Auntie Stacey’s Gingerbread-Espresso Snowflakes

Ginger-Espresso Christmas Cookies

Ginger-Espresso Snowflakes

I used this gingerbread cookie recipe as the base of my cookies, and then tweaked the overall flavouring by adding 2 tbsp of fine ground coffee beans for texture. You can see the flecks the grinds create in the final baked cookie form, and you can feel the grinds as you chew them. This flavour addition lends a lovely sophisticated update on the old, somewhat tired gingerbread theme.

The other changes I made were shape (mine are gingerbread snowflakes, not gingerbread men) and icing colour (I used blue icing for a smashing pop of colour against the dark cookie base). I love this look.

Picture courtesy of Glorious Treat's blog - gingerbread cookies

Inspirational picture courtesy of Glorious Treat’s blog – gingerbread cookies

I mean, LOOK at how fabulous this colour combination is. I won’t lie, Glory’s iced cookie version utterly seduced me. When I saw that, no other colour compared!

Gingerbread-Espresso Snowflakes:
1/2 C Unsalted Butter, room temp
3/4 C Brown Sugar
1 Large Egg, room temp
1/3 C Fancy Molasses
2 /2 C All Purpose Flour (unbleached is fine)
2 tea Ground Ginger
1 1/2 tea Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tea Salt
1/2 tea Baking Soda
1 tbsp Instant Espresso Powder
1 1/2 tbsp Coffee Grinds, Fine (not used – yuck!)

In your mixer, blend the butter and sugar together till it’s pale in colour and fluffy in texture (about 5 mins).

In a medium size mixing bowl, add the flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Whisk well to combine all of these ingredients. Set near the running mixer.

On the mixer’s slowest speed, add the egg and the molasses. Blend that in a bit before adding in your dry ingredient mixture slowly one cup at a time. When the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the dough finally, add the espresso powder and coffee grinds. Quickly run the mixer enough to blend them through out the dough batch before turning the dough out of the bowl to portion it out into four balls for chilling.

I used a pair of thick chopsticks that are about 3/8″ in diameter to flank each ball of dough between two sheets of wax paper as I rolled it out flat into a circle or square. I then placed all four flattened out dough balls on a tray and let them rest in my refrigerator or about 1 hour before cutting them up into shapes.

After an hour, I pre-heated my oven to 350 degrees (I have a convection oven so I have to set mine at 375 because the oven drops the temperature down by 25 degrees automatically), and poured a bit of flour into a bowl to dip my cookie cutter into between cuts.

I made as many snowflake cookies as I could fit on my baking pans with at least 1″ around each cookie and when the oven was ready, I baked two pans at one go on the middle rack for 8 minutes. I continued cutting out more snowflakes to line my next two pans as the first batch baked up and cooled down. I continued to repeat this until all four balls of dough were baked up into cookies.

I left the cookies to cool completely for about two hours and then started my decorating process. You can use whatever icing you like, but I happen to have been pressed for time so I cheated by melting some baking chocolate waffers in a small Ziplock baggy in my microwave (about three 30 second times for a handful of waffers). As the chocolate started to harden while decorating the cookies, I would melt it some more in the microwave at 15 second intervals.

NOTE: This is a great cookie dough to make up to 1 to 3 months in advance of your Christmas bake-a-thon. Wrap the dough up as a disk in plastic film, and then again in tin foil, before storing it in the freezer. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes sitting on the counter for the dough to come up to temperature so you can work with it when you’re ready to get your Christmas bake on.

 

Auntie Stacey’s PMS Cookies

2014-06-11 19.34.21 These are the cookies I like when I’m in the throes of PMS every few months of so. It’s an easy cookie to put together in very little time (which is good because I tend to lose my patience when all of this goes down), and the taste is just what I need. Lots of peanut butter, matched by just as much chocolate, and some rolled oats to make me feel better about eating somewhat junky cookies to get me though it all.

This cookie is based off the classic 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie recipes. Enjoy.

Auntie Stacey’s PMS Cookies:
3/4 C Peanut Butter (smooth of chunky — your choice)
1/2 C Sugar
1 Egg, large and at room temperature
1 C Oats, old fashioned, not quick
3/4 C Chocolate Chips (dark are the best)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all of the above but the chocolate chips well, then gently fold them in at the very end. Using an ice cream scooper, drop balls on parchment paper with 2″ around each one.

Bake the balls for ten minutes before using a potato masher to flatten them down to about 3/4″ thick, wiping the bottom of the masher off as you go, and place them back in to bake for another six minutes.

