Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's Baking roundup - Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkins, Oh My!

Happy Halloween, everybody! I am so excited to be the host for our What's Baking group this month. Since I love to bake with pumpkin and had a goal to bake with sweet potatoes, I decided to choose pumpkin and sweet potatoes as this month's theme. Participants could choose to bake with one or both ingredients this month. As you can see, everyone had fantastic contributions for our theme, and I can't wait to try them all. Let's get to the roundup, shall we?

Melissa of I Was Born to Cook made these Baked Pumpkin Donut Holes for her coworkers in two different offices. I don't know about you, but I would be thrilled if my coworkers brought these in for me to enjoy! Hint, hint.


Jen at Beantown Baker made Pumpkin Dulce De Leche Oat Bars. I already love pumpkin, but the addition of dulce de leche definitely makes these swoon-worthy. I need some of these ASAP.


Catherine over at Pursuing Domestic Goddess-ness made some amazing Pumpkin Maple Beer Cookies. My husband and I have been sampling all kinds of pumpkin beer this fall, and these cookies sound like a fabulous way to use them in baking!


Heather Lynne, who is the author of Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks, created a no-fuss but mouth-watering Pumpkin Crunch Custard Cake. This sounds like a great recipe for my next work potluck!


Nicole from Seven Ate Nine regularly makes things with both pumpkins and sweet potatoes and found a recipe for Pumpkin Chili that sounds just perfect for the chilly autumn days. I may suggest this to my husband for our next indoor tailgate!



Kim at Just Baked made Martha's Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing for her husband and kids to enjoy. Talk about heaven in a cookie! I'd love to try some if there are any extras left over, but it's doubtful since these were such a huge hit at her house.

Ange of The Tiny Tyrant's Kitchen baked Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream for her 5th wedding anniversary. She and her husband taste tested over a dozen pumpkin beers before finding the perfect one for these cupcakes. Now that's a homework assignment I wouldn't mind doing!



Jaida of Sweet Beginnings baked Pumpkin Biscuits from her pumpkin e-cookbook for her contribution. She recommends smearing the biscuits with some maple butter for an even tastier breakfast treat. Um, yes please!


I am only one of two people that made something with sweet potato. I baked Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Brown Butter Butter Cream Cheese Frosting. It is the one thing that finally made me love and respect sweet potatoes.


Joanna of Kosher Kitchen made a batch of Pumpkin-Parmesan Biscuits. These were so good that her husband ate two of them and then stole the one she was eating! If that's not a sign of a good recipe, then I don't know what is!



Jenna at Jenna's Cooking Journey baked Pumpkin Scones. She is enjoying the fall colors and changing leaves on the East Coast and finally got to cross scones off her baking bucket list! These sound absolutely divine.


Cara from The Boys Made Me Do It baked a Pumpkin Dump Cake so she could try a new pumpkin dessert before Thanksgiving. This seems like the perfect recipe if you want something impressive that doesn't take a lot of time (and you can literally throw all the ingredients together very quickly).


And finally, Ammie of Adventures In My Kitchen contributed her Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes for the challenge. She liked being able to tailor each potato to individual tastes. Sounds like a great Thanksgiving side dish!

 
Kim from Just Baked is next month's What's Baking hostess and chose pie as our theme. Be sure to stop by her blog in early December to see what kinds of pie everyone made!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

White chocolate ice cream

Sometimes I am not very good at taking hints. Obvious ones, yes. But sometimes I need people to spell things out for me.

This time, I did not need additional explanation. What happened, you ask? Why, I noticed that my husband starting buying more pre-packaged ice cream from the grocery store. His excuse was that it was on sale. In his mind, that meant that I needed to make more ice cream because our homemade supply was gone. I understood the hint and thankfully didn't need him to become Captain Obvious and explicitly state, "Eva, we need more homemade ice cream!"

He flipped through my ever-trusty copy of David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop and picked out what he wanted - David's white chocolate ice cream. Luckily for me, I had some egg yolks left over after making the brown sugar cookie dough layer cake and could easily create this ice cream in no time.

Once again, David did not disappoint. This ice cream is chock full of the white chocolate flavor because it included two full bars of white chocolate. I used Ghirardelli for an extra rich texture. Now I'll need to figure out what flavor to tackle next after this batch is gone!

