Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thick and chewy gingerbread cookies

I have a confession to make. I have never made gingerbread cookies prior to this. Why not? Well, my family and I never baked together, and I have an aversion to ginger. Gingerbread flavored things are a newly acquired taste, so it has never been a high priority of things to bake.

Last year, we were walking through the mall after the holidays and I noticed that cookie cutters were on sale at a kitchen store. Addie was with me and went bonkers when she saw the gingerbread man cookie cutters. She asked me to buy one so we could bake them together. I bought the cutter and promised her that we would make them together the following year.

And here I am, finally fulfilling that promise. Addie and I had a blast making these cookies, and they were easier than I expected. I was initially worried that I wouldn't have enough molasses for the cookies (they come out of the bottle pretty slowly, so I was getting nervous), and Addie's reply to me was, "Mommy. Don't worry. Just be patient. It will be OK." Of course, Addie was right, and I had enough molasses for the recipe.

We baked these for 8 minutes and they turned out great. When I went to decorate the cookies, Addie was very adamant that I make most of these girl gingerbread cookies. She wasn't too fond of the boy ones and told me that, "It's OK, Mommy. You get what you get." Alas, I still made some boy cookies just in case.

These cookies were not only fun to bake together, but they also tasted wonderful. When my husband returned from swimming, he commented that the house smelled good. He was right - the house was filled with the aromas of cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Although Addie claimed that the raw dough tasted a bit spicy, she liked the cookies after they were baked. I wish I would have made these a bit thicker since they were still a bit hard for my tastes (I'm a chewy cookie fan), but that is something that I can do the next time I bake these with my little girl.

Thick and chewy gingerbread cookies
  • 3 cups (15 ounces) flour
  • ¾ cup packed (5 ¼ ounces) dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 12 pieces
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
Frosting
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons water (or milk)
Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Do this whisking by hand or with a hand whisk (if you use the electric mixer, the contents will fly everywhere). Add in the butter pieces and mix with the paddle attachment at low speed. Then add the milk and increase the speed to medium until all the ingredients are well combined. The dough will be fairly thick.

Transfer the dough to a clean working surface topped with a piece of waxed or parchment paper. DO NOT FLOUR THE SURFACE! Cut the dough in half and set one half aside. Add another piece of waxed/parchment paper on top of one of the cut pieces of dough. Use a rolling pin (or wine or soda bottle) to flatten the dough to about 1/4" thick. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 2 hours or up to overnight. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough for 15-20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Once the dough is chilled and has hardened, take one of them out of the refrigerator and use a cookie dough cutter to shape the cookies. Place the cut out cookies on a parchment-lined (or use a Silpat) cookie sheet.

Bake in your preheated oven for 8-9 minutes or until the centers are set. Do not overbake these!

Repeat with the remaining tray of dough. Dough can be re-rolled and re-cut, but make sure that you do not add flour to these when re-rolling. Simply put the excess dough in between the two sheets of parchment or waxed paper to roll out.

Allow the cookies to cool on the tray for about 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Once cookies are cool, you can frost.

To make the frosting, simply mix the powdered sugar and water to form a thick frosting (you do not want this to be runny). Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag with a small circular tip or to a zip-top bag with a small hole cut in a corner. Pipe decorations onto the cookies and allow them to cool before serving or storing.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days.

Yield: I used a small gingerbread cookie cutter and got about 40 cookies

Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

5 ingredient one-bowl gluten-free coconut flour brownies

Have you ever baked or cooked with coconut flour? I'm sure my gluten-free friends have tried it at some point. I personally had not used it before but was intrigued. Coconut products seems like all the rage these days, and it was only a matter of time that I tried to bake with coconut flour.

My friends at King Arthur Flour sent me a package of coconut flour to try.  I did a bit of research online, and it turns out that coconut flour isn't an easy substitute for all-purpose flour. Coconut flour absorbs liquid much more easily than its gluten-laden counterpart, so recipes with coconut flour will require a lot more eggs and liquid/moisture in order to be successful. And apparently, there is no substitute for the eggs, so anybody who is dairy-free might bit out of luck on this recipe I'm sharing.

I loved the simplicity of this recipe - I only needed one bowl, one spatula, one liquid measuring cup and one dry measuring cup for these brownies. Plus, there were only 5 ingredients in these (vanilla extract being optional).