Let the cookies cool for 15 minutes before you gently move them off the sheets to cool on racks. These are soft cookies, so they will bend, droop and break up if you don’t wait.

Store in a cookie jar for up to 5 days. (Trust me, they won’t last longer than that.)

Yields: 12 single scoop sized, 24 half scoop sized, and 6 jumbo two scoop sized.

Basic Sugar Cookies

2014-03-12 20.32.26[ Giraffe sugar cookies created using a cookie cutter made in a 3D printer. ]

I brought a bunch of biscotti and sugar cookies to work for the ladies and the gent on Thursday. They were a big hit. One asked for my Auntie Stacey’s Healthy Biscotti recipe I have already posted while another asked for the sugar cookie recipe I haven’t blogged yet, so here it is. Again, another recipe I have adapted from many online over the years and, well, there wasn’t much to teak beyond the variations I have come up with in terms of flavouring the sugar cookies. The base remains the same, year after year. It if ain’t broke, y’know?

Basic Sugar Cookies:
1 C Unsalted Butter, room temp
1/2 C Powder Sugar
1 Large Egg, room temp
1 Tea Vanilla Extract
1/2 Tea Baking Powder
1/2 Tea Salt, fine grind
2 C All Purpose Flour

In a medium to large bowl, dump in the flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk to blend these ingredients well. Set aside.

Cream the butter in a mixer for 2-3 minutes till it turns pale, then slowly drizzle in scoopfuls of the powder sugar on a low speed, and let the mixer run another 2 minutes on a high speed to incorporate as much air as it can to make a fluffy butter mixture.

Drop the speed back down to low and start adding the egg and vanilla. Let that fully mix into the butter before adding the dry ingredients by the spoonfuls, allowing each drop the be mixed into the butter fully before adding the next.

By the last of the dry ingredients, the dough should be balled up and rolling around in the mixing bowl cleanly from the sides and bottom. If it’s not, run the mixer a bit longer till it comes together. It will. Just wait for it. When that happens, stop the mixer and turn the dough out onto a floured work surface to knead gently for a minute or two to form a smooth circular disk you can place in plastic wrap.

Chill the dough for one hour minimum. When ready to get started cutting the cookies, take the dough out and let it sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes to warm up a bit. While waiting, dust your work space again with flour, assemble any cookie cutters and bench scraper needed, as well as preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Tips & Tricks: Some find rolling the dough out between two sheets of wax paper helpful, but I found I didn’t need it since the dough didn’t stick to my rolling pin. I tend to flour the work surface and rolling pin well.

2014-03-12 20.14.32A little trick I use when working with dough that needs to be a consistent thickness across all the cookies in the same batch is to use my chopsticks that are 3/4 square from the top downward to where it starts to round out and taper. I ignore that part of the sticks, and keep the rolling up in the squared off area.

If you don’t have access to similar chopsticks, you can also use to wooden planks (think old wooden rulers we used in grade school). There are commercial versions, but they’re a waste of money if you ask me. One can easily look around their home and make do with two flat objects that have matching thicknesses to roll a rolling pin over to flatten out the dough evenly while cutting out cookies.

2014-03-12 20.27.12Try to aim for 1/4″ thickness when rolling out the dough. I find that is the ideal sugar cookie thickness for small to medium sized cookies (like I made with my 3D printed Giraffe cookie cutter). Bump the increment up to 3/8″ if a bigger cookie is being cut, and allow for a 2-3 minute increase over the standard 6-8 minute baking times for small to medium sugar cookies.

After the cut cookies are moved from the work surface to the baking sheet, the dough can be balled up and rolled out once more for additional cookies before the dough needs to be covered and chilled for another 10 minutes between batches. My hands are always warm, so I don’t push this. If I feel the butter in the dough literally melting in my hands, I will chill it without a second rolling and cutting. I don’t chance it. The cookies wouldn’t come out with a nice crisp edge if I baked a soft cut out.

2014-03-12 20.30.29[ Total loss of giraffe detail after baking the softer dough cookie cuts. ]

If you have cold hands (oh, how I envy you all who do), you can spend more time rolling and cutting out the dough between trips to the fridge. If you do find the cookies are softening while sitting out in the hot kitchen, simply pop the cookie tray into the fridge while it awaits its turn in the oven to firm up the butter again.

Store the cookies after completely being cooled down in air tight containers. And NEVER decorate these while still even a teeny-weensy bit warm. The icing will run like an athlete in the summer Olympics.

