Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hiatus of Undetermined Length.

As you may have noticed, I haven't posted in a while. Things in my life have gotten hectic what with two jobs and the holidays coming up. Plus I must admit that I have lost interest in blogging random recipes; I think it was more fun for me to do The Toll House Experiment because there was a clearly defined goal (making every recipe in the recipe book within a year).

So, until further notice, this blog is on hiatus. Sorry, guys. Maybe I'll come back and start blogging here again, or perhaps I'll find a recipe book to blog about like I did with The Toll House Experiment and start a new blog altogether. But for now I've simply lost interest and become too busy to keep up with this particular blog.

Stay sweet,

~Jesia <3

Monday, November 5, 2012

Candy Corn Sugar Cookie Bars

I saw this recipe from one of my favorite baking blogs and thought it was just too cute not to try. Plus, it's simple too! They're colored sugar cookie bars with frosting on top, made to look like the classic Halloween treat: candy corn.

Here's what you need:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Orange and yellow food coloring (I used gel food coloring; to make orange I used a lot of yellow and a little red)
White frosting (I happened to have some buttercream icing leftover from another recipe, so I used that; you could also use canned icing or the icing recipe here)

First off you'll want to preheat the oven to 375°F, and line a 13x9 baking pan with foil and spray it with baking spray. Then it's time to work on the sugar cookie dough. Throw together your butter and sugar in the mixer and cream them together until nicely combined, about 2 minutes.

Now add the eggs and vanilla and mix it up until nice and creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. With the mixer on its lowest setting, slowly add spoonfuls of the flour mixture to the dough. Beat until completely combined, scraping the bowl as necessary.

Divide the sugar cookie dough in half. Color one half yellow and one half orange. I would recommend removing half of the dough from the mixing bowl, coloring the remaining half yellow using the mixer, then removing the yellow dough and spreading it evenly in the prepared baking pan. You may want to use some flour on your hands, as this dough is extremely sticky! After that, you can add the uncolored half of the dough back to the mixing bowl and color it orange. Layer the orange dough evenly on top of the yellow dough in the baking pan.

By the way, I realize that the original recipe says to layer the orange dough first with the yellow on top, but I personally thought that didn't make much sense. After all, the bottom (widest) part of a candy corn is yellow, with the middle being orange and the tip being white.

Anyway, now it's time to bake! The original recipe says to bake at 375°F for 10-12 minutes. However, I found that it took my batch more like 20 minutes to bake thoroughly enough, and even then I had to let the pan sit on a wire rack to continue "baking" outside the oven so that it could set. Once cooled and set, remove the giant cookie bar from the pan by carefully lifting the foil.

Once the cookie bar is completely cool, it's time to frost it. (Yum!) Spread the white frosting evenly over the entire cookie bar.

Lastly, cut parallel lines into the cookie bar, and from there carefully cut out triangles. I recommend using a small, thin knife, and wiping it clean in between cuts.

Ta-dah! Candy Corn Sugar Cookie Bars. I know the layers aren't perfectly even, but I still think they're cute. They're also really yummy and moist!

I took these to a Halloween party at one of my jobs, and people seemed to really enjoy them. This recipe made so many bars, that I actually had plenty leftover for my parents to take to their store and share with their employees.

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween! I personally survived Halloween Horror Nights® 2012 at Universal Studios®. ;P So, sorry this post is a little late!

Your Cupcake,

~Jesia <3

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pumpkin Chip Brownies

Yep, it's that time of year again -- almost Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving. So it's time pull out the pumpkin and spices. If you're looking for something a little different this year, look no farther, because this recipe is pretty much a marriage between pumpkin pie and brownies.

Here's what you need:

1 box Duncan Hines® Chewy Fudge Brownie mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, separated
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (roughly half of a small, 15 oz. can)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet because that's what I have on hand, but you can use whatever you think sounds yummy)
1 can Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ Frosting Starter
1 packet Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ Pumpkin Spice Flavor Mix (limited edition/seasonal)
Optional: 16 Mellowcreme® pumpkin candies, for decoration

First off, preheat the oven to 350°F; then line an 8"x8" square pan with foil and spray with cooking or baking spray. Next, combine the brownie mix, eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and water in your mixing bowl. Mix it up on low until a nice brownie batter forms, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Set the bowl of brownie batter aside for now and get out another bowl. In this bowl combine the pumpkin, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Mix it up well.