White chocolate ice cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • a pinch of salt
  • 8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (I used two Ghirardelli bars and broke them into pieces)
  • 5 large egg yolks

Directions
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, the milk and salt.  

Place the chopped white chocolate in a large bowl and place a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warmed milk and sugar mixture to temper the egg yolks.  Whisking constantly as you pour in the warmed milk. Then transfer all of the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Continue to cook over low heat. Stir constantly until the custard is thick enough to coat a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon. Strain the custard into the white chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.

Add the 2 cups of heavy cream and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator (preferably overnight). 

Once the mixture is completely cooled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yield: One quart

Source: The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Brown sugar cookie dough layer cake

I was honored when the administrative staff at my daughter's daycare told me about a fundraiser they were doing. One of the staff's family members was affected by ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), and she wanted to raise money for the cause by hosting a cake auction. The staff asked me to participate since I was constantly bringing them freshly baked goods to enjoy. I immediately signed up and knew that I had to bring my A-game.

I soon learned that ribbons were going to be awarded for the cakes as well. My goal was to earn the ribbon for either the cake with the most bids or the cake with the highest bid. Needless to say, I knew I had to bake a cake that people would want to buy. I remembered how much people loved all the recipes from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook so I decided to make the brown sugar cookie dough layer cake that was featured. Everyone loves cookie dough, right?

Although I did not get to taste my creation in its full cake form, I did save a little bit of the batter and made myself a cupcake version so I could taste test it and write about it here.  The cake was good and wasn't too spongy, and the addition of the cookie dough and brown sugar swiss meringue buttercream is what made the cake awesome. I had thought about doing a traditional buttercream but thought that it might make the cake too sweet and heavy. The swiss meringue buttercream definitely was the way to go.

My only gripe about this recipe is that it left me with 11 egg yolks. Darn - I guess I will just have to make some ice cream then. What a shame, I say.

I am happy to report that my cake won the award for highest bid! The daycare staff got into a bidding war, and the winning bid for my cookie dough cake was an astouding $70! I'm so thrilled I was able to help raise so much money for ALS! Oh, and the Assistant Director of the daycare told me how awesome the cake tasted. The school nurse, who won the cake with her $70 bid, was kind enough to share some slices with her coworkers. I'm not sure if I would have done the same - ha!

For Cake
  • 3 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose flour and replaced 6 TBSP of the flour with 6 TBSP of corn starch)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 
For Cookie Dough
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
For Ganache
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
For Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
  • 4 sticks butter, softened
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease (or use parchment paper) three 9 inch round cake pans.  I used two 10 inch round pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), combine cake flour, baking powder, sugars and salt,  Add the butter and 1 cup of the milk. Mix on low until all the ingredients are incorporated and then beat on medium high for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk with whole eggs, egg whites and vanilla.  Slowly add to flour mixture in 3-4 increments. Be sure to mix well between each addition. Divide batter evenly among the pans.

Bake 22-25 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer to a cooling rack.

For the cookie dough: Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed for 2-3 minutes in a medium bowl. Add milk and vanilla.  Finally, add in the flour and salt until combined and stir in chocolate chips by hand. Set aside.

For the ganache: Chop the chocolate and place it in heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the cream until it simmers. Gently pour the warmed cream over the chocolate and let it sit for about 30 seconds.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature.

For swiss meringue buttercream frosting: Using a double boiler (or setting a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water), whisk together the egg whites, sugars and salt. Keep whisking until the mixture is hot to the touch - it should take at least 5-7 minutes. I used a candy thermometer and waited until the mixture reached 140 degrees F. Immediately transfer the hot mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and mix on high until the egg whites become smooth and satin-like (you should reach medium peaks). Add in the butter, about 2 TBSP at a time and and continue to beat on high speed until the frosting gets thick.  Add the vanilla and continue to beat until the frosting can hold peaks. If your frosting looks too soupy, put the bowl in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes and then try beating it again.

To assemble the cake: Place a layer of cake on a cake board and spread half of the cookie dough mixture. Then spread half of the ganache. Add the next layer of cake and repeat. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the swiss meringue buttercream. If desired, you can decorate with mini chocolate chip cookies or chocolate chips.

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake; serves 12-20, depending on how big you like your slices!