Sugar cookies are the #1 cookie to bake during all holidays where gifts are to be given or when guests arrive for an occasion like a wedding or baby shower. Get creative with shapes and icing designs. I have seem some great ones lately. Like this batch for Chinese New Year. How gorgeous are they?! I wouldn’t want to eat them because they look like they belong in a frame in some cookie museum.. ūüôā

chinesenewyear[ Happy belated Chinese New Year 2014 to my bff since Grade 3! ]

Auntie Stacey’s Healthy Biscotti

Eggnog Biscotti I made for Christmas gift giving a year ago.

This is my own variation of a recipe I found online years ago. I had to modify it to suit my particular food tastes and baking sensibilities, but it wasn’t that hard and the taste didn’t suffer one iota. One Italian man couldn’t tell the difference. Yields roughly two dozen and total time is 3 hours.

Enjoy!

2014-03-13 09.32.58

Auntie Stacey’s Healthy Biscotti:
1/4 C Margarine or Butter, room temp
1/2 C Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 Tea Almond Extract
1/2 Tea Anise Extract (or vanilla extract)
1 3/4 C Flour (I use unbleached all purpose)
1/2 C Almond Meal
1/4 Tea Salt
1 Tea Baking Powder
1/2 C Nuts (optional, any kind)
Slivered Almonds + 1 Tbsp Egg White or Milk, for garnish (optional)
Melting Chocolate, for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. Cream the sugar until nice and fluffy, about 5 minutes, and then add the sugar and beat to combine well.

2. Add the eggs one at a time, and drizzle the extracts in as the mixture is running.

3. Combine 1 1/2 C of the flour in separate bowl with almonds, salt, nuts, and baking powder. Sift with spoon and start adding it to the wet ingredients in the mixer bowl as it runs on a low speed. Gently stir in last 1/4 C flour to complete the dough by hand.

4. Cover and chill mixture for two hours.

5. Divide dough into two balls and shape into rectangular logs with squared up ends, then flatten them out to roughly less that an inch in height, taking care to keep the squared off ends of the logs. Place each one of a sprayed cookie sheet or atop of foil on a jelly roll pan. Cover tops of each loaf with egg white or milk wash and slivered almonds for extra taste.

2014-03-12 22.54.456. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees C until center is no longer sticky. Place on racks to cool down for cutting. When each loaf is cool to touch, use a long blade knife and gently but firmly press down each time to cut the loaves into clean strips.

2014-03-12 23.37.007. Turn each strip on its side and bake for another 15 minutes each at same temperature. Take care in the last five minutes on the second side not to dry them out by leaving them “toast” too long. I found it only took 7 minutes on each side in my stove to get a great crunch that won’t break teeth if you’re not a¬†hot beverage¬†drinker. If you are, I recommend the full 15 on the first side and 10 minutes on other side, and leaving them out in the open air to cool completely to get the true hard-as-a-rock biscotti effect.

8. If the flat sides are rough from the knife, once the biscotti is completely cooled, you can micro-plane them smooth before dipping one side into, or drizzling with, melted chocolate.

Flavour Variations:
* 2 Tbsp Orange Zest + 1/2 Tea Vanilla Extract + 3 oz Dark Chocolate Chips
* 2 Tbsp Orange Zest + 2 Tbsp Espresso Powder + 1/2 Tea Ground Cinnamon
* 3-4 Tea Orange Juice + 1/4 Tea Almond Extract + 1 C Powder Sugar (Icing)
* 3-4 Tea Eggnog + 1/4 Tea + 1 C Powder Sugar (Icing)
* 3-4 Tea Lemon Juice + 1/4 Tea Vanilla Extract + 1 C Powder Sugar (Icing)

Best Banana Bread

2014-01-12 11.13.15Before we got sick over the holidays, I made this banana bread with loads of dark chocolate chips. It looks fantastic, no? It was. It really was. So tasty. Especially with a morning latte.

I have been thinking about that bread a lot lately.

I would make it again, but apparently I can’t figure what recipe, if any, I used. It’s like I pulled it out of thin air because I can’t find any link on any of my computing devices that lists what I recall using to make the batter or even the temperature I used since it wasn’t the usual 350C.

Oh, this is so maddening!!!

GRR.

Espresso Ganache Filling for Cookie Sandwiches

While toiling away in the kitchen today, I made up an Espresso Ganache recipe to use as a cookie sandwich filling. I really liked the way it turned out. If you’re interested, here it is:

1/4C heavy cream (I used eggnog)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Melt the butter in the cream over medium heat till it comes to a simmering boil.

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped up

Pour the boiling cream mixture over the chocolate in a heat resistant bowl, and let it stand for two minutes before slowly whisking the ingredients in small circles. Let this cool down and thicken up before adding the next two ingredients.

