Recipe: Ming’s Thin Mints

October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

This cookie recipe comes from Ming Makes Cupcakes (where, as you might guess, you can find many excellent cupcake recipes! and a few cookies as well).

Thin Mints from Ming Makes Cupcakes

1 ½ cups flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp baking soda

1 ¾ stick butter

1 cup sugar

3 Tbs milk

½ tsp vanilla

1 ½ tsp mint extract

Mix together flour, cocoa, salt, and soda. In a separate bowl cream butter until smooth (I used the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but a hand mixer also works). Add sugar and beat for one minute. Add milk, vanilla, and mint and beat an additional minute. Slowly add the dry ingredients while beating. Once mixture is well combined and resembles small pebbles use your hands to form it into a ball.

Roll the dough into a log and wrap in waxed paper. Chill for 2 hours. Slice into thin rounds and place on parchment–don’t try and use a small knife. You’ll get much cleaner slices if you use a larger, heavier knife!

Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.

Topping

1 cup chocolate chips

1 tsp mint extract

Melt chocolate in bowl set in simmering water, OR just microwave it for 30 second intervals, stirring after each until chocolate is smooth and melted. Add mint and stir into the chocolate. Once cookies have cooled and become crispy, coat their tops in chocolate by dipping them or smearing with icing knife–I actually used a spoon to drop dollops of chocolate on top of my cookies. Leave them on a wire rack to dry, or put them in the fridge to speed the hardening process up!

Recipe: Charis’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

October 1, 2011 § 4 Comments

What’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning?

In bed. Preferably with a book and a glass of milk and a pile of chocolate chip cookies. I love the hint of extra saltiness in these cookies, which mixes fabulously with the rich butter and the sweet chocolate (and by the way, while I made this batch with ordinary milk chocolate chips, this recipe is particularly good with dark chocolate! Just make sure you have that glass of milk handy).This recipe is an adaptation of many different recipes–it morphs a little each time I make cookies, because I’m always fiddling, but it’s starting to settle into shape!

And it’s always delicious.

Charis’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 1/3 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds chocolate chips (or three to four large handfuls, or to taste)

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.

Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes.

Add eggs. Stir in vanilla.

Reduce to low speed and add dry ingredients slowly, mixing until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Refrigerate dough for 24-36 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350.

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt, if desired.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, then slide parchment paper off of cookie sheet and onto a wire rack to cool.

I scoop my cookies out with a tablespoon (which makes huge, delectable cookie), and put six on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Since it’s just six cookies per sheet it takes a little while to get through the entire batch of dough, so I roll out balls of dough and put them back in the refrigerator.  I also rotate two cookie sheets, letting one cool while the other is in the oven. When one batch of cookie is a couple of minutes away from coming out, I pull the balls of dough out of the fridge and drop six on the waiting cookie sheet, ready to be swapped out.

I call it the Dance of the Cookies.

If your cookies spread out too much and get very thin, try cutting back on the amount of baking soda in the recipe (this is the part of the recipe that I fiddle with the most!)

Enjoy!

Recipe: Earl Grey Shortbread

September 30, 2011 § 4 Comments

I recently made a thank-you package of cookies to send to the gracious couple who hosted us in Atlanta during Dragon*Con (thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Davis!) and while I was at it I thought I’d post the recipes for the cookies that I made! I made three types of cookie, and I’ll do a post for each recipe, starting with….

Earl Grey Shortbread

Many people believe that nothing is more pleasant than a cup of tea and a good book, but I have to confess that it’s difficult to feel enthusiastic about hot tea when it’s 100F+ every day for months! Fortunately these little cookies make an excellent alternative. They melt in your mouth and they’re easy to make–the dough comes together in minutes. Just be careful not to get crumbs on the pages…

This is an adaptation of a Claire Robinson recipe from the Food Network. The original recipe calls for loose tea leaves and a food processor—I eliminated both by using the contents of tea bags, and I don’t think it hurt the recipe at all. I still got a delicious cookie with a light tea flavor.  The original recipe also calls for rolling the dough into a log and slicing off cookies, but I scooped out cookies with a teaspoon, rolled them into balls, and then pressed them between my palms.

