Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cranberry Snowball Cookies

Dear baking world,

Sorry about the belated blog post. It's been a busy week due to Christmas festivities and such. My older sister and her husband are visiting from Germany, so I've spending as much time as possible with them.

This post is technically a Christmas post, due to the Christmas tree that posed in the background of my pictures. However, I thought the cookies and pictures were too good not to sure.

I love snowball cookies, but when I was little I hated pecans. (I've outgrown that and now I think the snowball cookies are fabulous.) I decided to make snowball cookies with finely chopped cranberries and the results was delicious. The cranberries are a little tart and the cookies are extra sweet. It was a perfect combo and a delicious twist on a classic Christmas cookie.

But then again, these would be lovely for Valentine's Day, too!

Cranberry Snowball Cookies

1 cup cold butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cup flour
1/2 cup frozen or fresh cranberries, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and flour. Cut in the butter. Mix with hands until blended. Roll into balls. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

After completely cooled, roll in powdered sugar. (I made a mistake of being overexcited and I rolled them in powdered sugar too soon. That makes it melt to the cookie and form a sugary shell around the cookie. It's not bad tasting, I mean it's sugar, but it doesn't look the same.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oatmeal Pie or Poor Man's Pecan Pie

Dear baking world,

I am in the throes of finals, but somehow I have found time to continue baking. I think it's a stress reliever/an excuse not to study. So far, I've done well on my exams, but my biggest one is in 13 hours and I'm shaking in my boots.

So, recently I found a recipe for Oatmeal Pie. Naturally, due to my love of anything oatmeal/oatmeal for breakfast every day, I have a ton of oats in the cupboard. Also, even though I never have corn syrup, somehow I had a bottle in the back of my cupboard. And so it goes. I had to make it because I had all of the ingredients.

But I cheated a little bit. I used store bought pie crusts. (Ducks as people start throwing fists.) However, let me explain, please. My mom loves Pappy's pie crusts, which are store bought and possibly better than my grandma's homemade pie crust. (She would argue with this, but there's a famous story about how my grandma thinks store bought pie is the devil's handiwork. Anyways, one day my mom brought a pie over to grandma's house and she said that it was one of the best pie crusts she's ever had. It was Pappy's and it was store bought.)

Alas, this is not Pappy's, but two not as deep mini pie crusts from the Madison grocery store. They aren't great, but they do the job. I always think that pie is about the filling and the crust, while a delicious added bonus, is a vessel for an excellent filling.

And this pie is truly excellent. It really is like a pecan pie, but instead of pecans, there's oatmeal. I love pecans, but I also love oatmeal, so  I'm not sure where I stand about oatmeal instead of pecans, but it sure is a sweet deal. (My roommate hates nuts in food, she likes them plain, but not in pies, so she loved this.)

Pause for science! So, what does the oatmeal, like pecans, "float" to the top of the pie even though its mixed in? It creates a lovely layer of oatmeal on the top and then a gooey, sweet, brown-sugary filling. Well, both pecans and oatmeal are less dense than the liquid filling that includes butter, corn syrup, sugar and a little bit of flour. As a result, even before baking occurs and after you pour it into the pie crust, they immediately float to the surface. So when they bake, you get these lovely layers. It's beautiful and genius and amazing.

So here is this wonderful pie. I don't think it's a poor man's pecan pie, because I think it's delicious and a little breakfasty but also seasonal and something a little extra.


Oatmeal Pie 
or The Poor Man's Pecan Pie

4 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup quick cooking or old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugars, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add to the eggs. Then, add the melted butter, corn syrup and vanilla. Mix well. Finally, add the oats.

I baked my pies for about 38 minutes, but a bigger pie should require 45-50 minutes.

How do you know when it's done?
The center should be slightly wobbly and a tooth pick should come out clean.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Acorn Squash Cupcakes + Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Dear baking world,

I've had an acorn squash sitting in the kitchen for almost two months now. (Who knew those things lasted so long, but apparently they do.) Last night, as I lay me down to sleep, I realized that why couldn't I make cupcakes with acorn squash puree?! How delicious would that be?

Science stop here: acorn squash is a winter squash, just as pumpkin is. All I would have to do is take my favorite pumpkin cupcakes recipe (which I haven't been able to make and post on this blog) and substitute the pumpkin for freshly pureed acorn squash. 

