Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Girl Scout Samoa's

I look forward to this time of year, when little girls in green vests come to our Walmart and sell Girl Scout cookies. (that sounded a little creepy)  I only buy one flavor, the samoa.  Toasted coconut, caramel, chocolate..oh yeah and a cookie!  Love them.  I enjoy them mostly frozen and on the couch, when my kids are in bed so I don't have to share.  I know, it's kind of mean, but seriously you pay $3.50 for a box of cookies, and that box only contains, what twelve cookies?  So, I am a Samoa hoarder..yep.  I got a brilliant idea to make my own.  I decided not to look up a recipe, but just wing it.  And it actually wasn't too shabby.  Although, these would have been much easier with a third or fourth hand.  So, if you decide to make these, do so with a friend!

This recipe has four separate parts, each is vital to the yumminess of your the end, you will be glad you tried.  Right? it goes.

Step 1: making your toasted coconut flakes.

In this day and age, we are lucky to live in a society that brings us marvelous things, like marshmallow fluff (that's for you Mindy) and shredded sweetened coconut flakes..have you ever tried to cut a coconut?  Marvelous stores like Walmart (sarcasm here) provided me with these white flakes of sweet nutty-ness.

Preheat your oven to 325.  Place the coconut flakes on a baking sheet, making sure it is an even layer.  Once your oven is heated, bake your coconut flakes until your desired toasting is achieved.  Keep an eye on this, because it will brown quickly.  Take your coconut out of the oven, and put in a bowl, or small casserole dish, otherwise, the hot baking pan will keep toasting your coconut.  When it is cool, crumble the coconut into smaller pieces.  This will help a lot later on. Set aside.

Shortbread cookies:
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

cream your butter until fluffy, about 1 minute.  Add the powdered sugar and cream together for about 2 minutes, or until the mix is light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and beat until well incorporated (seriously, that word makes me think of Kids Incorporated..) add the flour and mix until just combined.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.  Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease two baking sheets, or place parchment paper on the sheets.  Roll out the shortbread on a lightly floured surface and cut out your desired shapes.  In keeping with the theme of Samoa's, I made round shapes, and then cut out the middle.  Place on the baking sheets and let them chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes.  Bake in the oven, one sheet at a time for 8-10 minutes.  I found that if you baked them a little longer, they held up better than the 8 minute ones. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Caramel for dipping..

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup

place all three ingredients in a pan over medium heat, let the butter melt.  Wait for the mixture to come to a boil, and then watch, and check the caramel.  I waited until it was a little above the "soft ball" stage.  Take off of heat and start dipping your cookies in the caramel.  This is where an extra pair of hands would come in handy.  My caramel was cooling a lot faster than I was working.  Once the cookie is covered in caramel, place in the reserved coconut flakes, coat and then place on a sheet of wax paper.  Make sure the cookie is well covered in coconut, otherwise, they will stick to your wax paper.  repeat until all your cookies are done. While you are waiting for the caramel to set...(A friend had the brilliant idea to mix the coconut and the caramel together, duh Em, that would have been a lot easier!)

Melt a bag of chocolate chips either in a double broiler, which I prefer, or in the good old man made wonder, the microwave..  Place in a pastry bag and drizzle the chocolate on top of the caramel coconut cookie.  let the chocolate set and enjoy!  Seriously glad my neighbor loves coconut, because apparently, no one in my house does but me, so I suppose I really didn't have to hide them...and can you imagine what these babies would do to my thighs?  :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

About a month ago, I made cupcakes almost every day for an entire week.  I was in love with my new kitchen aid, she was crying that she needed to be paid attention too, and I couldn't just ignore her. (making cupcakes every day for a week, might be the reason why my special someone is cupcaked out..) I have tried lots of recipes..many many many cupcake recipes. I know, I'm a little crazy when it comes to cupcakes.  It is like a constant ache in my soul if I can't make cupcakes..just kidding, I'm not that crazy, YET.  I have a few recipes that I know are scrumptious, delightful and the best EVER.  I am not kidding. This is one for the money, baby.

 If you love moist cake, this chocolate pumpkin cupcake is for YOU.  This recipe is the one that convinced me that I should only make cakes completely from scratch.  Real butter, sugar, flour, pumpkin, the best chocolate powder you can find..yep.  Very good.  So, I decided I would share.  I found this recipe on MSN when I was checking my email.  I have found similar ones, but they really can't compare to this one.  In the original recipe, it called for nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon.  I have some weird aversion to cinnamon and chocolate, not sure why. but I am scared of cinnamon anything..except toast, which in reality is a heck of a lot of sugar, with some cinnamon on heavily buttered freshly toasted bread...Sorry, tangents..

