Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cookie Carnival: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies is just so much fun to say. Almost as much fun to say as it is to eat. Yum! These lovely little pillows of chocolate cookies are, to say the least, tasty.

I'm not a fan of pumpkin. At all. But the pumpkin flavor was so mild, I didn't mind it. Having said that, I would absolutely make these again with a different, stronger flavored filling. Peanut butter, strawberry, and mint come to mind.

The cookies were easy to put together. I don't even think I used a mixer. My husband's office got this batch. We didn't quite need them at home.

Another close up of dessert goodness.

Thanks Kate and the Cookie Carnival gang for such a nice choice. I'm looking forward to November!

If you are interested in making these, here's the recipe!

Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Makes about 20.



* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
* 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
* 1 large egg
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


* 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
* 1/4 cup canned solid pack pumpkin
* Pinch of cinnamon
* Pinch of nutmeg


1. Prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.
2. Place butter, shortening, and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in half the flour mixture, then the milk and vanilla. Mix in remaining flour mixture.
3. Drop about 2 teaspoons dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies spring back when lightly touched, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cool 10 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheets and transfer to wire racks using a spatula; let cool completely.
4. Prepare filling: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together cream cheese, butter and confectioners' sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg; whip until smooth, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
5. Pipe or spoon about 2 teaspoons filling on the flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, keeping the flat sides down.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes for TWD

Sorry folks.  Instead of baking, I went on a cruise to the Bahamas with my husband.  Grown-up time beat chocolate cupcakes hands down.

Clara of I Heart Food 4 Thought had a lovely idea to decorate these cupcakes in a Halloween theme.  Check out her blog and the recipe.

Next week I'll definitely being making Rugelach.  Thanks, Piggy from Piggy's Cooking Journal for choosing that one.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins

We were so very seasonal this week!  I have a little confession to make.  I don't like pumpkin.  I don't like pumpkin pie.  A recipe for pumpkin ginger tea cake sounded really good, but, have I mentioned that I don't like pumpkin?  Thank goodness there are three other people around here who eat pumpkin baked goods!  

This was an easy enough recipe.  There were quite a few ingredients, but my assistant was able to handle it all easily.  She especially liked the stirring.  We substituted almonds and regular raisins for the walnuts and golden raisins because that's what we had.

The scooping with the ice cream scoop and the sprinkling of the seeds was pretty fun as well.  If you don't use an ice cream scoop for muffins or cupcakes, you should.  It's very handy.

We actually got quite a few more muffins than the recipe called for.  Here is a close-up of an unbaked muffin.

Here it is baked.  Still working on my photography skills.  White on white = a no no.

The muffins smelled great while they were baking.  The rest of the family really enjoyed them.  They did think that the sunflower seeds didn't add a whole lot.  I did take a taste.  While they weren't bad, I don't think I'll be eating them again.

Thanks to Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp for getting me to try something new.  She'll also have the recipe on her site if you are interested.  Next week:  Clara of I Heart Food 4 Thought has chosen Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TWD: Lenox Almond Biscotti

Aaaaannnnnd, we're back to cookies.  But that's ok!  I like biscotti.  I like almonds.  This wasn't my most successful recipe, but I'd certainly give it another try.

This was a pretty simple recipe.  It was fairly straightforward.  I ran out of almond extract after only using one teaspoon, so I substituted vanilla for the other half teaspoon.  The logs formed pretty easily.  When Dorie said this was a sticky dough, she was not kidding!

I baked it according to directions.  Apparently, that was wrong.  It needed much more baking time than originally suggested.  I took it out, let it cool for 15 minutes, and then tried moving it to the cutting board.  Big mistake.  It was still pretty raw in the middle.  I shoved it back in the oven for a good ten minutes and then took it out again.  It looked more golden brown.  I let it sit for another fifteen minutes, and then I tried to move it and cut it.  

It still did not like being moved, and it proceeded to fall apart.  I was too annoyed at that point, so I salvaged the slices that I had and put them and the remaining lumps back on the sheet to put in the oven.

Here's a close-up that is a testament to the under-doneness that is my biscotti.

And this is what it ended up looking like after the third bake.  Some pieces were very biscotti-like!

All in all, I enjoyed this cookie.  I liked the crunch of the cornmeal that was a problem for some of the other bakers.  I would certainly try this again using some other flavor combinations.  And, I would bake it for a longer time the first go round.

Thank you to Gretchen of Canela & Comino for picking this recipe.  Next up:  Pumpkin Muffins chosen by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp.

EDITED TO ADD:  I made these again.  This time I refrigerated the logs overnight, baked them for an additional 12 minutes for the first bake, and added six minutes to the second bake.  I also added orange peel with the sugar and some chocolate chips.  The extra time made all the difference.  Excellent!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

You can make homemade baklava

This is one of THOSE foods.  The one that looks incredibly complicated.  The really impressive one that makes everyone say, "No way!  You made this?!" or, "Ooooooh, I could never make that!"  But, the truth is, yes, you can.

