Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Bark

Halloween is an excuse to wear scary costumes, or watch a marathon of horror movies.
It is also a good excuse to eat a lot of CANDY!

Therefore I thought- what’s an appropriate treat to make for the office on this spooky holiday?…candy!
I came across this recipe in Bon Appetite’s October 2010 issue: Halloween Bark.

The article states that the cooking level of expertise is “easy” and the cook time including prep is only: 50mins.
Well..they were wrong. Chopping of the candy and melting of the dark chocolate took me about an hour altogether.
Everything was going just fine until I began to melt the white chocolate!
The recipe suggest you buy high quality white chocolate. Well let me tell you, I did opt for the more expensive white chocolate chips (Ghirardelli) over the Ralph’s brand for $1.99!
What a waste! I followed the instructions for melting the white chocolate from both Bon Appétit-and from the back of the Ghirardelli bag.

My chips were not melting; neither by stove top or microwave!! Perhaps there is a science to white chocolate…
Don’t all chips melt the same way?- it turns out they don’t! For this issue I emailed
(the next day) my friend/chef Kimmie. She explains that:
“White chocolate isn't exactly’s coco butter.  So it will not melt the same as chocolate...
Your looking to temper the white the best way to do that is to get a double boiler, and melt some chips slowly stirring constantly...then add more chocolate a little at a time...stirring constantly- until smooth.  Remember to keep the water in the double boiler very slowly simmering...if it gets to hot it will steam, which the steam could drip into the bowl making the chocolate seize up.  If the water in the double boiler is too cool, it won't melt anything.”
THANKS KIMMIE!- Kimmie also explained another method of using a heating pad..but I will save that for another day! ; )
(Also maybe you should write recipe instructions for bon appétit too!)
Needless to say there isn’t much that could go monumentally wrong when combining so many candies together into one! So if you can conquer the white chocolate drizzle I recommend this to anyone for a more sophisticated trick or treat candy!

Yields 2lbs, or 30 two inch pieces!
1 pound bittersweet chocolate chips
3 2.1-ounce Butterfinger candy bars, cut into irregular 1-inch pieces
3 1.4-ounce Skor or Heath toffee candy bars, cut into irregular 3/4-inch pieces
8 0.55-ounce peanut butter cups, each cut into 8 wedges
1/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts
3 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped
Reese's Pieces and/or yellow and orange peanut M&M's

1. Line baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate chips in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch. 
2. Pour chocolate onto foil; spread to 1/4-inch thickness (about 12x10-inch rectangle). Sprinkle with Butterfinger candy, toffee, peanut butter cups, and nuts, making sure all pieces touch melted chocolate to adhere.
3. Put white chocolate in heavy small saucepan. Stir constantly over very low heat until chocolate is melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Remove from heat. Dip spoon into chocolate; wave from side to side over bark, creating zigzag lines. Scatter Reese's Pieces and M&M's over, making sure candy touches melted chocolate. *if you cannot melt the white chocolate or don’t have the you can see from my experience and pictures-simply sprinkle the white chocolate chips on!
4. Chill bark until firm, 30 minutes. Slide foil with candy onto work surface; peel off foil. Cut bark into irregular pieces.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting!

I didn’t have time to bake cupcakes this week, but I wanted to bake another pumpkin recipe before October came to an end!
This recipe was sent to me from my dearest friend Stephanie! Unfortunately Steph has left me to attend Columbia grad school. She has met a new friend there who was nice enough to share this recipe with her. Lucky for me… I got a new recipe from their friendship, and unfortunately for Stephanie’s new friend…she is not as cool as me jk! (im sure she is very sweet!) ; )

This is another simple recipe...however…the recipe has taught me (as we were taught in 8th grade science class) to read the directions in its entirety before beginning!
This recipe suggests that you place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 3 hrs or overnight!
Luckily I started baking these at 3pm on a Sunday, so letting the dough sit for 3 hours was no hindrance for me!

These were a big hit in the office! (Tyler ate about a dozen of them as I was icing each one!)
They are soft, gooey, and can be consumed in one bite!

Pumpkin Cookies
Recipe yields approximately 4 dozen cookies:
 ½ CUP SUGAR                                                                
½ CUP PACKED BROWN SUGAR                                             
1 CUP BUTTER (2 STICKS)                                                          
1 CUP CANNED PUMPKIN                                                          
1 TSP. VANILLA  (I added 2 tsp)                                                             
1 EGG                                                                                   
1 TSP. CINNAMON  ( I added 2 ½ tsp)
¾ CUP CHOPPED NUTS (optional- I added walnuts...I bet pecans would be good too!)