I thought that the brownies tasted more like a cake and were just a tad grainy. Granted, I knew that the texture was going to be slightly "off" since I baked with coconut flour, but the flavor wasn't bad. A gluten-free skating mom tried them at the rink and said that she really liked them. If you want to jazz these up a bit, you can always drizzle them with sauce or eat with ice cream.

Gluten-free coconut flour brownies
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 Tablespoon coconut flour (if you have a kitchen scale, measure out 50 grams for a more accurate amount)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
Directions
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.  Generously grease a standard 8"x8" square baking pan and set aside (I used my silicone baking pan and did not grease it).

In a large bowl with a rubber spatula, mix all ingredients together until no flour or cocoa streaks remain.

Transfer to your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the brownies before serving.

Brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Disclaimer: King Arthur Flour sent me a complimentary bag of coconut flour, but I was not provided any additional compensation for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan; about 16 brownies

Source: Adapted from Empowered Sustenance

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Skating Fridays

2014 Skating Goals Progress Report

As the year starts to wind down, I thought it would be fun to take a look at my 2014 skating goals and see how I progressed towards them.
  1. Pass the Adult Gold Freestyle test - Done! I passed this in January 2014.
  2. Get the axel more consistent and fully correct - Still a work in progress, though it has made drastic improvements
  3. Work on an axel combination (like axel-loop, axel-toe, etc) - Yup! I had an axel-toe in my program at Adult Nationals and have an axel-toe loop-loop in an upcoming program
  4. Work on a double salchow and/or double toe loop - We worked on this during the summer and I actually landed one in August. I haven't worked on it since getting new skates though.
  5. Add a high level GOE spin to my repertoire (like sit-cannonball for 8-back tuck) - I'm still refining these. I have two new spin combinations, and if I can execute these correctly, one will (hopefully) be a Level 3 spin and the other a Level 2. Coach B thinks the Level 3 spin is pretty solid, so that makes me happy.
  6. Skate with more power and speed - While I made improvements on this front, it wasn't until I got new boots and blades that I could really feel a difference. And I know this has gotten better since several coaches have commented on my quickness on the ice. I have not competed in an IJS event since Adult Nationals, so I have no scores to prove any progress. Maybe next year.
I'll list out my 2014 accomplishments and 2015 goals in separate posts, so stay tuned for that.

If you are a skater, how did you progress on your 2014 goals?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Double chocolate chip muffins

Addie is all about the muffins these days. One weekend, she declared in her most serious voice, "Mommy! We need to make muffins." When I asked her what kind, she said, "chocolate with chocolate." So off I went to search for a double chocolate muffin recipe. I found some that called for Greek yogurt or sour cream, and since I didn't have either ingredient in the house, I had to look around for other recipes that didn't include those ingredients.


"Why haven't they puffed up yet?"
This one from Bakers Royale popped up and looked promising. I substituted the oil called for in the original recipe with unsweetened applesauce to make them a tad healthier. Addie helped me whisk all the dry ingredients together, crack the egg, mix the wet ingredients, and fold everything together in the large bowl. Her fine motor skills still need some refining, so I took charge of transferring the batter to the muffin pan.

As soon as I put the muffin pan in the oven, Addie asked, "Mommy! Why haven't the muffins puffed up yet?" I told her that they would need to bake a little while longer before they started puffing. She impatiently watched the oven and then got bored and moved on to something else. Once the muffins were done baking and had cooled off, she taste tested one and couldn't stop smiling. My girl got chocolate all over her face and hands and couldn't wait to show her daddy what she had made.

These muffins were so fun to bake and eat with my little girl. They weren't too sweet and are just chocolatey enough to get all over a kid's little face and hands.
"Look at what I made!"

Double chocolate chip muffins
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard muffin tin and set aside (I used my silicone muffin pan and did not grease it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and sugar. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the milk, applesauce, egg and vanilla.

Transfer the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold everything together using as few strokes as possible. When the mixture is about 75% incorporated, add in the chocolate chips. Mix until everything just comes together - you do not want to overmix the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter into the wells of the muffin pan, filling each about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool before serving. Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from Bakers Royale

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting

My friend Coleen at The Redhead Baker is hosting Cupcake Day today. Several of us participated in this sweet day, and I contributed these gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Since December usually means gingerbread, I thought these would be perfect for Cupcake Day.