Source: The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook, by Lindsay Landis

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sweet potato cupcakes with brown butter cream cheese frosting

If you would have told me as a child that I would like sweet potatoes as an adult, I would have laughed at you. My mom loves sweet potatoes and yams, and I vividly remember my brother and I telling her how gross they were when we were younger. Mom would bake sweet potatoes for herself while the rest of us had regular baked potatoes. I never did like them, and I thought I never would.


What was my turning point, you ask? Why, it was a birthday party! Our friends held a birthday party for their son when he turned one, and one of the treats that they had at the party was a sweet potato cupcake with cream cheese frosting. It was love at first bite! (Quick side note - I did have some sweet potato fries at a restaurant several years ago and thought they were good, but the cupcake is what did me in.)


Since that party, I've started to enjoy sweet potato in other forms like fries and sweet potato pie. With my newfound love of the sweet potato, I decided to make it the co-theme for this month's What's Baking challenge. Since I also love pumpkin for the fall, I threw that in for any remaining sweet potato haters (I know you're out there!). So as October's host for What's Baking, this month's theme is officially pumpkin and/or sweet potato!


There were a bunch of sweet potato cupcake recipes on the internet, but this one from Love and Olive Oil looked like it would have been similar to the cupcake we tried at the birthday party. I also opted for a brown butter cream cheese frosting that I found on Evil Shenanigans.


I was so happy that these cupcakes turned out just as I had hoped - moist, sweet, and full of autumn spices. The frosting was phenomenal, and you can definitely taste a bit of nuttiness from the brown butter after taking a bite. I topped my cupcakes with some extra cinnamon to make them extra pretty and fall-like.

I'll be posting a roundup with everyone's contributions soon.  Kim at Just Baked is next month's host for the What's Baking group, so be sure to pop by and see what theme she chooses for November!


Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree* (fresh or canned)
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
* If using a fresh sweet potato, wash and fully dry your potato. Then prick holes all over the potato using a fork. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 60-70 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Slice the sweet potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides. For a smoother puree, you can use a blender or a food processor. Otherwise, if you like chunks, just mash with a fork or potato masher.

Frosting:
    • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, browned and cooled (Check out my link here if you need directions on how to make browned butter)
    • 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
      Directions
      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

      In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweet potato puree, soy milk, oil, sugars, and vanilla. Slowly add in the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Mix until just combined.

      Fill liners about 2/3 full (I used my medium cookie scoop). Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

      For the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a medium bowl with a hand mixer), cream together the cream cheese and browned butter until well combined.  The mixture may look slightly curdled.  Add the vanilla, cinnamon and powdered sugar and mix until smooth.



      Yield: 12 cupcakes

      Source: Cupakes from Love and Olive Oil; frosting from Evil Shenanigans

      Friday, October 19, 2012

      Cinnamon roll cookies

      Time for another Blogger's Choice Swap! I took a month or two off the swaps so we could move and get the house organized. Now that most of the house is in order, I am participating again. It feels good to be back!

      This month, I was given Christine's Kitchen Chronicles to look for inspiration. Christine has so many wonderful recipes that it was difficult choosing just one item to try!  Christine is Asian like I am, and we've messaged each other a few times to wish each other a Happy Chinese New Year over the time that I've "known" her (online, that is). I still need to find some courage and patience to make her ever-popular Chinese bakery-style cake and Chinese Bolo Bao.

      Anyway, I took the easy route and found these cinnamon roll cookies. Cinnamon rolls are on my baking bucket list, and I still haven't found the time or energy to make them. I'm getting one step closer since I'm making the cookie version first! Baby steps, people.

      Since I didn't want to have 48 cookies lying around the house, I halved the recipe. These cookies were great! I love the fact that they looked like regular cinnamon rolls, and they definitely had a similar flavor profile. The cookies on their own are not too sweet, so if you're not a frosting type of person, you can leave that part off. Those of you who have a sweet tooth (myself included) will like the added frosting to give it a more authentic cinnamon roll taste.

      Thanks for a fantastic cookie recipe, Christine!


      For the cookies:
      • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
      • 1/2 cup brown sugar
      • 1/2 cup sugar
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla
      • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
      • 3 cups flour
      • 2 teaspoons baking powder
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      For the filling:
      • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
      • 1/4, plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
      • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
      For the icing:
      • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
      • 2 tablespoons melted butter
      • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
      • 2 teaspoons vanilla
      • 2-4 tablespoons milk
      Directions
      To make the cookies: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
       

      Cream the butter and sugars together in a large bowl (using an hand-held electric mixer) or the bowl of a stand mixer.

      Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until just combined. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add add half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Then add the remaining flour mixture and mix until combined, scraping the bowl as needed. Mold the dough into a ball in the center of the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes, or the refrigerator for at least an hour.
       

      Once the dough is chilled, divide it into two equal halves. Place one half back in the bowl and return it to the fridge. On a large piece of plastic wrap, pat the first half of the dough into a rectangle about nine inches by twelve inches, and about half an inch thick. Place half of the butter on the dough and spread it all the way to the edges. Then sprinkle half of the brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over the buttered dough and press gently to get the mixture into the dough. Use the plastic wrap to tightly roll the dough into a log. Place the log in the freezer for 30 minutes or the refrigerator for at least an hour. 

      Repeat with the remaining half of the dough and filling ingredients.
       

      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I used my Silpat).
       

      After the dough has chilled the second time, slice each log into half inch slices (you should get about 24 slices per log). Place cut side up on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before icing.
       

      To make the icing: In a medium bowl, combine the butter and instant espresso powder. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and whisk until it just comes together. Next, add the milk, one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. It should be thin enough to drizzle, but thicker than a glaze.
       

      With the cookies on a wire cooling rack set over parchment paper, drizzle the icing over the them with your whisk. Allow the cookies to set up for a few minutes before stacking or storing.

      Yield: 48 cookies

      Source: Christine's Kitchen Chronicles; originally seen on Sing For Your Supper and Bakingdom

      Wednesday, October 17, 2012

      Vanilla bean creme brulee

      Creme brulee is one of those desserts that I thought was impossibly difficult only to find out that it's actually quite easy!  I bought my first creme brulee kit at Bed Bath & Beyond many years ago (I even used a 20% off coupon--whoo hoo!). It came with a mini ramekin set and a small kitchen torch. I still use the torch, but the ramekins are just sitting around in my cabinets for decoration.

      This is a fantastic dessert if you're planning a night in. We like making this for Valentine's Day and other special occasions so that we can avoid the crowds during popular holiday meal times. Plus, I don't like paying $8 for a dessert that I can easily make at home for half the price (or less). Call me cheap.

      You can save the leftover egg whites and do what I do - use them for a swiss meringue buttercream. It gives you another excuse to make cupcakes! If you don't have a vanilla bean for this recipe, I'm sure you could substitute it and use vanilla extract instead.

      Excuse the bad photo, but I took this a while back and haven't had time to recreate the recipe and take a better picture!

      Ingredients


      • 2 cups heavy cream
      • 1 cup whole milk (do not use skim or 2%)
      • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
      • 6 large egg yolks
      • 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus 6 tablespoons

      Directions

      Heat the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla bean in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.

      Place the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof mixing bowl and beat until pale yellow in color and all of the sugar has dissolved. 

      Temper about 1/2 a cup of the cream mixture into the egg mixture and whisk vigorously to incorporate well. Add the remainder of the cream mixture to the bowl and whisk vigorously to incorporate. 

      Strain the brulee base through a fine mesh sieve and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the custard into 6 (5-ounce) oval ramekins or gratin dishes, and place the dishes in a sheet pan or roasting pan. 

      Pour enough hot water into the pan to come up half way on the sides of the ramekins. Place the pan in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes, turning the sheet pan around after 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. 

      To test for doneness, jiggle the pan slightly to see if the custard is set, if so, remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature before placing them in the refrigerator for 2 hours to completely cool.

      Once the brulee has cooled, evenly spread 1 tablespoon of sugar over each ramekin and using a blowtorch, caramelize the sugar to form a candy coating. Be sure to keep the blowtorch moving in a circular motion to prevent the sugar from burning. Serve once the sugar has cooled and is hard like candy.
        Source:  Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network

        Sunday, October 14, 2012

        Pumpkin cheesecake


        Is anyone as excited as I am that it's officially the season to start baking with pumpkin? Well, I am thrilled to finally break into the pumpkin stash that I've been hoarding in the pantry. Ever since we had that pumpkin shortage a few years ago, I've made it a point to keep at least a few cans of pumpkin puree around in case I'm unable to find any for the upcoming year.