1. Beat sugars and butter until fluffy.
2. Add egg and vanilla and blend well.
3. Add Pumpkin and blend well
4. Stir dry ingredients together in separate bowl and add gradually at low speed to cream the mixture. Beat only until dry ingredients are moistened. ( do not overbeat)
5. Refrigerate dough in bowl for 3 hours or overnight.
6. Drop by rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
7. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet and cool completely before frosting.

Brown Sugar Frosting:
3 TAB. BUTTER               
½ CUP PACKED BROWN SUGAR                                             
¼ CUP MILK                                                                    

1. In saucepan, melt butter and stir in brown sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil white stirring constantly.
2. Cook 1 minute after it comes to a boil and continue stirring. Cool for approximately 3 minutes. Transfer sauce to mixing bowl, before sauce hardens.
3. Add milk and vanilla and beat until smooth.
4. Beat in enough confectioners’ sugar for desired spreading consistency.
5. Frost cooled cookie and let cookies stand until frosting is set and then place in air-tight container- use wax paper between each layer of cookies.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Almond Cinnamon Cookies

It was a Friday night…movie night..and no sweets in the house! Neither a cupcake nor stick of candy in eyes sight!
But alas, there was cinnamon, sugar, and flour-all sitting next to each other on their little kitchen shelf.

I didn’t have a recipe for snickerdoodles, but I did have this recipe handy in my notebook of goodies; adapted from a recipe fellow foodie the Virtual Goody Plate found!
I added more cinnamon and vanilla then her recipe called for...(standard staple of mine!)

These are very similar to a snickerdoodle, but with an added bonus: brown butter drizzle!
I know no one usually feels like cooking on a Friday night, but these are simple, fast, and best of all only requires one bowl and one spoon! So within 30 minutes, your cookies are in the oven and you have already cleaned up the kitchen too!

Slightly crisp, sweet and chewy!-Recipe yields approx 3 dozen cookies:

Almond-Cinnamon Cookies
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2    tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup blanched almonds, ground (I use Trader Joes' Almond Meal)
2 cups all-purpose flour
Browned Butter Drizzle (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium for 30 seconds. Add the sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and cinnamon. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in ground almonds. Beat in flour (finishing with spoon if necessary.)

2. Scoop dough with a spoon.  Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes or until cookies are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

3. Drizzle cookies with Browned Butter Drizzle.

Browned Butter Drizzle: In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until butter turns the color of light brown sugar, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and enough milk – (about 2-3 tablespoons) for your drizzling consistency.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

10/18 : National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

I must admit, I am more of a vanilla person when it comes to cupcakes and cakes. I thought it would be easy to pick a simple chocolate cupcake recipe since they aren’t too appetizing to me…you know something sweet and simple, average chocolate cake, topped with an average chocolate frosting…
Ho humwas I wrong. I couldn’t decide between all the chocolate cupcake recipes and methods of making them I came upon.

I really thought I should challenge my baking capabilities, since it is afterall..National Chocolate Cupcake day!
However being that I am an amateur baker, and to avoid any whining and crying (over a cupcake) I decided to keep it somewhat basic.
I really wanted to attempt the Hi Hat chocolate cupcakes, as seen on Bakerella ; but the icing instructions got the best of me. 

As I said above I could not decide what method of chocolate madness to choose…so I baked two kinds of chocolate cupcakes. Not much more I can say then..Yum!
Chocolate cupcakes, two ways:

Hostess Cupcake and Chocolate Buttercream Cupcake (both with marshmallow filling!)

Marshmallow cream filling:
1 - 7 oz container marshmallow cream
1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup powder sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon salt
* Attach a large tip to pastry bag and fill with cream. Insert tip into cupcake and fill until cupcake slightly expands.

