Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Maple Creme Cookies

Beautiful red and orange frosting highlight this delicious
cookie that hides maple creme inside!
It's September here in the desert and the temperatures have managed to dip into the low to mid 90's! Yes, this is what Autumn feels like in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

Of course, I'm still in tune with the seasons of the Southeast. With September and October comes a longing for brightly colored trees and cool days and cooler nights. When I was young my grandmother had a beautiful maple tree in her front yard. Each October I would eagerly await its transformation from green to flaming red and orange. I thought it was the most beautiful tree in the world. To this day the maple tree remains the ultimate symbol of Fall for me.

As with most families in our area, Fall also meant a pilgrimage to "the mountains." Like "the beach" that was shorthand for one destination - Western North Carolina. The trip would always involve mountain apples and one of my favorite things - maple sugar candy. That sickeningly sweet concoction remains a favorite treat. Each year, now that I'm far from those old mountains, I eagerly await the arrival of those little boxes of maple goodness at World Market.

Another Fall treat has been the maple sandwich cookie. These are usually available at grocery stores late in the season, but they're a joy to make at home. In fact, you can go the long route with real maple syrup which is super yummy or you can take a shortcut with maple flavoring.

'Maple Tree' photo (c) 2010, William Warby - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I had intended to go the long route on my latest batch but her in the west maple syrup prices at about $7-$10 a bottle. That's a little steep for a cookie filling (figuring you'd need about two or more bottles to cook down into the maple creme.) So, I opted for the shortcut method which is faster and cheaper. It's really easy:

Shortcut Maple Creme

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbs. maple flavoring
1-2 tbs. milk

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir together until you get a nice smooth filling that can be easily spread on cookies.

It's that simple. The maple creme is a bit more involved and the recipe is included below. I also decided to frost my cookies with red and orange frosting which gives them a beautiful autumnal feel. These are super delicious and addictive.

I found with my cookie cutter that I needed to flip over half the cookies to make the tops and bottoms match. If you have a more symmetrical cutter you won't need to puzzle out those tops and bottoms! If you have an asymmetrical cutter just remember that even if you forget you can still make the cookies, the bottoms will just look like regular cookie bottoms though. (Does that even make sense?) 

Eagle eyed readers will notice the cookie recipe closely resembles that for the Cinnamon Marble Cookies. Indeed, it is adapted from that recipe as the base cookie makes a terrific sandwich cookie for all types of fillings - just adjust your spices to compliment your filling!


Maple Creme Cookies

Maple leaf shaped cookies with delicious maple creme filling!

Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
Yield: 20-24 cookies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Recipe Maple Creme
  • 1 Recipe Red Frosting
  • 1 Recipe Orange Frosting
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Beat in egg and vanilla just until combined. Beat in flour in 1/4 cup increments just until combined. Cover and chill dough in refrigerator for at least one hour or until easy to handle.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a Maple Leaf shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Place cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until bottoms begin to brown. Cool cookies on wire rack.
  4. Frost half of the cookies with Red and Orange Frosting. Using the red frosting coat the cookie top entirely with a paint brush. With a second paintbrush, brush the orange frosting over the red, swirling the colors together. Allow the frosting to set completely.
  5. Once the frosting has set, take the unfrosted cookies and spoon a little of the maple creme and spread with a small icing spatula. Top the cookie with one of the frosted cookies, pressing down lightly to spread the maple creme completely.


Real Maple Creme

Ingredients
  • 3 cups Grade A or B Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt (optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. Fill a large bowl about 1/4 full with ice. Place a medium saucepan on the ice and fill in around the edges with more ice until it reaches at least the halfway point of the saucepan. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy saucepan combine all ingredients and cook over medium to medium-high heat without stirring until temperature registers 235° on a candy thermometer.
  3. Remove from heat and transfer to waiting saucepan in ice. When temperature reaches 125°, transfer to bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat at medium to high speed until mixture becomes creamy and thick. Transfer to a clean covered jar if not using immediately and store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.


Orange or Red Frosting

Ingredients
  • 1 cup Powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tbs. Milk
  • 1/4 tsp. Vanilla
  • Red or Orange Food Coloring
Cooking Directions
  1. Mix first three ingredients together in a small bowl until the mixture resembles a thick paint. Add the desired food coloring and mix well until the color is uniform and the shade you wish.Repeat with second color in a separate bowl.
  2. Paint the frosting on cookies using a paintbrush or small pastry brush.
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Monday, September 17, 2012

Cinnamon Marble Cookies

It's great when you create something that not only tastes great, but is pretty to look at too. These cookies fit the bill. The cookie itself is a wonderful buttery cinnamon spiced cookie that is delicate and delicious. The topping is a combination of white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate that swirls and dances into lovely marbleized designs.

This cookie lends itself nicely to a central role as a dessert. If you used a larger cookie cutter it would make a lovely addition to a more formal dinner setting. Wouldn't that be interesting - a beautiful cookie for dessert!

While chocolate makes a nice combination in this cookie you could also use many of the other baking chips that can be found in the baking aisle at the grocery store. I swear, they seem to grow exponentially year after year. I've seen cinnamon chips (perfect for this), caramel chips, cappuccino, maple, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, mint, and butterscotch! Basically, any chip that will melt nicely will work to flavor your swirling bits of decadent goodness.

Note: This recipe makes a lot of the semi-sweet chocolate portion. I found I didn't need nearly that much - in fact I used less than a quarter of it. So, I would cut that by at least half if you want to save on ingredients. Otherwise, bake up something else that needs a nice glaze (cupcakes, maybe?) and have at it with the semi-sweet chocolate.


