Friday, December 31, 2010

Chocolate Brownies

I was putting on the last touches for my New Year's Eve gathering and finding it hard to believe another year has come to an end. This has been a challenging year. I have had a lot of struggles, lost some special people along the way, dealt with some health issues...but thankfully I'm still standing and have a good feeling about what is to come.

I'm looking forward to bringing in the new year with some close friends. During the course of the year I met some wonderful new friends, reconnected with some friends and have some old friends stopping by, like my bestie coming to town from NYC, who I have been friends with for over 15 years.

We have had snow on three occasions already so it is looking like we may have a bad winter. New York got about 21-32 inches of snow over the Christmas weekend. I started to worry that my girlfriend would not get here from New York. And to my dismay, she called to tell me that it did not make sense for her to come down with the weather being unpredictable and having to get back in the swing of things after the first of the year. I was admittedly kind of bummed because we only get to hang out 4-5 times a year.

Oddly enough, her mother was in town visiting for Christmas vacation from North Carolina. And ma's flight got cancelled for 5 days because of the inclement weather. So turns out, Ms. T is going to have to drive her mother to North Carolina to bring her back home. My, my! God works in mysterious ways, huh? By some strange coincidence, she will be coming to the gathering after all. Things are already working in my favor and the new year hasn't even begun yet. This is a good sign!

One of my many tasks for today was to make a brownie tray with chocolate and blonde brownies. In my opinion, fudge brownies are a better partner with ice cream and chocolate sauce and chocolate brownies are better standalone brownies. Brownies can be dressed up with chocolate chip morsels, walnuts, pecans or whatever you are in the mood for. I am in the mood for walnuts and chocolate chips today. Can't you see how gooey and rich these are just from the pictures?

I think the best brownies are chewy with a crunchy top. Chewy brownies are achieved by removing the brownies from the oven a moment or two sooner than the recipe calls for, when there is a tad bit of batter on the toothpick when inserted.

Happy New Year! Wishing you a healthy, happy, prosperous 2011.

Chocolate Brownies

3/4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup melted butter, divided
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine cocoa and baking soda; blend in 1/3 cup melted butter.

Add boiling water; stir until well blended. Stir in sugar, beaten eggs, remaining 1/3 cup butter and vanilla flavoring.

Stir in flour and salt. Fold nuts and the chocolate chips into batter. Pour batter into a greased baking pan. Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool before cutting into squares.

 All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Salmon Dip

I absolutely have no excuse for sneaking this dip recipe into my dessert blog so I am not going to make one up. I just felt like it. We're doing more of that in the new year. It was just so darn good that I thought it warranted some recognition.

You can almost always find a good dip at a holiday, birthday or sports gathering. My favorite dip is the spinach dip, which I go to Cheddar's to get and eat two or three of by my is so addictive. But I decided to try this salmon dip after having a similar dip at a birthday party recently.

This is a hectic week with projects to finish up with work, people to entertain for the holiday and loads of cooking and baking to do! Why didn't I think to shut business down for the rest of the year so I could be off like everyone else? Since I didn't, I am trying to keep things really simple. Otherwise I will be so tired that I won't be able to enjoy the festivities.

It doesn't get much simpler than this. Poach the salmon and dump everything else in. This dip turned out wonderfully! So much so that I have gone to the fridge to eat some on...well, I don't have to tell everything. It's really gotta try it!

Salmon Dip

2 c salmon, finely chopped
8 oz cream cheese
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp minced onion
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper

If you use fresh salmon, poach salmon in 2 cups of white wine for 10 minutes. Then finely chop the salmon after it has cooled.

Bring cream cheese to room temperature or microwave at a medium setting for 2 minutes or until softened. Stir until the cream cheese is smooth. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Dip can be served hot or cold. If you prefer warm dip, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dip in oven for about 15 minutes. Serve with melba toast, crackers, tostada chips or on a baguette.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Blonde Brownies

Is it true that blondes are more fun? In the case of these brownies, I might have to agree. Don't get me wrong, I love a great chocolate or fudge brownie but I must say that I am partial to desserts with a caramel or butterscotch taste.