        Now, some of you might think that cheesecake is a difficult thing to put together. Not so, my friends. This cheesecake was easy peasy and didn't take much prep time at all. The crust mixture was done in less than 5 minutes, and the filling took maybe 10 minutes. The hardest part, actually, was waiting for the cheesecake to bake, rest and cool before digging in. That took well over 6 hours. How does one wait 6 hours before eating a cheesecake?

        Amazingly, we had enough self control to wait the full cooling time before we took our first bite of cheesecake. and once again (and not surprisingly), Martha Stewart comes through again. My husband didn't like the cheesecake at first but noted that it got better after each bite (and after each day afterwards since the flavors got to meld better). In the end, he became a fan. The cheesecake itself is a bit softer than what I normally like in a cheesecake, but it is probably the pumpkin puree that causes that.

        I'd recommend popping this in the freezer and taking it out at least 30 minutes before serving. You should have a better consistency then so your guests aren't eating mush.  Regardless, I am glad I tried this recipe, and it is a contender for this year's Thanksgiving dessert!

        For the Crust
        • 1 1/4 cups graham-cracker crumbs (from 10 whole crackers)
        • 1/4 cup sugar
        • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
        For the Filling
        • 4 packages (8 ounces each) bar cream cheese, very soft
        • 1 1/4 cups sugar
        • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
        • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
        • 2 tablespoons pumpkin-pie spice
        • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
        • 1/2 teaspoon salt
        • 4 large eggs, room temperature
        Directions
        Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
        To make the crust: In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter until you get moist crumbs.  Press firmly into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake until the edges turn golden and brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
         
        To make the filling: Using an electric or hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on low speed until smooth. Gently mix in flour and be careful not to over mix. Slowly add pumpkin puree, pie spice, vanilla, and salt; mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.
         
        Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the filling into the pan and use a spatula to smooth the top. Transfer the pan to the oven and place on the center rack.  Immediately reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to set in the oven for an additional 2 hours. Do not open the oven!.
         
        Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours. Serve and enjoy!

        Yield: 1 pumpkin pie (about 12-16 slices, or more if you really want some portion control!)

        Source: Martha Stewart

        Wednesday, October 10, 2012

        Spaghetti squash muffins

        I seem to have started a new trend here with my baking - hiding vegetables in baked goods. First there was chocolate zucchini bread, then cinnamon zucchini bread, double chocolate zucchini cookies, and chocolate patty pan squash bread. Now here is another one for you all... spaghetti squash muffins!

        Don't run away! Like all of the other baked goods I listed above, you can barely taste the squash in these. That's the beauty of using squash and zucchini in these desserts. The vegetables are very mild in flavor anyway, so they pretty much act as a binding ingredient in baked goods. Plus, I love the fact that I can trick our toddler into eating her vegetables with these sweets.

        My husband and I both enjoyed these, but these definitely were not my favorite muffins (you know that I am more of a chocolate girl). Regardless, these did feel relatively healthy with all the spaghetti squash, so I'll just roll with that.

        Ingredients
        • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
        • 1 teaspoon baking soda
        • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
        • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger*
        • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*
        • 1/2 teaspoon salt
        • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
        • 1 cup granulated white sugar
        • 2 large eggs
        • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
        • 3/4 cup solid packed, pureed squash, drained#
        * I replaced the cinnamon, ginger and cloves with 1.5 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice 

        # To prepare the squash, use a fork to prick holes all over the vegetable. Bake on a cookie sheet for about 60 minutes in a 350 degree F oven. Once cooled, slice the squash length-wise and use the tines of a fork to scrape out the fleshy bits. Discard any seeds.Puree in a food processor or blender and squeeze excess water out.

        Directions
        Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

        Position your oven rack in the middle position. Line a muffin pan with 12 muffin cups or spray each well with a non-stick spray.

        In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, ground spices, and salt. 

        In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (I used my electric mixer). Add the eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add in the vanilla extract. 

        Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, add the squash puree or incorporate by hand. Slowly add the flour mixture until just mixed. 

        Fill the muffin cups evenly with the batter using two spoons or an ice cream scoop (I used a medium cookie scoop). 

        Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes, or until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool.

        Yield: 12 muffins (I got 14 muffins)

        Source: Hillshore Farm

        Sunday, October 7, 2012

        Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream

        It was another Sunday morning, and I was itching to make something. I hadn't made ice cream in a while but didn't have any whole milk or heavy cream. I thought about making a batch of ice cream that contained sweetened condensed milk to see how that turned out and found a recipe on Finding Joy in My Kitchen that seemed very easy and allowed me to use my ice cream maker attachment.

