Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December Bakin' Friends

It's hard to believe another year has gone by.  But what a sweet year it has been!  And my Bakin' Friend for December, Melanie Williams, certainly made this year-end especially sweet.  With cardamom as our secret ingredient, I couldn't wait to see what she would bake up for me.



These cookies are so delicious, light, crisp and buttery with a hint of cardamom.  And she also sent a lovely note and an assortment of tea to enjoy with the cookies!

Here is the recipe - I high recommend you make these, although they probably won't last for very long. I couldn't stop eating them!

Thank you so much Melanie - and happy new year to you!

We are a group of people who love to bake.  Each month we are paired with another member, bake up a sweet treat using that month's "secret ingredient" and send it to our match.  If you'd like to join our group of Bakin' Friends, please email Leah MacKenzie at leahmarie.mackenzie@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013!

This is my second year as a participant in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, where each participant sends one dozen homemade cookies to three different people chosen by the organizers.  I love to bake and love eating cookies so I thought what a great way to get three different kinds of delicious cookies in exchange for doing something I truly love?  A definite win-win situation!

This year I made Light Spice Holiday Cookies using a recipe I found on the King Arthur Flour website.  I like this one because it's got a nice spice flavor but isn't heavy on  molasses.  Some people love cookies with lots of molasses but I don't.  The recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons which is just right for me!

The cookies are decorated with vanilla royal icing and accented with spirals of red sanding sugar.

Light Spice Holiday Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice or ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, shortening, sugars, baking powder, spices, and salt until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and molasses, and beat well.  Mix about half of the flour into the butter mixture.  When well combined, add the cornstarch and the remaining flour.  Divide the dough in half, flattening each half slightly to make a disk.  Smooth the edges by rolling the disk along a lightly floured work surface.  Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour (or longer), for easiest rolling.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator, and flour a clean work surface, and the dough.  Roll it out as thin or thick as you like.  For slightly less crisp cookies, roll it out more thickly.  I like to roll cookies 1/4"inch thick.  Use flour under and on top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the table or rolling pin.
Alternatively, place the dough on parchment, and put a sheet of plastic wrap or another piece of parchment over it as you roll, pulling the plastic or parchment to eliminate wrinkles as necessary when rolling; this will keep dough from sticking without the need for additional flour.

Transfer the cookies to ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets and bake them just until they're slightly brown around the edges, or until they feel firm, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool on the baking sheet for several minutes, or until they're set.  Transfer them to a rack to cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Yield:  3 to 4 dozen 2 1/2" to 3" cookies.

I hope everyone enjoyed their cookies.  Happy holidays!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Bakin' Friends

Our secret ingredient for October was CANDY CORN!  I made 2 different recipes I had never made before (my first mistake) and needless to say, they didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped.  So I went with a tried and true recipe for the person I was to send my candy corn treat to (Hi Zainab!).  But Tami Nelson, the Bakin' Friend who had my name, had no trouble at all with that tri-colored, super sugary confection.  She made Rice Krispy Treats, creating layers of candy corn-colored goodness then cutting them into wedges.  I love Rice Krispy Treats and these are a very yummy version!  And they're ALL GONE!!!

But wait . . . there's more!  She also sent me Candy Corn Nanaimo Bars!  Never had a Nanaimo Bar?  Then you best hustle up to British Columbia and visit the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island for which these bars are named.  I was there about 20 years ago and had one (probably several, I can't remember) and loved them.  But I haven't had one since, so these were a real sweet surprise for me!

She got the recipe from Serious Eats (a favorite site of mine) and they describe these bars "as possibly Canada's crowning culinary achievement: a decadent no-bake bar composed of a dense chocolate and coconut base topped with a rich, custardy buttercream and then crowned with a firm chocolate topping.  But in this version, the classic puts on a Halloween costume, swapping the top chocolate layer for a layer of sweet and festive melted candy corn.  The result is an unrelentingly sweet and unabashedly rich treat, certain to satisfy even the sweetest of teeth.  Will they make you fat? Probably, but you can always blame Canada."  
If you'd like the recipe, here's the link: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2009/10/cakespy-candy-corn-nanaimo-bars-halloween-baking.html?ref=search

Check out those layers:

And she topped them with traditional orange and black sprinkles.  They are so delicious!  Since this is the season of sweets, sweets and more sweets, I stashed several bars in the freezer to save as a special treat.  She also included this card that says it all - how sweet it is!

Tami, thank you so much for the double dose of candy corn goodies!  I hope your Halloween is full of sweet treats too!

Bakin' Friends is now in it's second year.  If you would like to join our group, please go to http://www.stephsbitebybite.com/bakin-friends for more information.  Making new friends has never been sweeter!

Monday, September 30, 2013

September Bakin' Friends

When I received the email from Stephanie saying zucchini was our "secret ingredient" for September, I knew my September Bakin' Friend, Dawn Perkowski, would bake up something yummy for me.  Dawn was my Bakin' Friend last October when the ingredient was pumpkin and she sent me a batch of delicious pumpkin butterscotch blondies.

This time, she creatively used zucchini to make some rich, chocolatey BROWNIES!

And I do mean chocolatey.  These babies are so good with a cold glass of milk or a cup of coffee or topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream - anytime of the day!

And they are so moist - which I'm guessing is in part from the addition of zucchini to the batter.

She sent me the recipe on the sweetest recipe card so I'd like to share it with you . . .

Thank you Dawn for another sweet treat from your kitchen - they are delicious!!!

Bakin' Friends is now in it's second year.  If you would like to join our group, please go to http://www.stephsbitebybite.com/bakin-friends/ for more information.  It's like being in the Dessert-of-the-Month Club!