There are a lot of stories about where brownies originated legend says that a chef mistakenly added melted chocolate to a batch of biscuits...another story is of a housewife in Maine who forgot to add baking powder to her chocolate cake and when her cake didn’t rise properly, instead of tossing it out, she cut and served the flat pieces. I am not sure which, if any, is true but they have certainly evolved from the early 20th century. Did you know there was even a National Brownie Day? Pretty important stuff, huh?

These brownies are so good and so chewy and so rich. I am not sure how much I would add to blonde brownies, other than nuts or perhaps coconut, because they are so rich and tasty on their own. But I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Blonde Brownies

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Cream shortening, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, walnuts, baking powder and salt. Slowly add to egg mixture, stirring until well blended. Spread dough evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Shortbread Cookies

Over the summer, I had a gathering with a group of friends and was given the task of making a light dessert because everyone was signing up for Weight Watchers. So I told the gang I was making sorbet and cookies and they all groaned. "Who eats that?" "We didn't mean for you to do something that light." So I started second guessing my dessert selection and decided to add a few other desserts in case the sorbet and shortbreads were not a fan favorite. I ended up baking a pound cake and butterscotch brownies but nothing disappeared as fast as these shortbread cookies that no one wanted.

So I am planning out my New Year's Eve menu and thinking this might be a good cookie to have around...something not too sweet so my drinking folks won't be groaning about a stomach ache before the clock strikes 12.

Shortbread Cookies

3 c flour 
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, salt, butter and sugar. Mix until crumbly. Add the egg, extract, and lemon juice. Shape into two disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for an hour.

Let cookie dough sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Roll out a disk, one at a time, between two sheets of parchment paper. Cut dough with cookie cutter to form cookies. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until the edges are just slightly golden brown. Rotate baking sheet at the midway point, until the edges are lightly golden and the tops of the cookies are slightly less golden. Remove from oven when done. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Note: You may sprinkle with white decorating sugar, if desired. If so, brush the tops of cookies with egg wash, sprinkle sugar and then bake.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Raspberry Sorbet

I am not sure why my sinuses decided to start affecting me as an adult but I am so not happy about it. They are depriving me of my love of ice cream. Every now and again I will sneak in a small scoop or spoon full but I end up paying dearly for it later. So I have really gotten into making sorbet over the last year.

I swore I would not make anything else with eggnog until next year because I have truly had my fill of eggnog this holiday season. But I just ran across a recipe online for eggnog ice cream with soy milk powder and almond milk. Have I found the cure for my lactose intolerance? Might I be able to enjoy a bowl instead of a smidgen for New Year's Eve? I'm too chicken. I can't do it. I better go with my first choice, which is a raspberry sorbet. I must depart from the eggnog until the fall of 2011 and save myself...

Raspberry Sorbet

4 c raspberries
1 orange, juiced
1 c sugar
1 c water
1 tbsp vodka

Place the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the sugar water to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Puree the raspberries in a food processor and then pass through a fine sieve into a large bowl, keeping the juice and discarding the seeds. Mix in the orange juice and vodka after the seeds are discarded.

Whisk the sugar mixture with the raspberry puree and cool for several hours in the fridge. Once cooled, churn in an ice cream maker as per instruction manual. Freeze for 2 hours before serving.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sweet Potato Fries

You can really get into a lot of trouble eating around the holidays, particularly when you have nothing to do, which is my situation at this very moment. I was all set to make my dinner and planned on making a baked sweet potato to go along with my meal. And then it hit me...the overwhelming urge to have some sweet potato fries! I'm not going to tell you what I'm having for dinner because sweet potato fries don't go with this meal one bit. But I am having a craving so sweet potato fries it is.

Yes, I know the blog is mainly about sweets and baked goods but don't be so technical...I am baking them in the oven...they do have the word sweet in them...and the site is virtually everything sweet so that does leave me a bit of wiggle room.

I have a ton of kitchen gadgets and have a really basic fry cutter that comes in handy. But since I am bored this evening, I am going to cut mine the old fashioned way. However, if you have a burning desire to make fries on a regular basis, you can purchase a Progressive International Vegetable/French Fry Cutter through Amazon and shorten this process.