        I was really pleased with the cookie dough from the cookie dough cupcakes that we brought to our friends' house and figured that cookie dough ice cream was something that just had to be made. So I created a batch of eggless cookie dough and added it to the ice cream base.


        As suspected, the ice cream was a bit thin because I used 2% milk instead of whole milk or half and half like the recipe suggested. Otherwise, the cookie dough bits in this ice cream were pretty fantastic. The next time I make cookie dough ice cream, I will probably use my tried and true vanilla ice cream base; or, if I want to try it with sweetened condensed milk, I will be sure to use heavy cream or half and half as the recipe originally suggested.


        Cookie dough ingredients

        • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
        • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
        • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
        • 2 TBSP milk or cream
        • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
        • 1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
        • 1/4 teaspoon salt
        • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
        Cookie dough directions 
        Cream together the butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Gradually add in milk and vanilla. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until fully incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips.

        Ice cream ingredients
        • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
        • 4 cups whole milk or half and half (I used 2% milk)
        • 1 tsp. vanilla
        Ice cream directions
        Put all of the ingredients together into a large mixing bowl and stir until well blended.  Once all the ingredients have been mixed thoroughly, pour it into the assembled ice cream maker.  Churn for about 20 minutes.

        If you like, you can serve the ice cream with the soft serve consistency straight out of the ice cream maker.   Otherwise, you can freeze the ice cream in containers for at least 2 hours in order to achieve a more firm consistency.


        Source:  Ice cream from Finding Joy in My Kitchen; cookie dough from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook by Lindsay Landis

        Wednesday, October 3, 2012

        Pumpkin cheesecake cookies

        Have you heard about Pepperidge Farms' new pumpkin cheesecake cookies? Well, my husband got a word of it and asked if I wanted to buy some during our next trip to the grocery store. I agreed, but of course I was curious and wanted to make my own version.

        When I told my husband that I would make him my version of pumpkin cheesecake cookies, he was ecstatic. I found a recipe on Sweet Treats and More and was excited to try it out. Since the Pepperidge Farm version looked like it had white chocolate chips in them, I added some into mine as well.

        Holy cow - these were out of this world!  I already love pumpkin, and the cream cheese base in the cookie made it taste like a pumpkin cheesecake. The white chocolate chips added another layer of sweetness, and the maple cream cheese glaze added another layer of flavor. Fall is definitely well represented in these cookies.

        I am happy to add another pumpkin cookie recipe to my fall lineup and know that I'll be making these again! Unfortunately, we went to two different grocery store chains and neither carried the cookies, so this homemade version will have to do for now until I can make a comparison.

        Cookie Ingredients
        • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
        • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
        • 1 cup sugar
        • 1/2 cup pumpkin
        • 1 egg
        • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
        • 1 cup flour
        • 1 cup cake flour (I used another cup of all-purpose flour and replaced 2 TBSP of it with 2 TBSP of corn starch)
        • 1/2 tsp baking powder
        • 1/2 tsp salt
        • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
        • 1 or 2 cups of white chocolate chips (optional)
        Cookie Directions
        Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

        In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter until it is smooth and no lumps remain.  Slowly add sugar, pumpkin, vanilla extract and egg.

         

        In a separate bowl, whisk together the combine flours, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.

        Gradually add the dry ingredients into wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.  Allow the dough to cool in refrigerator for 20 minutes. 
         

        Scoops the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (I used my imitation Silpat).  If you don't use a medium cookie scoop like I did, measure about two spoonfuls of batter and place onto the cookie sheet.   

        Bake for 10-12 minutes and let cool for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Cool completely before frosting with glaze.

        Maple Cream Cheese Glaze
        • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
        • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
        • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
        • 3 TBSP real maple syrup
        • 3-4 TBSP milk (I only used 1 TBSP)

        Directions
        In a mixer, or using a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, maple syrup and milk.  Continue to add milk until you get the desired consistency for glaze.  Drizzle onto the pumpkin cookies.  

        Yield: About 18 cookies (I actually got 3 dozen cookies by using a medium cookie scoop)

        Source: Sweet Treats and More

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