Note: If you need the cream and chocolate mixture to cool down rapidly and thicken up a bit, place the bowl in the fridge or freezer for ten minutes, and then give it a stir.

3 Tbsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 – 2 C powdered sugar (more or less -I was eyeballing it)

After mixing the cream mixture with the chocolate chunks to blend it all, add the espresso powder and powdered sugar. Mix well till it’s all combined and the mix thickens to a lovely spread consistency.

Using a spoon, knife or offset spatula, spread a liberal amount between the cookies and let it rest to set, or eat immediately.

Should yield enough for 4 dozen sandwich cookies.

Mixed Fruit Brown Betty

This is a cobbler (A.K.A.: crumble, Brown Betty or crisp) I made the other night after work when I was especially burned out and in need of a great comforting dessert that I could put together without having to read or follow a cookbook or an online recipes. Basically, I used the formula I always do for my fruit cobblers, and threw in whatever I felt would work that was kicking around at the time.

I used a bag of frozen mixed berries I bought at the grocery store back when they were on sale for this very type of occasion. It was a mix of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. I cut the bag open at the top and down from sternum to tailpipe, and dropped the frozen lump into my baking pan. While that came up in temperature enough that I could break it up with my wooden spoon, I assembled the rest of the filling in a small bowl, and then assembled the topping ingredients in a slightly bigger bowl. When everything was prepped and the fruit was softened up enough, I took the butter out of the fridge and diced it up into half inch cubes, and separated them into two piles – one for the top, one for the bottom of the cobbler.

Here is what I came up with the other night for ingredients. The overall taste was spot on my target, and the husband was really into it. WIN!

Auntie Stacey’s¬†Mixed Fruit Brown Betty:
1 Bag Frozen Mixed Fruit, enough to fill a 6-8 serving medium size baking dish
1 Pinch Salt
1 Tea Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Tea Ground Cardamom (optional – I happen to always have it on hand)
1/4 C Brown Sugar, lightly packed
4 Tbsp Cornstarch
3 Tbsp Cold Butter, cubed
Juice of half a Lime

Mix this into a small bowl and toss it over the fruit. Use a spatula to mix everything enough. None of the ingredients have to be perfectly incorporated, and there’s no need to work the butter cubes into the filling’s dry ingredients. This is a rustic dessert, not a sophisticated Cherries Jubilee.

1 1/2 C Old Fashioned Oats
1/2 C Flour
3 Tbsp Cold Butter, cubed
1/4 Tea Ground Cinnamon

Using a butter cutting gadget, or two knives, or your fingers, cut up the butter and incorporate as much of the finer dry ingredients for the topping into the butter as you want. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect or even all smooshed up. It’s a rustic dessert, so leave some clumps untouched and unsmooshed.

Top the filling with this crumbled mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes uncovered. Leaving it uncovered will allow the oats in the topping to crisp up nicely as it deepens in colour.

Let it rest at least 20 minutes before you dig in. At least! I let mine rest up to a full hour sometimes. What the rest period does for the dessert is to allow more time for the mixture of cornstarch and brown sugar in the filling to cook down all liquid coming out of the fruit into a love thickened syrup. That syrup, by the way, is great spooned over some ice cream or whipped cream should you serve that alongside this dessert. (And I highly recommend that you do.)

PS: I was so frazzled from work the other night, we ate it all over two days and never once thought about taking a picture for this blog entry. My apologies. You all know what cobblers look like, right? If not, and you don’t or can’t wait till I make this again to photograph, you can always use Google images to see what these desserts looks like.

Enjoy!

Blackberry & Pear Crisp

BB-Pear_Crisp-9BB_Pear_Crisp-5[ Blackberry & Pear Crisp – fresh out of the oven ]

Today a customer gave us our first batch of blackberries off one of the bushes he has in his side yard at home after the husband fixed his computer. (Not as a payment, but as an extra, “Here. This is for you because I remember your wife and you love these from last year when I brought you some at the store,” sort of way.) And we did.

He gave us about one and a half cups, and kindly washed them for us, so all I had to do was peel and cut up the lone pear we had in the fridge to add to the berries for this recipe. I love when a great plan comes together on the fly like this.

So, my challenge wasn’t what kind of crisp I wanted to make, but rather to scale the one recipe I love the most down to something that will use up everything I have onhand and will also fit nicely into two small baking dishes. I adapted the following to make a 2-person serving. Hope you all like it.