Here is the best Chocolate Cupcake recipe EVER..(well maybe not EVER, but I do love it... I had to freeze most of the cupcakes from that lovely week, because I was in danger of eating every last one of them and they taste just as good thawed as the day I baked them.)

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake:

2 1/2 cups plus 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons good quality cocoa
1 tablespoon  baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, use regular milk, just add a tsp of vinegar and let sit for a minute or two)
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/8 cups unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 1 /2 cups sugar
5 large eggs

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda.  Sift together well.  Set aside.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree with the buttermilk.  Set aside.  In your mixer with the paddle attachment cream together the softened butter and sugars, 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds each time.  Alternate mixing in the four and buttermilk, ending with the flour.  fill your cupcake liners with batter and bake 20-22 minutes in a preheated oven set at 350.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sugar Cookies...revised

I love soft sugar cookies.  There is something so heavenly and lovely about biting into a soft, light cookie with a smear of butter cream.  If there is a heaven, and I'm 100% sure there is, then I will be living in eternity eating sugar cookies..dramatic?  You bet, I love sugar cookies. Dare I say even more than I love cupcakes? *gasp* My mother in law introduced me to this recipe, and I have loved making it.  I tried making these using them with butter instead of shortening, my shortening had red sprinkles in it.  I liked the recipe either way.  So, which ever way is your fancy, try it, love it, and thank me later!

Soft Sugar Cookies
1 cup softened butter or shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup milk plus 1 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (which I always forget to add)
5-7 cups all purpose flour

In a small bowl combine milk and vinegar and set aside.  In your mixer using your paddle attachment cream together your butter or shortening and sugar until light and fluffy about 2 to three minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, scrape down sides as needed.  Add in the milk and vanilla and mix until well incorporated   It will look a  little separated at this point, don't worry.  Add in the baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix.  Start adding in the flour one cup at a time.  This dough will be fairly soft still around the fifth cup.  Sprinkle your counter or wherever you plan on cutting out your cookies on generously with flour and place the dough on top.  Start kneading in at least another cup or two of flour, if the dough is too soft.  If you would like, you can chill the dough.  Or you can start rolling out your shapes. Keep the dough on the slightly thicker side, but you can go a little thinner, although i wouldn't suggest too thin unless you want a cracker.

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly spray your baking sheets with cooking spray.  Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.  I would do less, but I like mine slightly on the doughier side.  Totally up to you.  Another trick I have heard about is to chill your shaped cookies in the fridge for a couple of minutes before baking so that your cookies keep their shape.  I haven't tried that yet, but you can.  I just use round shapes, because I'm not super fancy with frosting.  I like straight up butter cream and a few red hots on my cookies.  Or even candy corn at Halloween. Or just out of the oven, plain and steaming  fresh. WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR SUGAR COOKIE BOAT.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Love at first sight

this is my new love.  She is beautiful.  Her natural beauty shines through the orange, which I love!  If I could paint my house this color, I would!  She has already proven that she will be there for me whenever I need her.  She is steady, and can handle anything I have thrown at her.  She has an honored spot on the kitchen counter, so that everyone can bask in her loveliness.  Now, she just needs a name to honor her by! 

Chocolate Chip Cookies..

Have you ever made chocolate chip cookies from a recipe on the back of the chocolate morsels?  And have you ever been disappointed by the recipe?  I have.  I hated chocolate chip cookies, I hated how flat they turned out, and how crunchy they ended up being.  Who wants a thin, flat, crunchy cookie?  Certainly, not me. I love soft, fluffy cookies.  My dad gave me this recipe years ago, when I first got really interested in baking.  Dad said it's the Mrs Fields Chocolate Chip recipe.  I can't say for sure if it is or not.  I think there are a lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there that claim to be Mrs. Fields.  I have never researched this to make sure.  And honestly, where I am just baking them for the fun of it, I'm not going to stress.  :)

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups packed brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour
5 cups oatmeal
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

In your mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars.  Add the eggs in one at a time and then add the vanilla.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, salt baking powder and baking soda.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture slowly until well incorporated.  Fold in 2 packages of your favorite morsels..I like semi-sweet and butterscotch together.  Your batter will end up looking like this:

When you are done mixing, lightly spray your cookie sheets with non stick, or you can use parchment paper, if you want really big cookies, use an ice cream scoop.  I use a tablespoon, and roll them by hand.  Once on the the pan, you will want to lightly press the cookie ball down.  Bake in a preheated oven 350 for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  And enjoy!