The cupcakes had the perfect amount of spices and were slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I recommend baking these for 17 minutes and checking after that because my cupcakes were a little too done for my personal tastes. The cupcakes are then topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting with a hint of cinnamon mixed in. I sprinkled the tops of my cupcakes with additional cinnamon to polish off the look.

Don't forget to check out the other fabulous cupcakes that these talented bloggers made:

Gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting
Cupcakes
  • 1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons, or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup water, divided
Frosting
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups (1 pound package) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 teaspoons milk
Directions
Make the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease or fill a standard muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix together butter, sugar, molasses and egg on medium speed. Turn the speed down to low and add 1/4 cup of the water and then the dry ingredients. Repeat.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pan and bake in your preheated oven for 22-24 minutes (I recommend baking for 17-18 minutes and checking at that point) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: In the (clean) bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Turn the mixer down to low and add the powdered sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Then add milk until you achieve your preferred frosting consistency.

Transfer the frosting to a piping bag and decorate the cupcakes.

Frosted cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days. They can also be stored in the refrigerator. Any leftover frosting can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Unfrosted cupcakes can also be frozen.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Source: King Arthur Flour

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

One bowl brownies

Addie's classroom was having a party at school one day, and the teacher put out a sign-up sheet. Being the baking snob I am, I did not want to bring anything store-bought and didn't want to sign up for snacks like pretzels or crackers. I decided to bake brownies with orange frosting for the fall, and I had no idea what recipe I wanted to use.

For previous school potluck parties, I made the salted fudge brownies, and those were a huge hit. This time, I wanted to try a different recipe. I knew that I wouldn't have much time to make this dessert since I had skating the night before the party. I found this recipe and it looked very simple, and best of all, the prep time was about 5 minutes (excluding the frosting, which was maybe another 3 minutes). As an added bonus, the brownies are a one-bowl recipe!


I was able to mix and bake the brownies before I left for skating, and the frosting was all ready to go and ready for me after I returned home. That evening, I just sliced the brownies and packed them up so they were ready for the next day. Of course, I kept a few to taste test and share with my husband.

While these brownies didn't taste quite as fudgy and amazing as the salted fudge brownies, they were a good substitute since I did not have a lot of time.  The teachers and kids devoured these, and I had no extra brownies to bring home.

One bowl brownies
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (could substitute with white whole wheat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions 
Preheat your oven to 30 degrees F.

Generously grease an 8"x8" square baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Fold in the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt and incorporate with as few strokes as possible.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the brownies to cool completely before frosting or serving.

I opted to add an orange colored buttercream on top of mine. In the bowl of my stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, I creamed 1 stick (1/2 cup) of room temperature, unsalted butter. Then I added about 1.5-2 cups of powdered sugar and 2-3 teaspoons of milk. To get the orange hue, I added 5 drops of yellow food coloring and 3 drops of red food coloring. Then I garnished with fall-themed sprinkles.

Brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan (about 16 brownies)

Source: Barely adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Skating Fridays

Baby Steps

Over the past few weeks, I've shared what I have been focusing on for my axel jump. Coach wants me to learn how to jump outside the circle and celebrate the little wins. I've also seen my axel jump come and go as I start to refine my technique and make it a "prettier" jump. It's all part of the learning process, albeit extremely frustrating.

Coach B's latest endeavor (OK, that's a lie... she's been telling me this since the beginning but now I'm laser focusing on it) is to get me to cross my ankles during the jump. I tend to "stork" the jump so my legs are side by side rather than crossed over each other. Technically, my jump is clean, but the technique is pretty ugly.

Her suggestion was for me to buy an ankle buzzer, which I just ordered this week. I'm hoping that it helps my body learn the correct air position during all my jumps.

I did try to cross my legs more during a practice this week, so here is a quick glance at how it turned out.  For comparison, I'm also including a clip of my axel from about a year ago today so you can see how it's progressed over 12 months.

Though I am making baby steps towards a prettier axel jump, I'll take it.  Coach says that we need to measure skating success in millimeters, not miles, so every incremental improvement is something to be happy about.


Axel from December 2013



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