Sweet Potato Fries

1 large sweet potato
1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
2 tsp ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Dash of paprika
1 tbsp vinegar or apple cider vinegar, optional

Wash the sweet potato well to remove any debris from the skin. Cut off the ends, discard, and cut the potato into small strips, as equal in size as possible. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika.

On a large baking sheet covered with non-stick foil or parchment paper, arrange the potatoes evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until crisp. Once the fries are done, remove from the oven and toss with vinegar.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lace Cookies

Christmas Eve was a really busy day. I love this part of the holidays...the doorbell was ringing all morning, Christmas music was playing in the background, and I was able to visit with friends that I only get to see once or twice a year. As Diana Krall sang Christmas Time is Here, I reflected on 2010 and savored moments like these, spent with friends and family.

After finishing all of my holiday baking, I was craving a cookie to have with the chocolate sorbet I was testing out for New Year's Eve. I have been trying to find a cookie, other than a shortbread, to scoop my ice cream out with. It needed to be thin, crunchy and packed with flavor. These lace cookies fit the bill.

Lace cookies only have a few simple ingredients but they taste and look like it took hours to make. As you are preparing them for baking, you'll think perhaps they will not turn out properly because they start out as just a blob on the cookie sheet. They don't have any form, like your typical cookie dough. But when they are done, the finished product is nothing short of perfection.

This is not something you should try if you are in a hurry. They are very delicate but can be shaped any way you like, if you move quickly and carefully enough. They will harden quickly so you can only bake 3-5 at a time. You can place them over a rolling pin and they'll look like a Pringles potato chip. You can roll them around a wooden spoon and have a cylinder. Or you can shape them around a metal cone to have a mini cookie cone. But no matter how they are shaped, they taste like pure heaven.

They'll put you in the mind of a waffle cone or perhaps a fortune cookie. Other than me burning the crap out of my fingers each time I shaped them, I would say these might rank as one of my Top 5 cookies. 

Orange Lace Cookies

1 stick butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp orange zest

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside. Whisk flour and sugar in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the orange juice and zest. Combine the juice mixture with the dry ingredients. Incorporate the butter and blend until fully combined. Refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of 6 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour batter into a pastry bag and pipe cookies onto Silpat at least 3 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful not to over bake.

Allow cookies to cool for approximately 60 seconds before attempting to move them. Using a spatula, carefully remove the cookies from the Silpat and shape them by molding them around a rolling pin or similar object. Once cooled, store them in airtight container for up to 3 days.

Almond Lace Cookies (Recipe from Martha Stewart Living)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
3/4 cup almonds, ground
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, cream, and liqueur. When butter has melted, stir in remaining ingredients with a wooden spoon. Cook until bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. With a spoon, place cookies onto Silpat at least 3 inches apart. Bake for 6-7 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful not to over bake.

Allow cookies to cool for approximately 90 seconds before attempting to move them. Using a spatula, carefully remove the cookies from the Silpat and shape them by molding them around a rolling pin or similar object. Once cooled, store them in airtight container for up to 3 days.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hot Chocolate Gone Wild!

I was thinking of some unique desserts to have at my New Year's Eve gathering and ran across a recipe for chocolate sorbet from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments.

Chocolate sorbet? Well it is certainly unique and that is what I'm going for. I'm not a coffee drinker and always wonder why people like iced drinks that are supposed to be hot. So considering this sounds like hot chocolate gone wild, how exactly would a cold glass of hot chocolate taste? Hmmm...Okay, I am mildly curious. 
So I prepared the sorbet and snuck to the freezer to get a spoon full and oh my! I was very pleasantly surprised. Chocoholics beware...this was a very rich, decadent, sinful dessert. I can hardly describe what it tastes like...a fudge brownie maybe? Ganache? Whatever it is, thankfully it is way too rich for me to devour more than a few teaspoons at a time. So all is well.

