Category Archives: Desserts

Conversation Heart Cupcakes

My husband’s 30th birthday is coming up this weekend. I was reminiscing about past birthdays in anticipation of this one and I thought I would share what I did for him a few years ago.  There was a short period when I had to fill in and be the pastry department at work.  I was leaving the house at hours previously unknown to me and I was not going to see Patrick at all on his birthday.  I decided to make conversation heart cupcakes so that they could cheerfully greet him that morning in my absence.  These would, of course, be the perfect addition to any Valentine’s Day party or even as a treat in a loved one’s lunch box. It’s a creative and yummy way to say “I love You.”

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

1 box of Cake Mix, your favorite flavor (look, these cupcakes are somewhat labor intensive in the decorating department, there is no need to go overboard and make a cake from scratch unless you have several hours to kill).

Eggs, as specified on box of Cake Mix

Oil, as specified on box of Cake Mix

Water, as specified on box of Cake Mix

Frosting:

1/2 cup Butter, softened

4 cups Powdered Sugar

2 teaspoon Vanilla

4 tablespoons Milk

4 pack of Food Coloring

Writing:

4 ounces White Chocolate Chips

Special Equipment:

Silicone Heart Shaped Cupcake “Pan” (such as one sold by Wilton at craft stores)

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Pac Man Cookies

Every summer we would travel from Wyoming where I grew up to Michigan where my maternal grandparents have a house on Lake Michigan. While the beach was definitely the best thing about the trip, Pac Man cookies from the local bakery came in a close second.  I loved the cookies so much that my mom made her own version so that I could have them year round.  The base is a simple sugar cookie recipe, one that can be used to make any shape cookie you would like to eat; but you have to admit Pac Man shaped is just too fun to pass up.

Ingredients:

Sugar Cookies:

1 cup Butter, softened

2 Eggs

1 cup Sugar

3 cups Flour

1 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

Glaze:

1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

1 tablespoon Lemon Juice or 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

3 to 4 tablespoons Milk

Garnish:

1 (1.69 ounce) package Plain M&M’s

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Candy Cane Cookies

Candy Cane Cookies

These cookies were my favorite childhood Christmas cookie, and I still make them every year.  My mom was given the recipe by my Godmother, but she thinks the origin is a Betty Crocker children’s cookbook.  They are basically a shortbread-style cookie with a little bit of a peppermint kick.  And while there is a bit of work involved in forming them, it’s nothing a couple of eager kitchen elves can’t handle; make them a family baking project.  With a light and buttery texture, subtle flavor and whimsical presentation, they are sure to become one of your family’s favorites, too.

Ingredients:

1 cup Butter (2 sticks), softened

1 cup Powdered Sugar

1 Egg

2 1/2 cups Flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons Peppermint Extract

1/2 teaspoon Red Food Coloring

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Sea Salt Caramels

Sea Salt Caramels

I think I may have mentioned before my absolute love of the combination of sweet and salty in food.  Salted caramels are one of the best integrations of the two flavors.  They make for a perfect single serving indulgence, the problem is stopping after one…

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy cream

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup water

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Peppermint Bark Brownies

Peppermint Bark Brownies

Okay, just as a warning, if you are on a diet and do not want to break it please stop reading now as I cannot be held liable for any actions beyond this point.  I love the combination of chocolate and peppermint which shows up this time of year in many forms including peppermint bark.  I wanted to see if I could imitate the flavors of peppermint bark in a brownie, the result is irresistible.  Invite some family to come and stay because being left alone with a pan of these brownies is a recipe for diet disaster. These brownies are decadent.

Ingredients:

Brownies:

1 cup Sugar

1/2 cup Butter

2 Eggs

1/2 cup Cocoa Powder

1/2 cup Flour

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Peppermint Extract

White Chocolate Butter Cream:

1/2 cup Butter

1 cup Powdered Sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons Half and Half or Milk

3 ounces White Chocolate Chips

1/2 cup Candy Cane pieces (approximately 15 mini candy canes)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

For the brownies, melt the butter and add in all the other ingredients.  Stir until just combined.  Place the batter into a 8 x 8 inch buttered pan.  Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly.  Place the brownie pan on a cooling rack when they are done and allow to cool for an hour.

