Orange Shortbread Cookies

Merry Christmas!  This year we’re at my parents’ house for the holiday.  It’s a quiet one this year, which is OK with me.  My husband and I just got back from a trip to Las Vegas with some friends.  And from what I remember, it was a fantastic trip.  I’m just kidding.  Of course I remember it all…I have pictures, so how could I forget?!  Haha!

After recovering from that trip to Sin City, I wasn’t really up for doing a huge baking project, but my son needed to leave something out for Santa and his reindeer.  We all know Santa prefers homemade over store-bought cookies, so I had to think of something.  A while back I found this shortbread recipe that looked really cute, and I thought it was a great time to try them.

Orange Shortbread Cookies

Orange Shortbread Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1-2 Tablespoon orange juice (optional)
Candy holly leaves and berries (I used Wilton’s, which I found on Amazon.com)

In a medium bowl sift together flour and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl and add vanilla. Mix until combined. Now add the flour mixture and mix in by hand. Fold in orange zest. If the dough looks too dry, add orange juice one tablespoon at a time.

Once all ingredients are combined, form a ball with the dough and roll into a disk about half an inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for about half an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured counter. Roll out dough to about 1/4″ thick. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut out dough. Place candy holly leaves and berries on each cookie in a design of your choosing and press down firmly (almost the the point where the candy is flush with the dough). Try not to get them too close to the edge of the cookie because the heat from the cookie sheet will melt them. As always, try and get as many cookies as you can out of that initial roll-out. Place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 mins.

Merry Christmas and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Sweet Lavender Bake Shoppe

Separation Anxiety: When Buttercream Separates

It’s funny, when I’m making buttercream frosting for something that’s just going to be consumed by my family, the buttercream comes out just fine.  Yet, as soon as there’s even the mere thought that it might be enjoyed by others…perhaps a birthday cake…the buttercream likes to separate.  It tastes fine, but looks like colored cottage cheese.  Sounds tasty, right?  Ha!

Experience has taught me that there are several factors that can contribute to the separation, so I’ve learned to try and keep extra ingredients in case I have to ditch that batch.  I thought it might be a good idea to research what’s exactly going on when it happens and if there’s any way to save separated buttercream.  Below is a list of tricks you can try to get separated buttercream back together.

  1. Increase your mixer speed for 1-3 minutes.
  2. Adjust the temperature.  As a lot of recipes indicate, it’s ideal to have all the ingredients at room temperature.  If the bowl feels cold, try carefully submerging it into a warm water bath or putting a warm towel around the base.  If the bowl feels warm, try carefully submerging the bowl in an ice bath or adding cold butter.
  3. In a last ditch effort, strain the buttercream to separate the liquid from the solids.  Pour the liquid back into the bowl and put the mixer speed at medium.  Slowly add the solids back into the bowl, which will create a new emulsion.

Always make sure your cake or cupcakes are completely cooled and the temperature of the room you’re working in is not excessively hot (summer days may be tricky).  If anyone else has any tips, please feel free to share!

Tips courtesy of The Kitchn

Snowman Cupcakes

Anyone know how ugly sweater parties originated?  Yeah, neither do I.  And why, exactly, are these sweaters still sold as sweaters one would wear like they’re still in style?  I thought that once we decided to have parties recognizing the fact that they’re ugly, they’d stop making them….but no!  You can buy them brand-spankin’-new in many department stores starting around September.  Well, I know you, a beloved fan, wouldn’t even dream of buying one, but one could if they so desired…or were drunk and weren’t capable of making good decisions.

My friends have talked me into hosting an ugly sweater party this weekend.  I can only imagine what this will be like, my first ugly sweater party.  So to make up for the ugliness going on, I’m making these cute Snowman Cupcakes.

Snowman Cupcake

Snowman Cupcakes

2 c. sugar
3 1/2 c. flour
2 1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c. whole milk
3 t. pure vanilla extract (I don’t normally use pure, but when vanilla is the star, I tend to use pure)
4 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the butter and mix with an electric mixer until mixture looks sandy/has course crumbles.  Combine the milk and vanilla and add to mixture, mixing at a low speed for 30 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl.  With the mixer running at low speed, add one egg at a time making sure to incorporate each egg entirely before adding another.  Repeat until each egg is added.  Make sure to scrape the bowl as you go along.  Pour into prepared muffin tin (again, I use my large cookie scoop for this job) and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Recipe adapted from Natalie Sélavy

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

3 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter, room temperature
1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract (I don’t normally use pure, but when vanilla is the star, I tend to use pure)
3 T. whole milk or whipping cream

Mix together powdered sugar and butter with an electric mixer until smooth.  Start out at a low speed or you’ll be covered in powdered sugar.  Increase speed to medium for 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and milk (or whipping cream) and mix for 1 minute.  Add more milk (or whipping cream) if needed for desired consistency.

