The 12 Cookies of Christmas – Part 1.

I’m not sure if I ever shared this before, but my favorite things to bake are cookies. I think it’s because they are small, and the options are endless. You can make a cookie using almost anything. I could experiment with cookies all day, if I only had the time (and a dishwasher).

Every year, I bake a whole slew of cookies for the Holidays. I have a few recipes that I do every year – Chocolate Chip, Cream Cheese, Cottage Cheese  – but this year, I really wanted to add some new players to my lineup, and bring some new life to the team. I also brought some golden oldies out of retirement, and in the end, wound up with a perfect, well-rounded team of 12.

Cookie #1: Cornbread Cookies.

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I had picked up a box of Jiffy Cornbread Mix and planned on making corn muffins for Thanksgiving. Well, that didn’t happen, so I had this great idea to turn the mix into a cookie. So I started doing some research, and found this recipe, which sounded easy and delicious! The only thing I did differently was leave off the icing. The cookies were more like corn muffins that way, and I do love corn muffins.

 

Cookie #2: Pumpkin Spice Drops.

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My mom knows better than anyone how much I love experimenting with new cookies. She had bought me a book that she was going to give me for Christmas, but decided it would be better to give it to me now, in case I wanted to try something from it. Good call, Mom. The book was called “Old -Fashioned Cookies.” It looks like this:

book

In the book, the recipe is called Iced-Pumpkin Drops. I again omitted the icing. The cookies didn’t really need it. They were soft, chewy, pumpkin-y, and yummy, all by themselves.

 

Cookie #3: Breakfast Cookies.

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I actually make these every year, and have for some time. They’re like oatmeal cookies, but with cheddar cheese and cinnamon chips. This year, about half-way through production, I realized I had no oats. I had sworn there was a whole un-opened container, but there wasn’t. I really didn’t feel like running out in the midst of mixing, so I started trying to think of something else that I could use, that I did have already. I found a box of farro. I used it. It worked. I also upgraded the cheese selection from processed shredded cheddar to MontAmore (my new favorite cheese).  They’re more like a champagne brunch cookie now.

 

Cookie #4: R2D2 Ready to Bake Cookies. 

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I had to bake these. Sure, they’re easy. But with all this Star Wars talk, I felt like these needed to be part of the line-up. They came in this box, and they were pretty tasty, not to mention pretty cute. Beep boop boop beep! There was one issue – some Dr. Who enthusiasts seemed to think they looked more like Daleks then R2D2. You know what I say to that? EXTERMINATE!

 

Stayed tuned for the next installment of the 12 Cookies of Christmas, coming soon to a computer screen near you!

 

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Pumpkin Sweet Bread…Or Is It Cake?

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Everyone knows that bread and cake are two different things. You use bread to make a sandwich. You serve cake at a birthday party. You wouldn’t use one in place of the other, right?

Yes, there are some breads and cakes that do fall squarely into each category. But sometimes, you wind up with a magical creatio that falls somewhere in between. Enter Pumpkin Sweet Bread.

I really wanted to make a pumpkin bread, but I was tired of looking at all the existing recipes on the internet (and there were oh so many). I wanted something new – something I could call my own. So I hit the old pastry school text books for some basics to start with, and built my very own pumpkin sweet bread recipe from scratch.

The dough was wonderful. I could not stop eating it. It reminded me of a thick cake batter. It was then that it hit me: this was no ordinary sweet bread. This was some sort of bread/cake hybrid that could be sliced and used on a sandwich OR frosted and jabbed with some candles as a birthday tribute.

the bread of frankenstein.

the bread of frankenstein.

I had successfully created something new. My work here is done. 🙂

Pumpkin Sweet Bread/Cake.

What you’ll need:

1 lb 4 oz Flour

10 oz Sugar

1.75 oz Baking Powder

.25 oz Salt

6 oz Eggs

14 oz Almond Milk

.5 oz Vanilla

8 oz Melted Butter

1 cup Pumpkin Puree

1 cup Pumpkin Chips

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, almond milk, vanilla, melted butter, and pumpkin puree. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until just combined. fold in the chips, but be careful not to over mix – the dough/batter should be lumpy. Grease two 9×5 loaf pans and divide evenly between the two. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. The outside should have a little bit of crust, the sides should begin to pull away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted should come out clean. Serve alone, with a giaze, as part of a sandwich, or frost it for a birthday. The options are endless!

a happy birthday sandwich?

a happy birthday sandwich?