To make the frosting, cream together butter and powdered sugar.  Place the white chocolate chips in a glass bowl and place over a pot of simmering water to create a double boiler.  Stir constantly until the chips melt.  Allow the chocolate to cool for a minute before slowly adding to the butter and sugar mixture.  Add in the half and half or milk a tablespoon at a time until the consistency is creamy.  Fold in half of the candy cane pieces.  Spread the frosting over the cooled brownies and sprinkle the top with the rest of the candy cane pieces.  Cut the brownies into 16 pieces and enjoy.

Tips and Tricks:

These brownies are the gooey type, if you would like to remove them from the pan more easily then line the bottom with parchment paper and take them out of the pan whole before frosting.

To crush the candy canes I merely hit the individual packets with the bottom side of a measuring cup a couple of times, you could also remove them from their packages whole and place them in a zip top bag to break them up using a rolling pin or other heavy item.

If your white chocolate chips are not melting properly (white chocolate can be temperamental) try adding vegetable oil in small amounts (about 1/2 teaspoon at a time).


Cranberry Orange Scones

Cranberry Orange Scone

I am on a cranberry kick, ’tis the season after all.  I like this recipe because it is simple and straight forward, but it is also easy to alter to make whatever type of scone you want (more on that below).  That’s the nice thing about having a bit of confidence in the kitchen is the carefree abandon of trying your own recipe.  That is, after all, how recipes get made.  You either research the basics and combine multiple recipes together, have a vague idea of what you’re doing and keep at it until it works, or you find a good basic recipe and tweak it just a little.  And don’t believe the hype, even professional chefs have spectacular culinary disasters now and again, but that’s why you don’t just decide to make something up the day you’re going to serve it (unless you’re really confident it’s going to work).

This recipe is from Bon Appétit, with a couple minor changes.

Ingredients:

3 cups all purpose Flour

1/3 cup Sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 tablespoon grated Orange Zest (about 1 medium sized orange)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted Butter, cut into pea-sized pieces

3/4 cup dried Cranberries

1 cup chilled Buttermilk

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Cranberry, Apple, and Pecan Bread Pudding

I love bread pudding and I hate raisins.  This recipe is perfect for me.

Cranberry, Apple, Pecan Bread Pudding

Cranberry, Apple, and Pecan Bread Pudding

In addition to meeting my personal qualifications for an acceptable bread pudding recipe, I think it would be a great alternative dessert for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  The ingredients are perfect for autumn and it’s not sickeningly sweet (which is another major qualifying factor for me).  I love how it incorporates many of the traditional holiday flavors in a new yet familiar realm.

This recipe is courtesy of the James Beard Foundation website and was adapted from a recipe by Donna Leahy Morning Glories (1996).

Ingredients:

Bread Pudding:

2 medium baking Apples, peeled and sliced

2 teaspoons Lemon Juice

4 large Eggs

1/4 cup Sugar

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg

1 teaspoon Cinnammon

1/4 cup Unsalted Butter, melted, plus more to grease molds or pan

2 cups Half and Half

1/4 cup Brandy

1 cup fresh Cranberries

1/2 cup Pecans

5 cups stale Bread, cubed

Vanilla Bean Custard:

2 cups Half and Half

1 Vanilla Bean, split lengthwise

6 Egg Yolks

1/2 cup Sugar

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Harvest Festival Cookies

 

Harvest Festival Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup of crisco (you can use all butter if you so desire)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup tightly packed brown sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

2 cups of rolled oats (not quick oats)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup pecan pieces (you could substitute walnuts for a more earthy taste)

3/4 cup craisins

1/2 cup brandy or bourbon (such as Jack Daniels), optional.

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