Chocolate Sorbet

2 1/4 cups water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the water with the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Let it boil, continuing to whisk, for 45 seconds.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's melted. Stir in the vanilla extract and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend for 15 seconds. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. If the mixture has become too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Christmas Breakfast

There are two things my son thinks are absolutely essential to have during the holiday season...cranberries and eggnog. He can hardly wait for Thanksgiving to be over so he can begin to see it popping up on the shelves. I have been hiding the 'nog in the back of the fridge so Andre' won't drink it all because I was planning to bake with it and was using it for Christmas breakfast. Considering I have made eggnog pound cake, egg custard pie and now these waffles...I am somewhat thankful that we will not see eggnog again for another year.

I did not plan for a large breakfast this morning because supposedly we are gathering early this year for Christmas dinner. Now of course we say that every year and if dinner is scheduled for one o'clock, we are typically eating by 3. But, of course, this would be the day that we eat on time, when we have a full belly from breakfast.

These waffles are nice and fluffy with a hint of holiday cheer--rum, nutmeg and cinnamon. Enjoy!

Eggnog Waffles

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup eggnog
2 tbsp butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rum

In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the eggnog, butter, egg and flavorings. Mix until dry ingredients are evenly moist.

Heat waffle iron. Oil or spray with cooking spray. Pour a scoop of batter on the waffle iron. Cook until indicator light goes off or until browned.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice

I have been on my feet for the last 10 hours baking. Clearly it is time to throw in the towel as things are starting to go wrong. I have a caketastrophe. I am finishing up an eggnog pound cake to take to Christmas dinner at my mother's tomorrow and the cake sticks to the bottom of the pan. What the..? Say it ain't so! I am somewhat of a perfectionist.  The dessert lady can't take a less than perfect cake to dinner. But honestly, at this point, it is out of my body is telling me it's officially a wrap!

Everyone loves a good pound cake. This is not your typical pound cake with a pound of all the ingredients we love but aren't supposed to eat. It is much lighter...reminds me of a coffee cake even. I said I was tired but I didn't say I wasn't creative! I saved the cake by turning it upside down and drizzling it with a little glaze. You think anyone will notice? It tastes good so that is all that matters. Merry Christmas!

Eggnog Pound Cake

1 cup butter, softened
3 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup eggnog
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Generously grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan; set aside.

Beat butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with 1 cup eggnog, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in flavoring.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Combine cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves together. Sprinkle spices over batter. Swirl batters together, using a knife.

Bake at 350° for 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool entirely.


1 c powdered sugar

3 tbsp whipping cream
1 tsp rum or brandy

Combine ingredients, stirring until smooth. Drizzle glaze over warm cake.

Garnish with powdered sugar, berries, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. In the spirit of Christmas, I chose to go with sugared cranberries.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sweet n Salty Nut Brittle

I have not made brittle in years because I have learned that with hard candy comes a hefty dental bill. But in thinking of other easy, homemade gift ideas to give readers for the holiday, I thought brittle would be good choice; though it is perfect for eating all year 'round.

My favorite nuts are cashews and pistachios. So I am going to use pistachios as opposed to the usual peanuts or pecans. I was fairly excited about making the brittle until I realized how long it was going to take me to get the shells off of these pistachios. I am shelling three, eating two...shelling another, eating another. Maybe this wasn't such a great idea after all. I'm going to be at this all night!

Be sure to keep all of your ingredients handy because this is something that requires you to move swiftly. I highly recommend that you purchase a candy thermometer (Polder 510 Glass Candy/Deep Fry Thermometer, to ensure the candy is brought to the right temperature. Candy may be stored in a tin or air tight container for a month.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces roasted salted pistachios (may substitute pecans, peanuts or cashews)
sea salt, optional

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, butter and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the caramel is light brown and registers 300° on a candy thermometer, approximately 8-10 minutes.

Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble up. Stir in the nuts. Quickly transfer brittle onto a large rimmed, non-stick baking sheet. Using the back of a spoon or spatula spread the brittle into a thin layer. Sprinkle with seat salt. Let cool for approximately 30 minutes. Break the brittle into large pieces.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Banana Nut Bread

I have never liked the taste or texture of bananas, eaten as a plain fruit. But oddly enough, I rather enjoy them in banana nut bread. If I can get nostalgic for a minute and take you back to my childhood, I really love banana Kits and Now-and-Laters. Remember those? I actually used to call them Nowlaters…when did they put that ‘and’ in there? Lol.

There was a candy lady in our neighborhood that sold every candy imaginable, right out of her living room, and we could buy those for just pennies, along with Boston Baked Beans, Cherry Chans, Alexander the Grape, Pop Rocks, Fun Dip, Jolly Ranchers, Atomic Balls, Laffy Taffy, BB Bats, Sugar Daddys, Sugar Babies…need I say more? Ah, those were the days.

I have gotten feedback from a few of my non-cooking friends about the desserts being too hard to duplicate and needing some easier recipes. Now I will buy that for the cheesecakes and more complex desserts. But seriously, the bread recipes, that don't include yeast, only require you to be able to measure and mix. So no more excuses! This recipe can be prepared in just minutes and you can be eating bread in less than an hour and a half. And this doesn’t require all of the fancy equipment, like the stand mixers; it can be mixed with a hand mixer…and some bread recipes with a wooden spoon. So, let’s get this party started.

Banana Nut Bread

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large bananas, mashed, very ripe
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a standard loaf pan or line with parchment paper.

Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until blended. Beat in the banana, then the eggs until completely blended. Incorporate the flour mixture into the egg mixture in three additions, being careful to not overmix. Fold in the walnuts until blended.

Spread the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s time for the holiday break and what better way to start off Christmas vacation than with a house filled with the scent of freshly baked cookies.

So many people get into debt during the holiday season trying to buy gifts for everyone on their Christmas list. Homemade gifts and baked goods are a great way to send some love in a tin (or a bag) without spending a lot of money. Visit Michael’s for some decorative boxes or use a colorful bow to tie around some cookies or candies and place them in a cellophane treat bag. If you are real artsy, you can buy some plain boxes and decorate them yourself!

As a child, I don’t know if I enjoyed eating the cookie dough or the cookie more. But as an adult, I’m bypassing the finger-in-the-dough and waiting on the warm cookie to come out of the oven. A chocolate chip cookie with a chewy middle and a crunchy outside is the ultimate!


Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet or milk chocolate chips
½ c diced walnuts, optional

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, milk and vanilla extract and mix well. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Chill the dough for approximately an hour. Drop rounds of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpat. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 18 cookies, depending on how large you make them.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Sweet Saturday Morning

I am watching one of my favorite movies, Something's Gotta Give, and wondering why I am not enjoying a night out with friends or heading to a holiday gathering since I am feeling a lot less like the Grinch today. Instead I am home thinking about food. Good thing I only weigh a buck (not even the o' five) or I might be in trouble.

I guess it is safe to say that once I find something that I like, I get a little obsessed with it. It's Friday night and already I am thinking back to last weekend's buttermilk pancakes and anxiously awaiting Saturday morning's breakfast. While I am not quite ready to make the buttermilk pancakes again, I do want something that closely resembles the experience I had last weekend.

I have a thing for sweet potatoes and probably have them several times a week in some shape or form...sweet potato fries, sweet potato pie, baked sweet potato, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato what do you think I am having for breakfast? You guessed it. Sweet potato pancakes.

I had never heard of sweet potato pancakes until my girlfriend Kendra and her mother stumbled on a restaurant on one of their mother/daughter trips that they claim makes the best ones around, but they are only available for a few months during the fall. So perhaps now she can try them herself and not have to wait to enjoy them. Or maybe I will invite her over for breakfast tomorrow...

 Sweet Potato Pancakes

1 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 eggs
2 cups of buttermilk
1 large sweet potato, cooked and mashed
4 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp bourbon
1/8 c pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly toast pecans for 2-4 minutes.

Combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, mashed sweet potato, butter, and flavorings. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and blend well.