For the Love of Pumpkin, Cheesecake, Whipped Cream, and Gingersnaps.

Last week, my husband sent me an email. There was no personal message, no story; there was only this link:

http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/pumpkin-cheesecake-tart-with-gingersnap-crust

I read over the recipe and thought to myself, “hmmm…this sounds pretty good…maybe I should try and make that….in fact, I think I will make it!”

My husband knew exactly what he was doing. His diabolical pumpkin-cheesecake-tart-with-a-gingersnap-crust-making plan had worked out exactly as he had envisioned.

I bought the ingredients that evening, and got down to business the very next day. It baked up real nice.

Pretty in pumpkin.

Pretty in pumpkin.

The gingersnap crust was the ringer though. I never would have thought to use gingersnaps, but they made all the difference. We went to dinner at my mom’s house that next night, and brought the tart. It was the perfect compliment to my mom’s beanless chili.

A good compliment goes a long way.

A good compliment goes a long way.

We sliced it up, and topped each piece upon serving with a hefty dollop of my homemade cinnamon whipped cream. The only thing missing was my dad. He wasn’t a dessert guy, but this one he would have liked – he loved gingersnaps. I wish he could have enjoyed it with us.

For you, Dad.

For you, Dad.

As I took my first bite, I raised my fork to my Dad – a man who’s taste in desserts was as unique as he was.

And it was delicious.

————————————————————————————————————-

Cinnamon Whipped Cream.

What you’ll need:

1 cup heavy cream

1 tblsp confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

What you’ll do:

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and cinnamon. Whip until stiff peaks form. Chill, and serve.

The Easiest Pumpkin Cake in the Universe.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to bake a pumpkin cake, because I can. so I did. It was a pumpkin-shaped pumpkin cake, to be precise. It ended up looking like this:

Pumpkin shape; pumpkin cake.

Pumpkin shape; pumpkin cake.

It started off looking like this:

It's a cake in a box.

It’s a cake in a box.

Yes, that’s a boxed carrot cake mix. I told you this was easy. You open the box, pour the mix into a bowl, and blend in the three ingredients on the back of the box:

Mix as directed.

Mix as directed.

In addition to these, all you need is 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, so add that in, too, and mix well. Pour the batter into two greased 8″ pans, and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. While the cakes are cooling, make the pumpkin frosting, which is also super easy:

2# conf sugar

1 cup shortening

1/2 cup pumkpin puree

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tblsp water

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, until smooth and creamy. The frosting will be the perfect orange color as is.

When icing the cake, keep the layers rounded, and keep the rounder one on top.

waiting to turn into a pumpkin.

waiting to turn into a pumpkin.

Add your decorations (stem, leaves, whatever you desire) and there you have it. A pumpkin-shaped pumpkin cake.

Easy and delicious.

Easy, festive, and delicious.

I love fall baking. So much pumpkin, so little time…

Think of All the Things You CAN Do.

The other day, I was complaining (again) about not being able to run. The whole tendonitis thing was really getting to me, and I was wallowing in a sea of “why me?”, until a friend said these words to me:

Think of all the things you CAN do.

So, I did.

I can take a cycling class. So the next morning, I took one at the gym. I can use the good old elliptical machine. So, I rocked out a 7 miler. I can do do yoga. I can swim. I can still ride my bike. I was already doing these things, but for some reason it didn’t matter. I was stuck on the one thing I couldn’t do.

Wah.

Wah.

Getting stuck is the worst. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re stuck until you become unstuck. And more often than not, it’s the words of an outside observer that gives you that push to unstick yourself.

Besides all these things things, I began thinking about all of the things that I CAN do that I don’t spend nearly enough time appreciating: I can see; I can hear: I can smell, touch, and taste. I can work. I can think. I can write. I can dream. I can love.

TLF.

Wedding bliss.

Wow. There are a ton of truly amazing things I CAN do. Not only am I thankful for all of these things, I’m thankful to the wonderful friend who pointed it out to me.

Besties.

Besties.

Gratitude really can make all the difference. No more wallowing. I have absolutely no reason to. The world is too good for it.