Next, scoop 3/4 cup of brownie batter out of your first bowl and add it to the pumpkin mixture. Mix the brownie batter and pumpkin mixture together.

Now add the chocolate chips to the remaining brownie batter in the first bowl and incorporate them thoroughly. Pour the brownie batter into your prepared pan and spread it evenly.

Next, spread the pumpkin mixture on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Then swirl the two batters together using a knife.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350°F, then let the brownies cool in the pan on a wire rack. Once it's cool enough, you can remove the batch of brownies by grabbing hold of the foil and carefully lifting it out of the pan; let the brownies continue to cool on the wire rack until they're completely cool.

Now to prepare the frosting! Mix the Pumpkin Spice Flavor Mix into the can of Frosting Starter as per package directions, making sure to stir until there are no more white streaks in the frosting.

Slather that can of frosting all over your cooled brownies, making sure to spread evenly.

Lastly, carefully cut into 16 brownies with a small, thin knife. Top each brownie with a Mellowcreme® pumpkin candy, if desired. I personally think it adds a cute touch, plus you can use it as an indication of the flavor of the brownies. =)

Ta-dah! Pumpkin Chip Brownies: perfect for a Halloween party. =D The only thing I want to caution about is that, honestly, Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ frosting, while tasty and innovative, is thinner and runnier than other canned frostings and homemade buttercream. I tried refrigerating the frosted brownies before cutting them, but it didn't seem to help very much. The bottom line is that this frosting is, unfortunately, messy. I do wonder if you could make a homemade buttercream icing, minus the vanilla extract, and add the flavor packet to that instead. If anyone ever tries it, let me know how it turns out!

Your Cupcake,

~Jesia <3

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Orange Crème Whoopie Pies

Okay, so here's the deal. I entered a Duncan Hines® baking contest back in August, and while I didn't win, I DID come home with more than enough free products to make up for the entry fee. Part of what I took home was four cans of their Frosting Creations™ Frosting Starter, not realizing that they had expiration dates by the end of the year. Yikes! And I already had two cans at home that I got with coupons, so that left me with six. I used one on some cupcakes a while back, but now that it's getting closer to the expiration dates, I'm having to use them up fast.

Enter this recipe for Orange Crème Whoopie Pies. It takes two cans of Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ to make, AND I already happened to have the flavor packets I needed. Plus, I'd never made whoopie pies before, so I was interested to see how they'd turn out!

Here's what you need:

1 (18.25 oz.) box chocolate cake mix*
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups water
2 cans Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ Frosting Starter
2 packets Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ Orange Crème Flavor Mix

*The website doesn't give a weight for their cake mixes since they've changed, but I'm sticking to my guns on using the 18.25 oz. packages as long as I can find them. Luckily, Duncan Hines® has only changed the weight for their "classic" mixes and left their "signature" line alone, so for this particular recipe I used Duncan Hines® Swiss Chocolate flavor cake mix. I found out that a local grocery store carries pretty much all of Duncan Hines®' signature cake mixes, which is a great relief! Other than these, you could also use a store brand that is still 18.25-18.5 oz. or two 9 oz. boxes of Jiffy® brand (which is close enough). Of course, you could also just use the reformulated cake mixes, but I simply choose not to on principle.

Anyhow, let's get to the baking! Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper (trust me, parchment paper is CRITICAL in this recipe). Then throw together all of your ingredients into the mixing bowl except for the Frosting Starter and Flavor Mixes. Mix it up until it's nice and combined; the batter will be relatively thin.

Now you'll need to use a cookie scoop that is about the size of a tablespoon to scoop out even portions of batter onto the cookie sheets. It's important to do as the recipe says and put no more than 6-8 little cakes on each cookie sheet, because they do spread quite a bit. I did 6 to a sheet. Bake them for 8 minutes at 350°F, then let them cool off before moving the parchment paper, with the cakes still on it, to a cooling rack. Then you can put some more parchment paper on the cookie sheet and scoop out some more little cakes.