Cinnamon Marble Cookies

Buttery cinnamon cookies with an elegant chocolate marble glaze.

Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes
Total time: 38 minutes
Yield: 14 cookies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white chocolate pieces
  • 4 tsp. shortening, divided
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Beat in egg and vanilla just until combined. Beat in flour in 1/4 cup increments just until combined. Cover and chill dough in refrigerator for at least one hour or until easy to handle.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 3 1/2-inch fluted round cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Place cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until bottoms begin to brown. Cool cookies on wire rack.
  4. For the glazes: In a small saucepan, melt together the white chocolate and 2 tsp. of the shortening, stirring frequently until melted and smooth. In a second small saucepan melt together the semi-sweet chocolate pieces and 2 tsp. of shortening, stirring frequently until melted.
  5. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a heavy zip-lock bag.
  6. To glaze the cookies, spoon the white chocolate over the cookies, spreading it to almost the edges.
  7. Snip off a tiny bit of the corner of the zip-lock bag and drizzle two or three lines of the semi-sweet chocolate over the cookies. Swirl a toothpick or skewer through the glaze to create a marble effect.
  8. Let cookies stand until glazes are set.
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Caramel Swirl Brownies

Moist and Luscious chocolate brownie topped with swirls
of decadent caramel!
I absolutely love the Milky Way Simply Caramel candy bars. There's just something about caramel and chocolate that makes me crave more. So, imagine my delight when I got a new cookbook for the holidays and found a recipe for Caramel Swirl Brownies. My copy of  Better Homes and Gardens Very Merry Cookies is turning out to be a great read. Yes, I read cookbooks.

I used to think Mama was nuts because she would sit down in the evening with a cup of coffee and read through a cookbook like other people might a novel. Now that I'm enjoying my time in the kitchen I find myself doing the same thing. A new cookbook arrives and I just have to sit down and go over it cover to cover.

This new cookbook is a real treat because not only does it give you some wonderful holiday recipes but also gives you some great ideas about how to gift your creations. From decorative boxes made from old aluminum foil boxes that are perfect for little round cookies to tips and tricks for packing cookies for shipping, the book is a treasure trove of information for your holiday baking needs. I heartily recommend it.

But, back to our brownies. These little things are lush. They're wonderfully moist and chewy with a big chocolate flavor enhanced by the caramel swirls. They're also really attractive with their marbled pattern. I actually found these were better on the second day when the flavors melded. Right out of the oven the chocolate is very vibrant and you miss the nice caramel notes. After sitting overnight, the flavors were much more balanced and spectacular!

You'll want to keep these in an airtight container in the fridge and eat within 3 days. You can also store these in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just thaw before eating (or gifting).

This recipe calls for eggs meeting hot chocolate and caramel so remember to temper those eggs

So, settle back and enjoy some lovely caramel and chocolate in this lush decadent brownie!


Caramel Swirl Brownies


Luscious chocolate and caramel in a rich moist brownie.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Yield: 12 to 16 brownies

Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup butter, cut up in pieces
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 tbs. sugar
  • 3 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 12 vanilla caramels (unwrapped)
  • 1 tbs. milk
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line an 8x8x2-inch baking pan (or 9x9x2-inch) with aluminum foil, allowing the edges of the foil to overhang by 1 to 2 inches. Grease the pan and foil.
  2. In a medium saucepan cook and stir the butter and chocolate over medium-low heat until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour just until combined. Spoon batter into prepared baking pan spreading evenly.
  3. In a small saucepan combine the caramels, cream cheese, 1 tbs. sugar and milk. Cook and stir over medium-low heat just until melted and smooth (be patient and resist the urge to crank up the heat!) Remove from heat. In a small bowl beat 1 egg yolk and gradually stir into mixture.
  4. Drop the caramel mixture by spoonfuls over brownie mixture in pan. Using the edge of a small thin spatula or butter knife, swirl the caramel with the chocolate batter.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until top springs back when touched and edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. It's best to under bake a bit than to over bake! Cool the brownies in the pan on a wire rack. When cool, use the foil to lift the brownies out of the pan. Place on a cutting board; cut brownies into squares or rectangles.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Banana Nut Shortbread

Who doesn't love the taste of Banana Bread? Well, this delightful recipe gives you all that banana and walnut goodness in a buttery shortbread!

These cookies with their rich maple flavored icing are the perfect bite-sized treats. With the holidays approaching (yup, it's September already!) these are great cookies to file away for your holiday baking. They'd work great on a cookie tray or in a cute little box.

I loved the flavor in these with the classic taste of banana, brown sugar, and cinnamon topped off with a maple glaze. I sliced them in little rectangles but you could even use small decorative cookie cutters if you chose. Regardless, they'll be a hit!


Banana Nut Shortbread

The great taste of Banana Bread in a buttery shortbread cookie!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup mashed rip banana (about 1/2 of a medium banana)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts 
Maple Glaze 
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbs. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. maple flavoring
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat together the butter, banana and vanilla until smooth. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator or until firm.
  2. Preheat oven to 300°. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter mixture until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and begins to come together in clumps. Stir in chopped nuts. Knead dough with hands until smooth. Form into a ball and divide dough in half.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into an 8x6-inch rectangle. Cut each rectangle into 16 pieces (about 2x1 1/2 inch each). Place rectangles one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake about 30 minutes or just until bottoms begin to brown. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool and drizzle with maple glaze. Let stand until icing is set.
  5. Maple Glaze
  6. In a medium bowl combine powdered sugar, 1 to 2 tbs. of milk and 1/4 tsp. of maple flavoring. Whisk together to make a smooth glaze of drizzling consistency. 
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes per batch
Total time: 2 hours
Yield: 32 cookies
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