With that being said, I think I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon doing one other thing that I can do, and pretty well at that – bake a pumpkin spice cake. 🙂

You do what you must do, and you do it well.

You do what you must do, and you do it well.

A Birthday Cake to Fall For.

I made a birthday cake last week, but this was no ordinary birthday cake. I was tasked with creating a “Fall” birthday cake – made up of the flavors and colors associated with this time of year. The only requirement was not too much orange. Sounded like something I could do (and enjoy very much, what with my fall baking obsession and all). The cake itself was to be pumpkin spice (yay!), the icing was to be pumpkin buttercream (DOUBLE yay!), and the decorations were to be in fall colors. It was a half sheet cake, so it’s not the smallest cake, but it’s not the biggest either. So, here’s what I came up with.

falling for cake.

i think that possibly maybe i’m falling for cake.

For the flowers, I started off with red, and then slowly mixed in yellow as I went along. It created a subtle and well-blended color shift.

color blend.

color blend.

I also tried a new recipe for the “rose icing” as it’s sometimes called. I found it to have a better consistency than what I was previously using. Good thing I wrote it down.

the rose knows.

the rose knows.

In the end, I was pleased with how the cake turned out both flavor-wise and decoration-wise. And who knows, you may find me teaching some decorating classes come next year….time will tell… 😉

 

Mummies and Spiders and Eyes, Oh My!

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I made some Halloween cupcakes today, for no real reason or purpose, other than it’s almost Halloween and I felt like being creative. I baked up two dozen apple caramel cupcakes, which, although quite tasty, kinda reminded me of that apple cinnamon oatmeal from the pouch I used to eat as a kid. In this case, the cupcakes were to serve more as a canvas anyway, so I wasn’t too concerned, and besides, I liked that oatmeal. I decided to do four different Halloween-ish designs.

Design #1: Pumpkin.

the obvious choice.

the obvious choice.

I had recently made these same cupcakes for a wedding, and I still had some of the candy corn pumpkins left over, and I wanted to put them to some good use. So I did.

Design #2: Mummies.

mummy is so yummy.

mummy is so yummy.

A friend had posted a pic of similar cupcake mummies to my facebook page, and I thought they were just so darn cute, I had to try them myself.

Design #3: Spiders.

is that a spider on your cupcake?

is that a spider on your cupcake?

I had done these a few years ago, but with mini Oreos. All I had were a bunch of regular Oreos in the cabinet, so I opted to try these using those this time, instead. Plus, I had a tub of cookies and cream frosting leftover from that same wedding a couple weeks ago (I made Oreo cupcakes for it as well), so I busted it out,slathered it on, and slapped a giant killer Oreo Spider on top.

Design #4: Eyeballs.

Eat with your eyes...

eat with your eyes…

I was thinking of these the other day when I was telling a friend I made eyeball cupcakes like 6 years ago, using a green lifesaver for the retina. I had no lifesavers, but I did have a ton of light purple icing…so that happened.

All in all, I think they turned out pretty cute, and I think I’ll bring them in to work to share with my coworkers on Halloween. Let’s just hope they all liked that cinnamon oatmeal in the pouch as much as I did growing up….

taste like...oatmeal?

tastes like…oatmeal?

Recipe: Pumpkin Pumpkin Cake.

pumpkin small

I really wanted to use the rest of the can of pumpkin that I opened for the Soft and Chewy Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cookies before it went bad, so I just had to make another pumpkin dessert, stat. Also, while on the hunt for pumpkin cider, we stumbled across this, and I had to make it mine:

have your pumpkin and drink it, too.

have your pumpkin and drink it, too.

As if these weren’t signs enough, the universe was truly speaking to me, when I came across this perfect pan:

perfect pumpkin pan.

perfect pumpkin pan.

Now that all the pumpkin planets were aligned, I went to work. First, I started brainstorming (while drinking Pumpkin Cider for inspiration) until I came up with a new pumpkin cake recipe that pleased me. (Note: the cider is NOT in the recipe, but does make an enjoyable accompanying refreshment).

Pumpkin Cider not included.

Pumpkin Cider not included.

Next, I baked the cake. I was concerned that due to the shape of the pan, the cake would stick, so I really really greased it. (Like REALLY greased it).

greased up.

greased up.

