey Bites bbq on Saturday.  (Have you checked out Jersey Bites yet?  If not, definitely do so as it covers all food-related things going on in the Garden State and even has some articles by yours truly!). 

But this past Sunday was the first full day of football which meant that by 5 o’clock I’d been subjected to nearly 4 straights hours of pigskin prowess.  In an attempt to maintain my sanity I decided to see if I could find an easy muffin recipe so I could send Dennis off to work on Monday with a breakfast goodie.  My husband is the worst when it comes to breakfast.  His usual breakfast at work ranges from a granola bar to a cupcake from Crumbs.  I decided to straddle those two extremes with these muffins.  They want to be a doughnut, but they’re not fried so bonus points there.  I also subbed in some white whole-wheat flour in an attempt to make up for all of the sugar they’re covered in.  And they’re covered in a lot of sugar.  So if you’re looking for a (somewhat) healthier alternative to your normal morning doughnut, definitely give these a try.  You won’t be disappointed.

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins (Adapted from Culinary in the Desert)

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg -- lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk

To top the muffins
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar (I used a mix of regular sugar and vanilla bean sugar from Savory Spice Shop)
1 t. ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, mix sugar, oil, egg, and milk; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fill greased muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until muffins test done. Place melted butter in a small bowl; combine sugar and cinnamon in another bowl. Immediately after removing muffins from the oven, brush muffins with melted butter and roll in the sugar mixture.

Makes 9 muffins.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chocolate Malted Whopper Cookies

I’ve always loved Whoppers.  Something about the crunchy malt surrounded by chocolate made them something I looked forward to getting when I went trick-or-treating (many, many years ago).  These cookies combine those beloved Whoppers with some extra malted milk powder, cocoa and chocolate chips.  How can you turn down a cookie with all of those goodies?

These cookies came together pretty easily and they make a big batch.  I brought a bunch into work but had enough left over that I froze some.  In the original recipe it mentions that these would go great with coffee in the morning.  Hmm, I don’t know about that but Dennis said they do make an excellent match with ice cream.  And if you do have them for breakfast, don’t worry.  I won’t tell.

Chocolate Malted Whopper Cookies (from Baking by Dorie Greenspan)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup instant malted milk powder
1/4 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
2 cups malted milk balls, coarsely chopped (You can also put some saran wrap over them and smash with a mallet)
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Sift together flour, malted milk powder, cocoa, baking powder and salt - set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each one.
Beat in the vanilla.
Reduce mixer to low add 1/2 of the dry ingredients and mix well.
Pour in the milk & mix.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well.
Put mixer on low and add in the malt balls and the chocolate.
Drop by rounded teaspoons 2" apart.
Bake for 11-13 minutes. Cookies are done when they’re puffed and slightly soft to the touch.
Makes about 36 cookies.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mexican Brownies

I was all set to whip up a no-bake recipe this weekend if Hurricane Irene knocked out our power.  We were lucky, though, as our block was one of the few in town that didn’t lose power or flood.  There’s nothing like passing houses with water-logged belongings piled out front that makes you realize how lucky you are. 

On Sunday, once the worst had passed and I was getting some serious cabin fever, I decided to see if I could find a brownie recipe that was a little different from what I normally bake.  I came across a recipe on the Food Network’s site from Aaron Sanchez – you may know him as one of the judges on Chopped.  Or are Dennis and I the only ones addicted to that show?  The recipe had stellar reviews so I decided to give it a try.

I was a little apprehensive about adding in chili powder and thought the spiciness might turn people off.  So I subbed in Ancho chili powder which has more smokiness than heat.  I added in a pinch of cayenne to bring in a little heat but I don’t think it was really noticeable.  My brownies ended up being less Mexican brownies and more brownies with hints of cinnamon and smokiness.  That wasn’t a problem though as my co-workers and Dennis gobbled them up.  The texture was great too – cakey and not dense, perfect for a treat to celebrate seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Mexican Brownies (adapted from Food Network)

2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon (canela) (I just used regular cinnamon)
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press the paper into the corners of the pan and lightly grease the paper with butter.

Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat; do not boil. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.

Add the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and baking powder and mix until smooth. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out fudgy, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack, then use the parchment paper to lift out the brownies before slicing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars

I’ve had this recipe in my to-do pile for quite awhile and finally decided to give it a whirl.  Dennis said he wanted something with chocolate (doesn’t he always?) and I love the salty-sweet combo.  Hmm, sweet and salty has me thinking of Chubby Hubby ice cream….

But back to the bars!  They gave me yet another chance to use the mallet when I broke up the pretzels.  If you don’t have a mallet you can just put them in a Ziploc and crush them by hand.  But you really should get a mallet – it makes baking much more fun.

The consensus on the bars – home run!  Dennis said he’d move them into the regular rotation and my co-workers gobbled them up.  They’re really pretty easy to put together and anyone you give them to will be so thankful. 