Recipe adapted from The Food Network

For Decoration

1 box Mike and Ikes
about 1/3 c. mini chocolate chips
about 1/2 c. large granulated sugar (Do not mistake this for raw sugar.  We’re not making brown snowmen here!)

While the cupcakes cool, prepare your decorations.  Pick out the orange Mike and Ikes and put into a bowl.  They’ll act as the carrots.  Get the mini chocolate chips (eyes and mouths) ready by putting them in a bowl and dump the sugar on a small plate.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost them with the vanilla frosting.  Then dip the frosting in the sugar.  You should do this while the frosting hasn’t had a chance to harden or it won’t stick as well.  Place an orange Mike and Ike in the center for the nose and chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth as shown in picture.

Maple Bacon Scones

Looking over my Pinterest boards, I’ve noticed a pattern.  Most of my pins include one of the following things: bacon, Nutella or Ryan Gosling, who, for some reason has yet to return any of my phone calls.  Maybe we can find a way to combine the three……..<drool>……OK, snap out of it!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: bacon.  I don’t know what’s been going on with the bacon scene lately, but there’s bacon in everything.  It’s not like I’m complaining about this bacon fad–I’m quite fond of it myself (who isn’t?!) and I’ve been known to make some interesting things with bacon.  Some of my friends and family can attest to that, but we probably don’t need to get into how these concoctions came about. ;o)  I have yet to get any complaints, so I keep making them.

This recipe is one of my favorite bacon-infused treats and it’s perfect for mornings like this one when it’s snowing and cold out.  It would also be good for Christmas morning, which is why I’m sharing it now.

Maple Bacon Scones

Maple Bacon Scones

2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
8 T. butter, divided
6 T. maple syrup, divided
1/4 c. plus 1 T. buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 c. chopped pecans (optional)
4-5 thick slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
1 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a baking sheet with no-stick baking spray.

In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Cut in 6 tablespoons of butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until mixture is crumbly. In small bowl, whisk ¼ cup maple syrup, ¼ cup buttermilk and egg until blended. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Fold in the majority of the bacon, reserving some for the top.  The dough will be sticky.

With floured hands, pat dough into an 8-inch circle on baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining bacon (and pecans if you wanted), gently pressing into dough. Slice dough into 8 wedges, but don’t cut all the way through. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is lightly browned. Remove from heat. Whisk in powdered sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and enough of remaining buttermilk to make a drizzling icing. Spoon icing over top of warm scones. Slice into wedges and serve warm.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Better Recipes

Harvey Wallbanger Cake

The holiday season is here and you know what that means: family!  In large doses!  Yeah, I know, I’m right there with ya.   You love ‘em, but there’s a reason you no longer live with them.  Take solace in knowing that not only will it end, but I’m bringing a booze-filled cake to get us through the holidays.  Hang onto your hats ladies and gentleman, it’s a Harvey Wallbanger cake.

Now there are plenty of recipes out there that make it easy on you by using a boxed cake mix.  Well, you’re not gonna find that here.  If you’re spending the money on the alcohol, just add a few more steps and do it from scratch–you’ll be glad that you did.  The Harvey Wallbanger cake was created after the drink and as we all know, alcohol + baked goods= a good time for everyone.  The alcohol that goes into this one includes vodka and Galliano (an herbal/vanilla-anise liqueur).  If you don’t know what Galliano looks like, below is a picture to help you find it.  It’s a little pricey, which is why I say you make this cake from scratch.  Bottom’s up!

 

Harvey Wallbanger Cake

For the cake:

1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 t. salt
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 t. vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature
3 c. (12 3/4 oz) flour
3 T. cornstarch
4 t. baking powder
3/4 c. fresh orange juice
1/4 c. Galliano
1/4 c. vodka
1 T. orange zest

 

For the glaze:

1 c. (4 oz) powdered sugar, sifted
1 T. fresh orange juice
1 T. Galliano
1 t. vodka
2 t. orange zest

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, butter and salt with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add the oil and mix well.  Next, add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time making sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder.

In a glass measuring cup, combine the orange juice, Galliano, vodka and orange zest.  Make sure everything is room temperature or warm it in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Using a whisk, add a third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and incorporate.  Now add half of the liquid mixture and mix thoroughly.  Add another third of the dry ingredients and mix well.  Next, add the remaining liquid mixture and whisk until incorporated.  Finally, mix in the last of the dry ingredients.

Pour batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan, smooth batter with the back of a spoon and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

While cake is cooling, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze.  Once the cake has cooled for 20 minutes, carefully remove from pan by placing a plate on the top and flipping it over.  Be patient.  Sometimes it doesn’t come out right away.  While the cake is still warm, pour glaze evenly over the cake.