Baklava is incredibly time consuming, but it's actually pretty easy.  There are two main components.  There is the pastry/nut component and the syrup component.  The pastry/nut side of things is phyllo dough (purchased and thawed, couldn't be easier), chopped nuts,  cinnamon, and, melted butter.

Initially, you cut a package of thawed phyllo dough in half.  It fits very neatly in a 13 x 9 pan.  Mix the nuts and the cinnamon.  Get a brush for the butter.  That's it.

Here it is.  Pan.  Nuts and cinnamon.  Melted butter. Phyllo dough.

You brush a layer of butter in the pan.  Then layer in a sheet of dough.  Brush more butter to cover.  Then layer in another sheet of dough.  Yup, more butter to cover.

At this point, you sprinkle on 2 T. of the nut mixture.

Then the layering starts again.  Dough.  Butter. Nut mixture.  You do this until all of the nuts are gone.  Then make six or so layers of dough and butter.  Don't be stingy with the butter.  It's one of the best components.  Occasionally, I run out.  Just melt a little more and continue.

 Just a note about the phyllo.  I know this is the sort of thing that can be very scary.  It's not.  In this recipe, especially, it's very forgiving.  If it tears, so what.  It's just going to be covered with  more nuts and butter!  When you are between layers, I cover it with some plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.  Ok, actually, now that I've made this a bunch of times, I don't tend to cover it because I work pretty quickly.  If you are nervous, however, cover.

The next step was a little surprising the first time I made this.  You actually cut the baklava BEFORE you bake it.  I know!  Isn't that interesting!

This is what it looks like before it is baked.  Another little hint:  these pieces are kind of big.  I usually cut them smaller.

This is what it looks like after it is baked.  MMMmmm.  Toasty and delicious.  But not done yet!

While it is baking, you have another step.  The sweetness comes from a honey/sugar syrup.  The beauty of the syrup is that you can make it to your likeness.  I'm not a huge fan of honey, so I use more sugar than honey.  Once the pan is out of the oven, you evenly pour the syrup over the hot baklava.  Tricky!  You'll hear an amazing sizzle as the syrup lovingly coats all the flaky, delicious layers.  

Here is what it looks like when it's done.  More mmmmmmm.  

And here is a close up of the flaky, delicious layers.  Even more mmmmm.

It can be done.  And it can be done well.  Try it!  You'll like it!

Julie's Baklava

1 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed according to directions and cut in half to fit a 13 x 9
1 pound toasted, chopped nuts (I use pistachio and almond)
1 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted (may need more)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix nuts and cinnamon.  Brush bottom of 13 x 9 pan with butter.  Layer phyllo, nuts, and butter until nut mixture is gone.  Cover with six layers of phyllo and butter.  Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown.  While the pastry is baking, make the sugar/honey syrup.

1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
1/2 c. honey
1 t. vanilla
1 t. lemon or orange zest

Combine the sugar and water.  Bring to a boil.  Add the rest of ingredients and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.  Spoon the hot syrup over the hot pastry.

Store UNCOVERED!  Otherwise, it gets soggy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mostly, I just write about food.

But I could not pass this up.  I laughed very loudly and for a long time while reading this.  The next three weeks are either going to be highly amusing or scare the crap out of me.  Or both.

I had a completely hilarious flow chart up here, but because of Blogger's lay-out, it didn't fit.  So here's the link.  Go, laugh, cry, pass it on to your friends.

Coming next:  baklava

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Just like a TWD: Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake

If Dorie used a mix.....

See, it's been crazy busy around here.  We were out of town, it was Rosh Hashana, I did some baking for the baking gals, and there was still all the regular, everyday stuff going on.

So, when I made brownie bites (Ghiradelli mix that I doctor up with espresso powder and vanilla), there was some batter that didn't fit in the mini cupcake pan.  Just enough batter for a 4" round pan.  And there was that dulce de leche in my fridge.  It's just another way of saying caramel, right?

I cheated.  That's all there is to it.  I used the leftover batter.  I stirred some honey roasted peanuts into the melted dulce de leche.  I poured the mix over the top.  And we ate every last little bite.

It was delicious.  I'm sure it would have been even better had I made it from scratch.  Which I will.  I promise.  The very next time we have friends over and I need a dessert, it's on the top of my list.

Mmmm.  Rich caramel.  Salty sweet peanuts.  Chewy brownie.  Mmmmm.

Thank you to Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy  for choosing such a delicious recipe.  

Up next week:  Lenox Almond Biscotti chosen by Gretchen of Canela & Comino.  I KNOW I'm baking that one, well, because I already have.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Baking Gals and Cpt. Chris Daleske

Well, my box is off today.  We made ginger cookies and brownie bites.  We included drink mix, candy corn, Ghost Dots, and pumpkin Peeps.  I figure they don't get a lot of Halloween over there in Iraq.

Thanks to all the soldiers for everything that you do.  And thanks to all the hosts who make this possible.

If you'd like to be a part of this for the next round, check out the Baking Gals website.

Mmmmm.  Treats!