Heat griddle. Oil the pan or spray with cooking spray. Pour a scoop of batter onto the griddle. Cook on the first side until bubbles form and begin to pop. Flip the pancake and cook until golden brown. Keep cooked pancakes warm until ready to serve, in a 200 degree oven. Sprinkle pecans as garnish on pancakes and serve with warm maple syrup.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's The Little Things

I want to say there is a good reason as to why I have not baked anything for the last several days. But, truth be told, those buttermilk pancakes were so fabulous that I felt like I should let that post stand for a few days in their honor.

I don’t have one Christmas gift under the tree and Christmas is a mere 9 days away. So I am kind of feeling like the Grinch right about now. We've had snow in the area on two occasions already and winter hasn't officially begun. And I am just not ready for Christmas yet. So today I don’t want any Christmassy stuff--no chocolate, peppermint, red velvet or eggnog cakes. I am trying my hand at some doughnut holes.

This particular recipe is not made with yeast so the final product will resemble more of a Dunkin Donut than a Krispy Kreme doughnut. These bite sized sweets are very light and extremely tasty. I wish I had a photo to share with them plated and looking all pretty but I ate them before I had a chance to photograph them. It wasn't that many...really.

Doughnut Holes

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp melted butter
1 qt vegetable oil
1/2 c confectioners sugar, optional
1/2 c cinnamon sugar, optional

Preheat deep fryer to 375.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt together in a mixing bowl. Incorporate milk, egg, and melted butter, and blend well.

Once fryer is ready, drop spoonfuls of dough into the fryer and cook dough for approximately 2 minutes or until golden, turning once. Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil.

Roll doughnut holes in confectioners sugar or cinnamon sugar and serve warm.

Gracious, these puppies are so good! It really is the little things.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stacks on Deck

It's a lazy Sunday and a tad bit dreary out so I am thinking this is going to be a brown couch day. Brown couch days consist of doing much of nothing. I am moving a little slow, as per the usual, in the early morning hours. And I am starving. As I mentioned before, I'm really not a big breakfast person. But after making these pancakes, I may be convinced to get up an hour earlier to make breakfast after all!

My bestie in NYC is always commenting on how she has to have her pancakes on Saturday mornings. So this morning I think I was having visions of pancakes because of the conversation she and I had on yesterday about her Saturday ritual.

So I pull my griddle out, which has probably only been used 4 times since I got it, and get to flipping. After eating these fluffy, buttermilk pancakes, I am thinking the next order of business is a 2-hour nap! Gotta love those brown couch moments.

Buttermilk Pancakes

2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
½ teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl beat eggs. Add buttermilk, butter and flavoring and mix well. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. Heat griddle. Oil the pan or spray with cooking spray. Pour a scoop of batter onto the griddle. Cook on the first side until bubbles form and begin to pop. Flip the pancake and cook until golden brown. Keep cooked pancakes warm until ready to serve, in a 200 degree oven.

This recipe yields approximately 8 pancakes.

I prefer my pancakes with warm butter and maple syrup. But today I was feeling fancy, so I added some stewed apples and whipped cream to finish it off.

Stewed Apples

1 or 2 medium sized apples
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp butter
1/2 c water

Slice one or two medium sized apples, leaving skin on. In a small saucepan, add apples and remaining ingredients. Cook until apples are softened and liquid has turned syrupy.

Whipped Cream Topping

1/2 c heavy whipping cream
Dash of vanilla extract

Add ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Because there is already sugar in the syrup and apples, I do not add any sugar to the whipped cream. But you may want to add sugar, to taste, before serving on top of pancakes.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

The holiday season is in full swing! I had three Christmas parties to go to in one night. I love holiday parties…looking at the Christmas décor, listening to the sounds of the season, eating some fabulous foods…but for some reason, on this particular Friday, I couldn’t quite get into the holiday spirit. Could it be because it is so cold outside (and inside, too) that I was dreading leaving my humble abode to run in and out of these events on three separate occasions? Or perhaps it is because I had such a long week and Friday evening parties don’t allow time for a nap. Gosh I sound old. I cut on my Sounds of Christmas playlist on my iPod to get in the mood…that helped a lot!