Auntie Stacey’s Blackberry & Pear Crisp:
2 C Blackberries + Pears (you can make them even or a bit more of one over the other)
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1-2 Tbsp Cornstarch

1/2 C Rolled Oats
1/3 C Flour
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp Butter (unsalted, cold and cubed)

BB_Pear_Crisp-3

[ Blackberry & Pear Crisp – ready for the oven ]

In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch; lightly toss with the fruit, or if they berries are too tender, drop the mixture over the fruit as it sits in the baking dishes.

In the bowl again, mix the oats, flour and sugar. Top each baking dish with half of this mixture. Place the small cubes over top of the topping within half an inch of each other.

No need to go overboard or to crowd. If you leftover cubes, chill them for the next crisp you do or use them for your next corn-on-the-cob dinner.

Bake the crisps at 350 for 35 minutes, or until bubbling hot and most of the topping has crisped up.

BB-Pear_Crisp-6

Cool till the fruit can be eaten without scaling the mouth, and serve with French Vanilla ice cream or, if you have it, freshly whipped cream topping.

Yields: 2

BB-Pear_Crisp-10

{ So good. So, so good. ]

Homemade Hotdog Buns

Flag

It’s Canada Day, and that means hotdogs and hamburgers made on the grill in a backyard or in a park by some water close enough to the fireworks hours later. It’s how we do it north of the 49th, kids. And we like it this way!

What we don’t like – or, what I should say I don’t like – is finding out our hotdog buns are moldy on a day when the stores are closed for a national holiday. It bums me out. But, because I discovered this problem very last night, I had lots of time today to make buns from scratch. Yes, I make bread, too. I make it ALL, baby.

{evil laughter}

I don’t have a stock bun recipe so I was planning to scour the innerweebs when Joy The Baker, bless her generous heart, decided this was the weekend she was going to post about her homemade hotdog buns. It was meant to be. ūüôā

HotDogBuns-8

From this…

HotDogBuns-10

To this.

I halved the ingredient amounts to make a smaller batch than her recipe yields, but if you’re having a crowd over, Joy’s recipe will give you 18 regular 4″-5″ buns per batch. There’s still time to make a whole mess of these buns if you need more than that. They’re fast, straightforward and easy to make. I assure you. If you’ve ever kneaded dough before, you’ll be fine with this recipe. Pay attention to your type of yeast (I learned the hard way a month ago) and how to use it, and you should be fine.

HotDogBuns-2

 

I made half the batch with poppy seeds, fresh cracked pepper and big grains of salt, and the other half only got the coarse salt. I liked the salted one, and my husband loved the all dressed up one. I took care to make these buns a full 7″ so the overgrown Costco sausages the boy loves so much would be evenly matched up bite for bite. He complains a lot about rinky-dink store bought buns not being long enough. So, needless to say, he was happy with these buns in ever respect.

Try these buns. You’ll love them. And they took me less than an hour – start to finish.

OK, we’re off to hit a movie if we can, so enjoy your holiday, everyone.

Happy 146th birthday, Canada!

A Batch of Cupcakes for Two

CupcakeFor2

[ Click picture to embiggen. Recipe & picture courtesy @AmberReed. ]

Sometimes I want something baked that’s a bit sweeter than a muffin, but I don’t want to make a full batch or a big production of it because half the time I want to taste test a new flavour combination I’ve thought up or found someone talking about online, and it just happens to be one the husband doesn’t like or isn’t into like Espresso Double Chocolate (for when I’m PMS’ing), so what is a girl supposed to do – park herself in front of a dozen muffins or cupcakes till they’re all disappeared from the house?

Uh, not going to happen!

I figure most of you feel the same way I do about not wanting a bunch of baked goods kicking around in the house, seductively calling out your name in the middle of the night from the kitchen all the way to your bedroom, like so:

“Psst! Hey, you! Oh good, you’re awake. Can’t sleep, eh? Me neither. Remember me? I’m those delicious treats you baked today. Come to the kitchen and visit. C’mon, just a short visit, and then I’ll have you back in bed in no time at all. I promise. I know you can hearrrrrrrr meeeeeee…” <– How many times has this happened to us, right?

Well, it doesn’t have to happen anymore. That’s right, the picture at the top of this post holds the perfect solution to our shared dilema, kids. Give it a go next time you’re craving.

(Don’t lie. We all crave. I know you’re shaking your head right now, but you’re also giggling because you know I know I’m busting you!)

Edit: The second set of increments in the picture are all missing their slashes to turn them into fractions.¬†If you don’t correct your measurements, you’ll have a HUGE mess on your hands. Bake them at 350 degrees for 15-18 mins.