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars (from Food & Wine)


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
One 12-ounce bag bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups thin pretzels, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, allowing overhang on the 2 long ends.  (I always have a problem getting the parchment paper to stay put so I came up with the idea of greasing the pan with the butter wrappers then putting the parchment paper on.  It worked great – I’ll definitely do that in the future).

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl beat the butter with both sugars at medium speed until light, 1 minute. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Stir in the chips and pretzels.

Spread the batter in the pan and top with the sprinkles. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden; the center will still be a little gooey. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.

Run the tip of a knife around the side of the pan and lift the bar out using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rolo Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

I think I’m in the midst of summer doldrums. I came into this week with no idea about what to bake. After opening and closing a good number of my cookbooks I perused the Web to see if anything struck my fancy. Success! Chocolate cookies with a gooey caramel filling, courtesy of a Rolo? Sounds like a winner to me.

A co-worker said these resemble flying saucers. They did look a bit funny coming out of the oven but they taste great. Apparently it’s hard to go wrong when you stuff cookies full of treats, whether it’s Oreos or Rolo’s. Hmm, now I just have to think about what else I can throw inside a cookie…

Rolo Stuffed Chocolate Cookies (
makes about 30 cookies

1 cup unsalted butter; room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar; packed
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup dutch-process cocoa
2 TB sugar (I used turbinado but granulated sugar would be fine too)
Unwrapped Rolo’s

Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.

Place in the fridge covered for at least 2 hours to chill until firm. I just realized that I didn’t cover mine. Ah well, it came out fine.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop the dough and push a flat spot in the middle where the Rolo will be placed. Press the dough around the around the Rolo and roll the dough into a ball.

Rolls the balls in the granulated sugar and place onto a parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

Place dough back into fridge to keep cold. Bake for 8 minutes. Then let the cookie sit on the baking sheet for 3-4 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and place onto wired rack to finish cooling.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brownie Bites

I was lacking inspiration this week. Call it the summer doldrums, I guess. I went to my favorite cooking blog and searched specifically for a treat that would allow me to use my new mini-cupcake pan. Instead of cupcakes, though, I came across a recipe for brownie bites. Bringing brownies into work in August seemed like a better bet than cupcakes anyway.

So onto the brownies. My favorite thing about these is that you can customize them as you like. I rummaged through our pantry and came out with some M&M’s, chocolate chips and crushed Heath bar. The recipe originally called for mini M&M’s but I didn’t have those. I did, however, have a mallet. Who says baking isn’t therapeutic?

Brownie Bites (from Culinary in the Desert)

12 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup dutch-proccess cocoa
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup M&M’s, chocolate chips, Heath bar…basically whatever you desire

Preheat oven to 325.

In a medium saucepan, add butter and cocoa powder - melt while stirring frequently over low heat. When smooth, set aside and cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and espresso powder. Whisk into the melted butter and cocoa. Whisk in eggs and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir into the wet mixture just until combined. Portion out into 36 mini muffin cups lightly coated with nonstick spray. Place M&M’s, chocolate chips, etc. on top.

Bake for 8-12 minutes - when you test for doneness with a toothpick, you want it to be still a little wet in the center of each cup. Remove and let cool completely in the pan.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Peach Blueberry-Raspberry Cornmeal Cobbler

There’s a reason New Jersey is called the Garden State. Though growing up in north Jersey I never really saw much farmland or fresh produce (except for my Pappou’s garden which grew everything from string beans to tomatoes to baseball-sized zucchini). But over the past few years farmer’s markets have been popping up all over the state which makes it so much easier to get fresh produce without having to travel far. We’re lucky enough to have the Westfield Farmer’s Market only a short drive away and go there every Saturday. Last week I made the peach muffins but this week I wanted to make something we could have for dessert.

Deb at Smitten Kitchen always has such wonderful recipes so when I came across her recipe for cobbler I knew I had to try it. I made ours with a mix of peaches, blueberries and raspberries. I think it’s a very forgiving recipe – you can throw in whatever you have on hand. We kept it for a few days and just left it in the fridge. Then you can just heat it up in the microwave and put a scoop of ice cream on top. That isn’t optional.

Peach Blueberry-Raspberry Cornmeal Cobbler (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the fruit
1 (about 3 cups) pound peaches, pitted and cut into slices
1 cup blueberries/raspberries, rinsed and dried
1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the biscuit topping
3/4 cup (3 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used ½ cup of milk and ½ T. lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 425. Toss fruit with sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt in the bottom of a 1 1/2-quart ovenproof dish.

Make the biscuit dough: Stir together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into the dry mixture with your fingertips, a fork or a pastry blender. Stir in buttermilk with a rubber spatula until a wet, tacky dough comes together.

Place spoonfuls of the biscuit dough over the filling. Bake until the syrup is bubbly and the biscuit tops are browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.