So I sliced that baby open (It sounds way quicker than it was. I hacked at it for a solid fifteen minutes before it finally split open.) I scraped out the seeds and gunk, like in a pumpkin. Then I placed the two halves, pointy end up, on a pan and baked them for 60 minutes. After I baked them, I let them cool for about ten minutes. Then I scraped out the soft innards and whipped them with my hand mixer. Lo and behold, before my eyes, I had about a cup of fresh acorn squash puree.

Despite the fact that it sounds odd, the results were almost pumpkin-like in texture and taste and they smelled delicious while baking. They are delicious. They're a light orange and very, very moist.

My only complaint: I incidentally do not like browned butter (I've never made it before) and these cupcakes could use a little extra flour. I intend on trying them again and updating, but for now, here is what I did. Because there were a lot of liquids in this recipe, I think that a reduction in milk and a little more flour might help with the gumminess. (Although, a baker tends to criticize their work way more than someone else might. So, I have yet to see what my roommates say.)

Acorn Squash Cupcakes + Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

6 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, 1 egg yolk
1 cup acorn squash puree 
1 cup flour + 2.5 Tbsp. flour 
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
dash of cloves
dash of ginger
dash of salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used almond milk and then added some lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350. Cream the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolk, beating well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Mix into the wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Start and end with the flour. Evenly divide the batter into cupcake pan (they should come out to about twelve) and bake for 20-25. Mine took exactly 23 minutes.

Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup butter for browning
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar

For browning the butter: Place in pan on medium heat. Melt until bubbling. Small brown flakes should appear, but don't let it burn. It took about 6 minutes for the flakes to appear.

Let cool for 30 minutes.

Then, cream together the cream cheese, browned butter, and the butter. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. 


Sunday, December 15, 2013


Dear baking world,

First three things to do when you're a procrastinator: 1. bake. 2. When you're done baking, eat. 3. Post-baking/eating nap. Except I have finals next week, so the hardest step is starting to study but then it's okay from there on.

Oh, and then I watched one of the best TEDtalks I've ever seen. It was about the African phrase "Ubuntu" which means "I am; because of you." I think that is one of the coolest things I've ever heard, especially because we lost one of the best men who ever lived this past week, Nelson Mandela. (As a history major, I think any major historical figure makes me lose my mind, but I got the privilege to live when he lived.) Anyways, it simply means that every person is that way because of other people, so we must be grateful for our other people. Definitely watch it.

Anyways, the point is, baking > studying. And that's why I'm writing this blog post.

I love these no bake cookies. I'm not usually a fan of no bake cookies, but these have earned my undying love. They're quick, easy and rank right up there with my favorite cookies.

How not to burn chocolate chips in a microwave: This was one of the first colossal mistakes I made in the kitchen as a young lassie. I burnt a lovely bowl of white chocolate and I swore to never do it again. My tip: put the chocolate chips in a glass bowl and microwave them for no more than 30 seconds at at time. When you take them out, stir them for 30 seconds or so because they will continue to melt. (Heat transfer, people. Who knew physics would work on me?) Then repeat. I only needed to microwave them for about three 30 second intervals.

Haystack Cookies

1 bag of Chow Mein Noodles (about 7 cups)
3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips (About 3/4 of a bag)
2 cups of butterscotch chips

Melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in a large bowl until fully melted. Pour Chow Mein noodles into the large bowl. Stir until fully coated. Then form into little "haystacks." It makes about 40 cookies. 

If anybody cares, they're each about 85-90 calories. I think that's pretty good.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Biscoff Christmas Cookies

Dear baking world,

Let it snow! It's even snowing all day, and for some people, that might mean curling up in a ball and slowly losing their sanity as the snowflakes fall around them, but for me, it means wearing my favorite winter boots that I've had since 8th grade. Always trust Sorel to make durable, timeless boots. They were one fashion choice I made in middle school that I still approve of.

These cookies are Biscoff (spread) Cookies with cinnamon chips. I needed to make cookies for class on Monday, and rather than go with the ho-hum classics, I wanted to spice (literally) things up a bit. This is a peanut butter cookie recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction. She claimed they were excellent as peanut butter cookies, so I'm going to claim these are also excellent as Biscoff cookies. I thought cinnamon chips would add a little pizzazz and pair well with the Biscoff.