In my opinion, the cake is best the next day.  The flavors have had a chance to get to know each other and I think the flavor is more pronounced.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

The Tipping Point: Piping Tips

How many times have you put your piping tip in your pastry bag, filled it with the perfect frosting and went to go frost your cupcake when you realize that you’re using the wrong tip?  Yeah, it’s pretty much 100% of the time for me.  Sooo…

I was doing my nightly perusing on Pinterest, when I came along this awesome website that I will now be referring to all the time.

Piping Tips from Twist ‘n’ Swirl

Fall Sugar Cookies

Wow, it’s been so long since my last post.  With visiting family, trying to beat this cold that’s been going around, among so many other little things that have crept into my life, I haven’t found much time to do any baking.  And boy, do I need to!  Time to feed my soul and my friends who haven’t received any baked goods in a while.

This recipe has been a family favorite for a while; it’s my mom’s favorite sugar cookie recipe.  She always wants me to make them for her whenever I ask her what kind of cookies she wants.  She’d also give me a hard time about how they were more like biscuits because I didn’t roll them out as thin as the recipe suggests.  What can I say?  I like a puffier cookie.

These ones are a little different than how I usually make them.  I added food coloring instead of using colored frosting–by the way, I’m much more of a frosting person, but this time it works well not to use frosting. [Side note: anyone else experience difficulty typing when you have a cat that feels like he weighs 25 lbs. across your arms?  See pic below to see my plight.  And now he's closed all of my tabs except for this one.]  Anyway….these cookies are perfect for fall as they have fall colors, are fun to make with kids, and they’re a good alternative for those who are silly enough to not like pumpkin pie ;o)

Sugar Cookies

3 ¼ c. flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
½ c. shortening or butter (softened)
1 c. sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1 t. vanilla
½ c. sour cream

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix the shortening or butter, sugar, egg and vanilla with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes, scraping bowl.  Add the sour cream and mix under incorporated.  Add sifted flour mixture.  Mix together until well blended, scraping bowl.  Divide the dough in fourths placing each ball into its own bowl.  Drop food coloring into each bowl (green in one, red in another, orange [red + yellow] in another and yellow in, yet, another bowl).  After each bowl has its own food coloring, mix each separately so that it incorporates its respective color.  The best way to do this is by using a latex glove so you don’t stain your hands.  Cover and chill the dough for an hour.

Take about a fourth of each colored dough and put them together into a ball.  Roll the dough out on lightly floured surface to ¼” thickness.  Use autumnal cookie cutters and place on prepared cookie sheet.  As with any sugar cookie, try to get as many cookies as you can with a single roll out. Take a toothpick to gently make the leaf’s “veins.”  Sprinkle the cookies with sugar (I used raw) and pat down lightly by hand.  Bake at 375°F for about 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Owl Cupcakes

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  I love the time of year with the fall foliage and I love to decorate for Halloween.  I also have a ton of fun throwing parties and dressing up.  We do a lot of family-oriented things around the holiday as well.  We’ll go to pumpkin patches and we’ll all dress up.  One year we did a Wizard of Oz theme, which turned out really cute.  It’s just a fun time of year for all of us.

Halloween is a pretty big deal in my small town, too.  They close off Main Street and have a huge parade in the afternoon, ending it with some trick-or-treating with the participating stores around the Plaza.  There are so many cool homemade costumes and you can really see the creativity that goes into them.

This is the first year Matt’s in school for the holiday, so we thought it would be fun to make cupcakes for his class.  Today, in between some indoor soccer games (it’s rainy out), Matt and I made these cute owl cupcakes.  He’s such a help in the kitchen…when he wants to be…and I also think it’s good to get him involved in cooking and baking.  It’s an excellent learning opportunity for both of us…….OK, I won’t deny the fact that I’m trying to shape him into being a good boyfriend or husband for someone.  ;o)

These cupcakes are pretty easy to do because it’s just a box mix, canned frosting and some other pre-made ingredients for decoration.

Owl Cupcakes

Owl Cupcakes

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 box of your favorite cake mix (yellow, white, or chocolate)
1 bag of M&Ms
1 package of Oreos
1 can of chocolate frosting

Follow the instructions on the box to make cupcakes.  Seems easy enough, right?  It’s nice to have a helper in the kitchen.  Here’s mine:

                                     

 While those are baking, have your little helper sort out the M&Ms for the cupcakes.  I put out some bowls and had Matt sort out the colors.  It just makes it easier when it’s time to assemble them.  This is a great learning experience for colors, dexterity, matching and patience.  Really, I don’t have any teaching credentials, so teachers, feel free to add any other things kids might learn through doing this task.