The over-greasing worked, and the cake popped out perfectly – no breaks, no uneven parts. I then went ahead whipped up some pumpkin buttercream using the liqueur, and proceeded to create some art.

still life with pumpkin.

still life with pumpkin.

I shared it with friends, and it was a big hit! And you can make it, too! Here’s how.

Pumpkin Shaped Pumpkin Cake.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 tblsp canola oil

1 tblsp baking powder

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup pumpkin liqueur

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, egg, and oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Add the liqueur and pumpkin puree, and mix until smooth. Pour into a very well greased pumpkin shaped pan. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Pumpkin Liqueur Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup shortening

1 lb confectioners sugar

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

2 tblsp pumpkin liqueur

What you’ll do:

In a large bowl, cream together the shortening sugar and pumpkin puree. Add the liqueur, a little at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.

The ice your cake and decorate it as you see fit! The icing will already be orange from the pumpkin puree, so there’s that. 🙂

 

Recipe: Soft and Chewy Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cookies.

pumpkin cookies3

I love pumpkin. I love the fact that everything has a seasonal “pumpkin” or “pumpkin spice” flavor. I want to buy it all and hoard it for the rest of year. But I fear that if I do, I will be poor and hungry, since I’d grow sick of eating nothing but pumpkin. So for now, I’ll just continue to love it in the fall.

Because it’s such a small window of time, I try and take full advantage, making as many pumpkin desserts as I possibly can. This will be number 2 so far this season. Since the last thing I made was a Pumpkin Almond Spice Cake, I wanted to do cookies for this next round. I thought I’d made pumpkin cookies before, but I found no record of such a thing in my binder, so I started from scratch and began a search for a recipe to use as a foundation. I found this one, and it sounded like a perfect platform from which to jump right in and create.

there's something pumpkin going on.

there’s something pumpkin going on.

I mixed up the recipe, pretty much as it was written, but I didn’t like the glaze idea, so I decided instead to add two cups of one of my absolute favorite baking accoutrements, Cinnamon Chips.

it's beginning to look a lot like pumpkin.

it’s beginning to look a lot like pumpkin.

I used my trusty mini ice cream scoop, which is perfectly cookie-sized, and scooped them out onto parchment paper-covered cookie sheets.

here's the scoop.

here’s the scoop.

I baked them at 350 for about 15 minutes, and they were perfect. Seriously. They were not burned, yet were cooked all the way through, and remained soft and chewy and delicious throughout their entire lifespan.

soft. chewy. cinnamon chip-y.

soft. chewy. cinnamon chip-y.

The recipe made a lot of them, too. I had baked 3 trays of 15 cookies each, and had to stop because someone was nagging me about using the oven. In his defense, it was dinner time. So I wrapped the rest of the dough and put it in the fridge and plan to bake it off this week!

 

Pumpkin Almond Spice Cake.

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The other day, I discovered Pumpkin Pudding. It looks like this:

pudding

Being a lover of all things pumpkin, I was shocked to learn this was not a new item. It has existed for at least a year, possibly more. After recovering from the kick I gave to myself for not discovering this last year, I quickly snatched up 3 boxes, knowing I’d figure out something to do with them when I got home. And figure out something, I did.

I started out with a spice cake. I used this recipe (minus the caramel icing) which made two lovely 8″ layers.

hello, layers.

hello, layers.

While the layers lay cooling, I made the pudding and let that chill. Once the layers were cool and the pudding was chill, I put them together,  like so:

pudding in the middle.

pudding in the middle.

I put that in the fridge for a bit, and started contemplating what sort of icing to use that would enhance the overall eating experience. I had a little bit of the pudding left in the bowl, so I thought I’d try and make something that used up the rest of the pudding (there was no way I was letting THAT go to waste). So, I quickly wrote a Pumpkin Pudding Buttercream recipe. It went like this:

Pumpkin Pudding Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter, softened

3 TBSP pumpkin pudding (already made with milk)

4 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 TBSP milk

What you’ll do:

In a large bowl, mix the butter and the pudding until there are no lumps. Add the confectioners sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk, and mix until smooth.

 

After I made the icing, I iced the cake, but I still felt it needed something. So I got a bag of slivered almonds, and covered the sides of the cake with them, like this:

a side of almonds.

a side of almonds.

After that, we ate it, and said a little thanks to the gods of autumn for making it the season with all the best flavors.