While you're letting the little cakes cool and baking up some more (it takes several batches), you can go ahead and stir up the orange crème frosting as indicated on the cans. Also, since the Frosting Creations™ frostings tend to be quite a bit thinner, you may want to let them chill in the fridge for a bit after mixing them up.

Finally, once your little cakes are completely cool, you can begin the delicate process of turning them into whoopie pies. I say this is a delicate process because I had some trouble with it, personally. The little cakes are so delicate and moist that touching them at all leaves some kind of mark on the cake and crumbs on whatever surface it touched. Basically, the best way I found to do this was to carefully peel off one little cake from the parchment paper, turn it upside down (flat-side up), and place it right back in its spot on the parchment paper (bits of the cake are left behind on the paper). Then, carefully glob on some orange crème frosting, spreading it to the edges with a knife or spatula. Lastly, carefully peel off another little cake from the parchment paper and place it on top of the little cake you just iced to make a sandwich. Ta-dah! Whoopie pies.

I cannot stress enough how delicate and messy these whoopie pies are. I really doubt that I'll make this particular recipe again, even though they are reasonably tasty. For one, the little cakes are just too moist and delicate to handle without marring them, and the Frosting Creations™ frosting is simply too thin and runny to be used in a sandwich cookie of any kind. By the way, I don't care what the Duncan Hines® website says -- storing these whoopie pies in between layers of wax paper doesn't make them pretty. Seriously, you just can't move or touch these with anything without making them ugly. =( Oh well, you live and you learn, right? Hopefully I can find a better whoopie pie recipe to try again someday. =)

Your Cupcake,

~Jesia <3

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookie Cups

Halloween is coming up soon, which means one thing: CANDY. And lots of it. Need ideas on how to convert regular candy into yummy home-baked treats to share with friends? Here's one for the Reese's® lovers. :D

All you need is two things:

2 packages (24 cookies each) refrigerated break-and-bake style peanut butter and milk chocolate chip cookie dough*
24 Reese's® peanut butter cups**

*I like the break-and-bake cookie dough for convenience, but you could also use a tub variety or make your own cookie dough. Just measure out about a tablespoon of cookie dough for each piece of the break-and-bake variety.

**The original recipe calls for full-size Reese's®, but I accidentally bought "snack-size," which are a little smaller; I was more concerned with price comparisons. But I think it may have turned out for the better in the end, because the snack-size ones fit just right in between two pieces of cookie dough.

Prepare the preparations! Line two cupcake pans with paper cupcake liners, unwrap all of your Reese's® completely, preheat the oven to 350°F, and unwrap a package of cookie dough. (You might want to keep one package in the fridge until it's time to use it, because the dough gets really sticky and difficult to work with when it's been sitting out a while.)

Now to put together the cookie cups. =) Simply take one piece of cookie dough and flatten it out a bit into a circle that's just a little bigger than your Reese's® cup.

Then place a Reese's® cup in the middle of your piece of dough and start carefully smooshing the extra bits of dough up the sides of the candy.

Next, place another piece of cookie dough on top of the Reese's® cup and start flattening it out and spreading it to the sides, making sure to encase the entire candy in cookie dough and seal the edges together.

And that's it! Carefully plop your cookie cup into one of the lined cavities of your cupcake pan, and repeat the process until you've made your first dozen.

Then pop it in the oven for about 13 minutes... While you're waiting, you can go ahead and start on the second dozen.

Aren't they pretty? Unfortunately, they do have a tendency to sink quite a bit as they cool, but that doesn't keep them from being yummy. :D Before digging in, you may want to pour yourself a glass of milk.

Want to see what they look like on the inside? I thought so.
Mmmmm, ooey-gooey chocolate-peanut buttery cookie bliss. <3 They're so good and so easy to make that it should be illegal. Of course, there are several different varieties of this recipe you could try with different candies, cookie doughs, and even brownie batters. That's the beauty of it. Use your imagination and enjoy!

Your Cupcake,

~Jesia <3