Friday, August 30, 2013

August Bakin' Friends

Renee Butcher (aka What's For Dinner Mama?), my Bakin' Friend for August, blew me away with the package she sent me!  The floral background is actually the mailer she used to send me the goodies.

And the two flamingo glasses inside were stacked full of the most delicious cookies . . .


I had to include a photo of the adorable card she included with the name of the recipe on the front and the recipe on the back.  She also sent me a couple of matching business cards.  But take a look at the main event!

Sorry about the crumbs on the platters.  I wanted to hurry and get the photo session over with so I could sit back and enjoy a cookie or three.  These cookies melt in your mouth, have such a delicious shortbread flavor and the butterscotch bark chips really stand out.  I can't wait to make the butterscotch bark, I think it would make a great gift for the upcoming holidays.  And if I don't eat the entire batch, I will make these cookies.  They are absolutely delicious!

But now the pretty flamingo glasses are empty.  I think they will look great filled with ice-cold fruity cocktails with little paper umbrellas on top, don't you?  Mmm . . .

Thank you, Renee, for all the goodies!  I loved the cookies and whenever I use the glasses, I will think of the your delicious generosity!

Bakin' Friends is now in it's second year and I can't wait to see what the secret ingredient will be for September.  If you would like to join our group, please go to http://www.stephsbitebybite.com/bakin-friends/ for more information.  It's like being in the Dessert-of-the-Month Club!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Bakin' Friends

Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I saw Zainab Mansaray was my Bakin' Friend for July!  She was paired with me in June too!  She made me the most wonderful Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Cookie Bars in June so when she asked what I'd like her to make in July, I asked if she wouldn't mind making the same bars and throwing in some sprinkles to tie in the July secret ingredient.  They were that good!  This time she made the bars using dark brown sugar in the dough instead of light brown.  They had a deeper brown sugar flavor but were still AMAZING!

I finished off the batch last night.  I love to heat them slightly in the microwave so the caramel and chocolate are a little bit gooey.  She also sent me a bonus treat containing the secret ingredient . . .

XXL Buttery Soft Sugar Cookies!

What a sweet surprise!  They were so yummy and so pretty with sprinkles throughout.  Here is the recipe:

2 tablespoon butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons beaten egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablspoon all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking osda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoons sprinkles


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until creamed. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Add in the flour, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar and sprinkles and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
Roll dough into a tall ball and place in the center of the cookie sheet (or divide into 4 equal balls if making smaller cookies). Bake for 14-16 minutes until edge is brown. For smaller cookies, start checking at 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely on baking sheet.

Makes 1 large sugar cookie or 4 small cookies

Recipe Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Once again, I highly recommend making the bars - and the sugar cookies!  I feel blessed to have had Zainab as my Bakin' Friend for two months in a row.  You can count your lucky stars if she is your next Bakin' Friend!  What a wonderful baker!  Thank you again, Zainab, for all the delicious goodies!

Bakin' Friends is celebrating our one-year anniversary and I can't wait to see what the secret ingredient will be for August.  If you would like to join our group, please go to http://www.stephsbitebybite.com/bakin-friends/ for more information!

Friday, June 28, 2013

June Bakin' Friends

Sorry for the delay, I would have posted earlier but I had to go to WORK!!!  The horror - I don't usually work on Fridays!  But the good news is I took some great pictures of what my June Bakin' Friend, Zainab Mansaray (aka Blahnik Baker) sent me containing the June secret ingredient, CARAMEL!

Zainab and I corresponded a bit earlier this month and I found out she and I have more than the love of baking in common - we love designer shoes!  Hence her blog name, Blahnik Baker.  I am lusting after some Christian Louboutins and if I ever get a pair, I will never take them off!

Zainab sent me the most yummy bars incorporating my most favorite flavors, chocolate and caramel.  We agreed they should be a separate food group :)

Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Cookie Bars

I fell in love with these bars.  They are very similar to a chocolate chip cookie (but thicker) and have a generous ribbon of caramel running through them.  To die for.  Teeth screamers!

Take a closer look.  Don't you just want to take a big bite out of that one on top???  And look at the bar on the bottom left.  It's crammed with caramel and chocolate chips!

I've posted the recipe below.  These bars are insane!  MAKE THEM PEOPLE!!!  I actually still have some in my freezer - and I hear them calling me.  I'd better go eat one!

Zainab, thank you so much for these incredible bars!

Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Cookie Bars
(Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
6 ounces caramel candy squares, unwrapped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Sea salt, for sprinkling over caramel and bars

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 8 X 8 baking pan with parchment paper (or foil) leaving overhang. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.

3. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or medium bowl), beat the melted butter and sugars together until combined. Add in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined about 1 minute. Then stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Combine the caramels and heavy cream in a medium microwave safe bowl and melt in a microwave. Stir every 30 seconds until caramels are melted. This will take about 2 minutes, depending on your microwave.

5. Add half of the cookie dough to the prepared pan. Press gently and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle/pour the hot caramel sauce over the cookie dough and sprinkle with sea salt. Using a small cookie scoop or a tablespoon, drop spoonfuls of cookie dough over the caramel. Spread the dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle again with sea salt.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool bars on a wire rack to room temperature. Cut into squares and serve.

Bakin' Friends will be celebrating our 1st anniversary next month and I can't wait to see what the secret ingredient will be.  If you would like to join our group, please go to http://www.stephsbitebybite.com/bakin-friends/ for more information and to sign up.  It's like being in the Dessert-of-the-Month Club!