My first party was an annual Christmas party with a group of women I have come to adore over the last two years. We each bring a dish, open our Secret Santa gifts, finalize a community service project to assist someone less fortunate during the holiday season, and have lots of grins and giggles…and libations too! My contribution is always dessert. And I wanted to do something different that made me think of the holidays. So I decided on some Chocolate Peppermint cupcakes. I was thankful for an excuse to cut the stove on to get some additional heat generated. The temperature was 34 but it felt like half that. Brrrrrr.

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place brown sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in vanilla flavoring.

Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake for 12 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan.

Peppermint Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar
4 ounces cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
16 hard peppermint candies, finely crushed (about 1/3 cup)

Combine powdered sugar, cream cheese, and peppermint extract in a mixing bowl. Frost cupcakes. Garnish with peppermint candy.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Sweet Tooth

Back in the day, when I used to eat whatever I wanted, we had a soul food restaurant called McDonald’s Cafeteria. That was some of the best food I ever ate. One of the things I always looked for after dinner was the peach cobbler, the pound cake or the egg custard pie. Egg custard is so good and so easy to make but just not something I readily think about when I want dessert. So I decided to make one and share a bit with some of my girls coming over for a visit.

Turns out, one of them loves, loves, loves egg custard and ended up eating an entire half of pie by herself…in one sitting I might add. Since she was so fond of it, I sent another piece home with her only to find out that she ate it for breakfast the next morning. Her rationale was, “It’s eggs, right?” Wow…now that’s a sweet tooth.

Pie Crust (makes single 9 inch crust)

1 ¼ C all purpose flour
1 stick butter
½ t salt
1 t sugar
2-3 T ice water

Cut butter into small chunks. Place flour, butter, salt and sugar in food processor and pulse until crumbly. Add cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until the flour forms a ball. Remove dough from processor, cover in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Place in the refrigerator and chill 2 hrs to overnight. Remove from fridge and let stand at room temp 4-5 minutes, then roll into round crust. Place in pie plate, crimp edges, and fill.

Egg Custard

1 c granulated sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp table salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rum
1 ½ c scalded milk
2 tsp butter

Preheat oven to 400. Place the pie shell into the pie dish. In a mixing bowl combine sugar, flour, nutmeg and salt. In another bowl beat eggs well. Heat the milk to just under scalding point. Add butter to milk until melted. Add the beaten eggs to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the milk and butter, along with the flavorings. Brush crust with egg wash. Pour mixture into pie shell.

Place pan in larger baking pan or on cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 30 minutes longer until firm.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

For Pringles From Patty Cakes

Over the summer, I lost a very dear friend who I have known since elementary school. Kevin Pringle (aka Pringles) was a huge fan of my cooking, but was particularly fond of the desserts.

At some point last year we decided to cut back on sweets and began incorporating some healthier items in our diets. During that period I tried to convince myself that if I cut out the heavy stuff and ate desserts like sorbet and sweet breads once every blue moon that I'd be good. That lasted for about 9 months, maybe? I really did try! I’m still working towards eating better but I do nibble on dessert occasionally now and try not to feel too guilty. Nevertheless, this became one of our favorites and is a great palate cleanser after dinner.

So in honor of Pringles, who would be celebrating a birthday this week, I feel compelled to make his sorbet. I know Pringles is smiling down on me as this ice-cream is churning away…I love you man!

This recipe is better with fresh mangoes. But if you don’t have any on hand or prefer not to puree them, I recommend using Jumex’s Mango nectar from concentrate, usually found in the International food section of most grocery stores.

Mango Sorbet

3 c mango juice
½ c lime juice
½ c orange juice
Simple Syrup (see below)

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until cooled. Pour the chilled mixture into your ice-cream machine and churn for 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze for 4-6 hours before serving. Optional: Add three tablespoons of tequila during the last 5 minutes of churning to take it up a notch.

Simple Syrup

1 c water
1 c sugar

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Cool.

I use Cuisinart’s Ice-cream Maker, which was one of the best (and most used) gifts I ever received! Make yogurt, gelato, ice-cream and sorbet in your very own kitchen.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, prepared by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.