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 Tablespoons or the contents of 2 to 3 bags of Earl Grey tea (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

sugar (if desired)

Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and butter. Mix together at medium speed, just until a dough is formed. Use a teaspoon to scoop up dough and roll each scoop into a ball, then press it flat between your palms OR roll the dough into a log in plastic wrap, chill for half an hour, and then slice off cookies about 1/4 inch thick.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the cookies on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, 1 inch apart, and sprinkle with sugar (if desired). Bake until the edges are just barely brown–about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks (just slide the entire piece of parchment paper off of the cookie sheet and onto the wire rack) and cool to room temperature.

Makes about four dozen.

Store in an airtight container–these cookies keep very well! Not that they’ll last long, unless you hide them…

Serve with a cup of tea, a sunny corner, a comfortable chair, and a good book.

I’m not dead!

August 14, 2011 § 3 Comments

I know that this comes as a shock, but I’m still alive! I’ve been very busy and working some overtime, though, so my craft projects and baking have been on the back burner. Just to prove that I’m still here, though, I wanted to show you my last two baking projects! I don’t have any in-progress pictures for you, but I still want to tell you all about them and give you links to the recipes I used, because they are delicious.

These are chocolate cupcakes with Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which I made for lunch at my parents’ church this weekend. They are (I’m going to do it!) divine. Swiss Meringue Buttercream is my new favorite thing in the world–light and fluffy and smooth and delicious without being kick-you-in-the-face, I-feel-a-tooth-ache-coming-on super-sweet. I’m looking forward to doing a whole cake with this frosting! I bet it goes on like a dream.

To make the SMB (Swiss Meringue Buttercream) I followed the recipe for Salted Caramel Swiss Buttercream that’s used as the filling for this amazing cake from Sweetapolita (probably the prettiest baking blog that I follow!). The recipe calls for caramel sauce. I had never made caramel before, and I was completely terrified, but it went perfectly. Actually it probably helped that I was terrified and paranoid, because I didn’t leave my cooking sugar alone for a minute and I watched it like a hawk (I did do things like put ingredients away, rinse bowls, wipe the counter, and so on, but I always had one eye on the stove and I was back to swirl it gently every thirty seconds or so, as per instructions).  With the caramel left to cool I moved on to the rest of the recipe (note: it really look a long time to cool, because I left it in the pan and didn’t think to move it to another bowl until later. I ended up putting it in the fridge to help the cooling process along before adding it to the frosting).

I continued following Sweetapolita’s instructions for the SMB, referring not only to the recipe for the Caramel SMB but also to her awesome post Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified and to DyannBakes’ tutorial video on 1:2:3 Swiss Meringue Buttercream–between all three I felt really confident that I knew what I was doing! And everything went smoothly and perfectly until I thoughtlessly put my finishing buttercream in the fridge before icing the cupcakes and left it there long enough to harden. Oops. I had to wait for it to come back to room temperature and whip it again (using the whisk on the stand mixer–with just the paddle it was separating a little and not coming back to full fluffiness).

Guys, the buttercream is stupendous.

Unfortunately, eating frosting with a spoon is generally frowned upon and I needed a socially acceptable vehicle for my buttercream. I made chocolate cupcakes, using the recipe found on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box. I have several chocolate cake recipes bookmarked and saved in my recipe folder, and I keep promising to try them out soon…but when it comes down to it I always seem to make this one. It’s chocolatey, moist, quick, easy, and I have a system for making it with minimal dirtying-of-dishes-or-utensils (one bowl, one 1.5 tsp measuring spoon, one 3/4c measuring cup, one 4c measuring cup, and the beaters for the handheld mixer–that’s it).

Mmmm.

Aren’t they pretty? This is one of my favorite ways to ice a cupcake, and because it has a low profile it’s perfect for my cupcake carrier (which isn’t tall enough for lofty swirls of frosting, my other favorite style).  You’ve probably seen tutorials for this elsewhere on the internet (once I discovered it I realized that I was seeing it everywhere!), but in case you haven’t it’s really easy–just use an Open Star (Wilton 1M) icing tip, start in the center of your cupcake, and make a swirl. It’s that simple. And if you’re a visual learner like I am, then you can watch this video over at Glorious Treats!