How did these lovelies turn out? Well, everything is better with Biscoff. However, unlike Sally's "thick and chewy" cookies, these were flat with crispy edges and soft insides. I am thinking it's because the Biscoff spread probably spreads differently than peanut butter, even though they're a super similar consistency. I honestly have no idea what it was, but they were delicious. 

My roommate, expert cookie taster, described these as her "new favorite cookie." What an honor!

Update: I took these cookies to class and two of my classmates said they may be the best cookies they've eaten. One said if the cookie was dragged behind a vehicle, she would still eat it. So try these!

Enjoy the snow and stay safe on those roads.


P.S. I apologize for the repetitive pictures. I took a bunch and every one made me happier than the last. Indecisive problems.

Biscoff Cinnamon Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup Biscoff spread (smooth or chunky, but I used smooth)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean extract)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cinnamon chips (not too much or they're overpowering)

Cream butter and sugars together on medium speed. Mix in the Biscoff spread, egg and vanilla. Slowly mix in baking soda and flour. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

After the dough is satisfactorily chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. They will appear underdone, but do not underbake! I repeat, do not underbake.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gingerbread Cupcakes

Dear baking world,

Midwesterners love to whine about the cold weather, which is what I am about to do. Today it was 5 degrees out and although I enjoy the advent of Christmas, I dread the days when I walk into buildings as a human popsicle.

However, I thought that fresh baked cupcakes would make me happy.

Boy was I wrong. These cupcakes made me so mad. All of the reviews online were excellent, but when I opened the oven door, my heart sank. They were flat and spread onto the pan. Only the mini ones turned out okay, but they were probably overcooked.

When I let them cool and tried to frost them, the tops fell off. Literally fell off. Into my mouth because they taste delicious, they just don't earn points in the presentation area.

My saving grace was my piping set. Thank God for my piping set, otherwise I wouldn't have had any pictures.

A few solutions I would recommend to make these cupcakes more substantial would be adding an extra egg. Eggs are binders. Hopefully that would do the trick because they tasted delicious.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Beat in the egg. Beat in the water and molasses. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and ground ginger. Mix into wet ingredients until combined. Then mix on medium for 2 minutes.

Bake for 22-25 minutes. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Best Week Ever + Celebratory White Chocolate Bark

Dear baking world,

They say good things come in threes but this week things came in pairs. Apparently, there's a Chinese proverb that good things come in pairs so I'm not so far off. Two wonderful things happened to me in the past week. 

First, I got the tour guide job where I get to take prospective Badgers all over campus and rave about how great my University is. I've wanted this job since I was a freshman and here I am, with this job. I couldn't be more excited.

Then, this morning, about one week after I got the tour guide job, I got a call from Explo, a 6 week summer camp in Boston. They said they wanted to offer me a job on their staff. I am going to teach a course about the science of cooking and baking and then a workshop called Just Desserts (insert screams here.) And I can thank my trusty blog for that job, because without it, I wouldn't have stood out as a baking fanatic (which clearly I am.)

And now, either good things just come in pairs, or good things come in threes and I'm waiting for the third and final thing (which would be an A on my physics exam, but I don't think I have a say in this process.)

That being said, I have been really busy and haven't done a lot of baking, but fortunately my roommate did and she let me snap some pretty pictures near our (small) Christmas tree.

The bark was delicioso. I love anything crunchy and white chocolatey. So here it is!

Black and white = classy

Lauren's Delicious White Chocolate Christmas Bark

2 bags white chocolate chips
1 cup Fruit Loops or Cap'n Crunch (Lauren used Cap'n crunch, but she recommends Fruit Loops)
1 cup Rice Krispies
1 cup chopped salted peanuts
1 cup broken up pretzels

Melt chips in the microwave. It's easiest in a big glass bowl. Microwave for about 15-20 seconds at a time and take it out and stir after every time. 

Prepare large cookie sheet by spraying with non-stick spray.

Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour melted chips over dry ingredients and gently mix with a rubber scraper/wooden spoon until everything is coated. Spread mixture out on the cookie sheet and let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours. (Lauren was smart and threw it in the freezer, so it was ready within a half hour or so.) The mixture will harden and then you break it into bite size (or titanic size) pieces.