The next part is for grown-ups.  Taking a sharp knife, split the Oreos in half so that one side has the cream and other other is just the chocolate cookie.  You can try to split it without the knife, but sometimes you end up with cream on both sides.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost them with the chocolate frosting.  Place 2 Oreos side by side in the center of the cupcake just as the picture shows.  Put an orange M&M vertically in the cupcake for the beak…again, just like the picture.  Place a small amount of frosting on the “M” side of an M&M for the eyes.  Position the M&M (frosting side down) on the cream part of the Oreo…big surprise, like the picture shows.  Repeat with the same color for the other eye.  Next, take your knife and make points at the top of the eyes for the owl’s ears.  Voila!  You’ve got an owl cupcake.  See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Happy Halloween!

Chocolate Porter Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream Frosting

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~Ana Nin

 This week’s recipe is very special to me.  It’s a tribute to someone who’s very close to me–someone who offers so much to those who need to find their place in this crazy world, are in need of a shoulder to lean on, or are in need of someone to make their cheeks hurt from smiling so much.  :o)  This person is one of the most influential and kind-hearted people I’ve had the pleasure to get to know and will always have a special place in my heart.  As my way of saying “thank you for being you and for all you’ve done for me,” I’m submitting Chocolate Porter Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream Frosting for this week’s post.

 I chose these particular cupcakes because it incorporates some components that have some significance to us: coffee, dark chocolate, and Oregon’s own Black Butte Porter.  Separately, the core ingredients are great, but together, they are the perfect combination.  For extra credit, I tried my hand at creating dark chocolate candy to top it off.  I hadn’t made any confectioneries before, so I got some tips from Sweet Stuff, my favorite local baking supply store.

 I’m giving y’all fair warning: you may need to have some restraint with these ones or you might end up needing to loosen your belt a bit; there’s nothing healthy about ‘em.  Well, other than the dark chocolate, of course! ;o)

Chocolate Porter Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream Frosting

For the Cupcakes:

1 cup Black Butte Porter (you could use another, but this one’s a safe bet)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon instant espresso

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake cups with liners.

Bring 1 cup porter and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.  Add porter-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine.  Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.  Add espresso and stir till even incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared liners. I use my giant cookie scoop (a.k.a. an ice cream scoop) for ease and even measurements.  Bake cupcakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 15-17 minutes.  The cake is dense and needs a bit more time than your traditional cake mix.

Recipe adapted from CraftBeer

 

Frosting:

1 1/2 T. instant coffee granules
1 1/2 T. hot water
1 1/2 T. vanilla extract
3/4 lb. (3 sticks) butter, softened
3 c. confectioners’ sugar
3 T. whole or 2% milk (skim milk might make it too watery)

Combine water, coffee granules, and vanilla extract in a small bowl; stir to dissolve coffee.  Set aside.

Beat butter in bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.  Reduce mixer speed to low.  Add confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating for a few seconds between each addition.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.  Add the coffee mixture and milk; beat on low speed to combine.  Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Frosts 18 cupcakes.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchen is my Playground

 

Chocolate Candies

 

1 bag Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate Chips (or other high quality chocolate)

Instant espresso (optional)

The quantities are up to you, but I used about a whole bag of chocolate and a teaspoon of instant espresso and still had extra…darn!

In a double boiler melt chocolate along with the espresso.  The espresso just brings out the chocolate flavor, so you don’t have to add it if you don’t have any on hand.  You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, but if your microwave heats unevenly, you might burn it.

 Carefully spoon into desired candy molds* making sure not to over-fill.  Drop the filled mold several times on the counter to bring up any air bubbles.  Place in the fridge for about 20-30 mins to set.  Once they’re hard, pop the chocolate out and wrap them in foil wrappers or leave as is.

 *Make sure your molds are clean and free of any moisture–especially after just washing them.  Water will dampen the party and cause the chocolate seize.  For more helpful chocolate tips, check out this website.

 Enjoy!

Baking Projects Over the Years

I really should’ve started this blog years ago.  Here are some of the pictures of other baking projects I’ve done over the years.  Hopefully I can find the recipes I used for them and link them to the title.

 Hostess Cupcakes

My take on the classic Hostess cupcake.  Waaay better than the store-bought kind.

Hostess Cupcakes

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Chocolate Guinness cupcakes with chocolate ganache and Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting.

Irish Carbomb Cupcakes

Matt’s 2nd Birthday Cake (Kipper the dog)

Red velvet face with chocolate ears.  He loved this cake!

Kipper the Dog

Matt’s 3rd Birthday Cake

Chocolate construction site cake with candy rocks and Oreo dirt.

Construction Site Cake