My other recent baking experiment was an Oreo cake for my mom’s birthday–she loves Oreos, so I crammed 2.5 packages of Oreos into this cake. No joke. It was intense.

It was a chocolate cake full of Oreos–an entire package of Oreos, chopped into fourths (alternatively, you could hit the package with a rolling pin a few times before you open it!) and split between two 9in cake pans. Then I poured the batter over the cookies. Guess what chocolate cake recipe it was? It was Hershey’s. Surprise!

I baked the cake in advance and froze it, something that I’m doing more and more frequently–I love to bake cakes, and I love to ice cakes, but once I bake a cake I’m kind of done for the day, I don’t want to come back after the cake has chilled and do more things. It’s a lot more fun when it’s split over more than one day!  So later I made this Oreo buttercream from My Baking Addiction, and this Oreo filling from Beantown Baker, except that I didn’t have all of the ingredients and I may have, ahem, ad libbed a bit.

It was all delicious, but all of it at once was…well…completely and totally overwhelming. My family loves sugar and loves chocolate and we have a special talent for clearing our dessert plates, but no one was able to finish an entire piece of this cake! It actually lasted almost two days–remarkable, in this house!

I loved the Oreos in the chocolate cake, though, and honestly I think that would have been enough–next time I’ll just make Oreo-filled chocolate cake, layer it with fresh whipped cream, dust it with crumbled Oreo, and call it a day!

Happy International Star Wars Day!

May 4, 2011 § 8 Comments

It’s May 4th–International Star Wars Day!

May the Fourth be with you!

(get it?)

In honor of Star Wars Day, I made some chocolates.

Some Star Wars chocolates.

Some Han Solo frozen in carbonite chocolates.

Disclaimer: No scruffy-looking nerf-herders were harmed in the making of this chocolate bar.

Why?

BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME. THAT IS WHY.

I’m not the first person on the internet to do this, but as soon as I saw this blog post I knew I had to have a Han Solo in carbonite chocolate mold of my very own. Unfortunately you cannot buy a Han Solo in carbonite chocolate mold.

So I had to make one.

With science.

The blue thing on the right is my mold.

Okay, with food grade silicone from MakeYourOwnMolds.com and science.

I used Silicone Plastique®, which comes in two parts–a catalyst and a base.  They’re about the consistency of Play-Doh, and once combined you have fifteen minutes to make your mold before the silicone starts to ‘cure’.  Then you let it sit for an hour and ta-da! You have your very own custom mold!

Science is awesome.

And delicious.

May the Fourth be with you.

Always.

Happy Christmas! Christmas Dinner

December 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

My contributions for this year’s Christmas dinner were a potato gratin and a chocolate cheesecake!

Here’s my Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust–the crust has two layers, with cheese, pepper, and rosemary sandwiched between them, and it’s filled with Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes layered with cheese (Gruyere and Baby Swiss) and kosher salt, topped with heavy cream, minced garlic, and more cheese, all baked in a springform pan.

It was delicious. Absolutely, amazingly, completely delicious.  It was time consuming to put together (guys, sweet potatoes are hard. Slicing up two of them? Took forever) but so worth it.  And look at how pretty it is!

Find the recipe at Southern Living here.

After dinner we all took a long break before coffee and dessert (I snuck off to take a nap!) but dessert was worth waiting for:

The Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is another recipe from Southern Living–find the recipe for it, and the template for the white chocolate snowflake, on the Southern Living website here.

I made the cheesecake a week ago–I took it out of the springform to let it cool completely in the refrigerator overnight, then put it back in the springform, wrapped it in plastic and hid it in the freezer (you can’t be too careful with chocolate in this house).  I took it out and put it back in the refrigerator to defrost overnight.  The recipe includes a chocolate ganache, but I knew I wouldn’t want to mess with that today, so I used a storebought glaze (Duncan Heinz) instead.

The snowflake is Almond Bark, melted in a disposable piping bag.  I just chopped the bark up, put it in the bag, microwaved it for thirty seconds, squished the bag, and microwaved it for another thirty seconds.  The instructions in Southern Living say to print out the template, lay it under a piece of parchment paper, trace it, then turn the parchment paper over and pipe the chocolate over the traced lines.  That sounds like a lot of unnecessary work to me–I just taped the template to the bottom of a piece of parchment paper.

I put the chocolate in the refrigerator to harden for about ten minutes, then used an offset spatula to slide it off of the parchment paper and set it right on top of my chocolate cheesecake extravaganza.  I went over the design several times to make it thick, because I’d already melted the chocolate and because I was worried about breaking it when I picked it up!

It was delicious, but So Rich. I had to drink a mug of milk in between every bite.  AMAZING but now I must go and die of a sugar overdose.

Happy Christmas!

A Few Words About Fall

November 21, 2010 § 3 Comments

I love Autumn.  Texas doesn’t get very much in the way of autumnal weather, unfortunately–we sort of skip straight from the heat of Summer into the everything-is-dead-and-cold of Winter, so I treasure the Fall.  I fight the onset of Christmas in order to focus on pumpkins and leaves and turkey.  (Christmas is my favorite holiday, but it seems to come earlier and earlier every year, and I run out of enthusiasm by December if I start getting into the Christmas spirit in September).

Here are some things that I’ve been doing with my Autumn:

Something about the weather puts me in the mood for baking, and last week I decided to try my hand at my very first pie, with my very first from-scratch pie crust.  It was not at all as difficult as I had been led to believe!  In fact, it was easy–easy as pie, if you will.  It was time consuming (although a lot of my time went to assembling and then learning to use the apple peeler-corer-slicer that my mother inherited from my grandmother) but so worth it.  I made the crust following the instructions in a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens, and then made the basic apple pie filling found in the red plaid Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.  I used six Granny Smith apples, although not all of the apple found its way into the pie…did I mention that there was a learning curve involved with the apple peeler-corer-slicer?  Let’s just say that there was a certain amount of apple carnage (and by ‘certain amount’ I mean ‘all over the kitchen’) and leave it at that.

I made the pie for a Single’s ministry Thanksgiving potluck at church, and it came out of the oven just in time to be whisked into the car, so I only had time for one quick shot:

Rather than make slits in the top of the pie crust, I used cookie cutters in leaf shapes.  The pie seemed to be a big hit–half of it was gone by the time I got to the dessert table (and there were three dessert tables, one of them devoted entirely to pies).  I certainly thought it was delicious–so delicious that I’m anxious to try it again!  Maybe this time I’ll have the presence of mind to devote a blog post to it…

 

If I could have an Autumn to spend, somewhere with leaves that turn real colors and air that gets genuinely crisp, with nothing but my knitting and a stack of books…I think that would be very nice.  I love knitting, but my enthusiasm for it wanes during the heat of the Summer, when it is too hot to go around with wool in your lap.  I haven’t been completing very many knitting projects lately, but I did manage to finish two items just in time to send them off to have adventures without me–they went with my friend Mary to Prague! (but are modeled in the pictures below by me)

A neckwarmer is a wonderful thing–I improvised the cable pattern on this neckwarmer, and made it with knit one, purl one ribbing so that it’s reversible, and it has a loop and button to keep it snug on the other side.  The hat was made with the Sweatshop of Love’s Slouchy Beret pattern.

 

On the first Saturday in December I’m planning to share a table at a craft fair with some friends of mine, so I’ve been working on a few items to sell–today I finished painting these peg dolls, which all represent the characters from the fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red

And I worked on making these paper flowers, cut from dictionary pages coated in mod podge for durability

…there will be more on these crafts later, when I have completed projects to show you!

 

I did my crafting while watching my new DVD set of Doctor Who: Season 5, and speaking of Doctor Who…next Tuesday is TARDIS Day, when Doctor Who fans celebrate the first day that the classic science fiction show aired on British television.  I’m celebrating my participating in a fan swap, and I put together a TARDIS themed package for my swap partner.  I (of course) did a little crafting to go into it, so once my swappee has opened their package I’ll post pictures here!

 

The biggest thing that I am doing with my November, however, is NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month.  The challenge is to write 50,000 words during the month of November.  Writing is hard work!  Sometimes it’s delightful, sometimes it’s a dreadful slog, but it’s always rewarding.  It helps that I decided to keep things easy this year–no complex plot for me!  No attempt to say something profound about the human condition!  The story I outlined is simple and (hopefully) amusing and light-hearted.  There are nine days left!

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