Chocolate cupcake batter:
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Prepare the batter: Place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl, and set it over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water or microwave (30 sec. intervals); stir chocolate until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from heat, and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,(or hand-held mixer) cream butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping sides of bowl as needed, until light and fluffy. On low speed, mix in melted chocolate. Increase speed to medium, and add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, and beat until mixture is creamy and color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute. Mix in sour cream. On low speed, add half of reserved flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Mix in 1 cup water. Add remaining flour mixture, and mix until just incorporated.
  4. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Fill each liner with enough batter, about 1/3 cup. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool in pan for 10 minutes.
Ganache: for hostess cupcake1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate

Heat heavy cream until simmering in a small saucepan (you can also microwave but do it in 30 second intervals and watch it closely). Cut chocolate into chunks and put in a small bowl. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for one minute. Stir until chocolate is melted. Let stand about 5 minutes and then dip each filled cupcake quickly into the chocolate, tap lightly to get rid of the excess and turn over.  Let cool on a wire rack until chocolate is set.  Pipe on swirls or decoration as desired.

Chocolate Buttercream:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4-5 cups confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or hand-held mixer), beat butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add chocolate until just combined. Add milk, vanilla, and sugar; mix on medium until well combined, being careful not to overmix.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins w/ Streusel!

While perusing many of my food blogs almost all insist and rave how great these muffins are.
I am a huge fan of anything with streusel, it is pumpkin season, and most everyone loves cream cheese…so I thought this past weekend would be the perfect opportunity to try this recipe out!

Besides saving a few for myself, I brought a dozen over to my friend Cameron’s new place as a housewarming gift. As we were leaving for the night, Cam gave me a hug and said thanks again for the muffins, I replied, my pleasure! He then whispered…”I hope I get one though…because my roommate just ate four of them!”  : )

On Sunday our friend Rob had us over for a day at the beach, so as a thank you I brought him a dozen of these muffins as well.  Later that evening, as we were settling in for the night to watch a movie, Tyler’s phone went off…he laughed…and then showed me the text message he had just received from Rob: “Tell Marge I just ate 10 muffins…GOOD GOD these are good!”

So…YES…I DO highly recommend baking these for yourself to find out how great they are!

These muffins may seem as though there is a lot to them…but similar to the other pumpkin recipe below, they are quite simple… (they just look fancy)!
Again, I sort of made up my own cream cheese filling and batter using the many variations of this recipe I found; so here is another somewhat Sweet M.E. original!

Cream Cheese filling:                                                                                                           
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 egg
2 teaspoon vanilla
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Streusel topping:
4 1/2 tablespoons flour
5 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
Muffin ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour (I used 1&1/2 cups white, 1 cup whole wheat)
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 15oz.canned pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


Beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Beat until smooth. Set aside in fridge while preparing the muffin batter.


Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, brown sugar and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.


In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and gradually incorporate eggs, pumpkin, vegetable oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.

Fill cups with pumpkin mixture until they're about 1/2 full. Carefully add one tbsp of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. If you're using paper cups, try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes.

Pumpkin, cream cheese, pumpkin, streusel-bake!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Fall is here!
It’s time for football, leggings, Uggs and pumpkins!
I came across this recipe from the blog The Virtual Goody Plate; however I did add my own touch (extra ingredients) to the recipe…so I guess you could say this is a Sweet M.E. original!
Although the bake time is approximately an hour, it is well worth the wait. This bread is definitely up on my list as one of my favorite breakfast breads to date.
It’s very delicious, festive, and easy to make!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Breadmakes 2 Loaves!!
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups cooked pumpkin or 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
*1 tsp vanilla
*Dash of brown sugar
*Additional cinnamon as you combine ingredients
*sweet m.e. add-ins…optional

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  

*After all the ingredients were combined I stirred in 1 tsp of vanilla, a dash..or two of brown sugar, and sprinkled a lot more cinnamon into the mix. I know that I am not providing you with exact measurements, but I believe if you taste the batter you will know if it needs more or less of either of the three added ingredients. Start off small, taste, and add until the flavor is to your liking!

3. Fold in chocolate chips.

4. Pour batter into two greased 8x4 or 9x5 loaf pans. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Makes 2 loaves.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Banana-rama morsel bars!

It was nearing the end of my work week, and a bundle of bananas were turning brown. I always hesitate to buy tons of fruit and veggies at the store- I always seem to never get to eat the two important food groups before they go bad. What a waste of food and money!..but thank god- “the banana” can be used even if it has turned!
Coincidentally I seemed to have a bag of chocolate chips lying around in my pantry; therefore it is time to bake a cookie bar!
These treats go down with ease, as they are much more guilt free and lighter than a brownie, of equal size.

In addition to it’s somewhat healthiness (approx 110 per bar! Yay!)- I suggest you make these if you want something simple and sweet in under an hour! These have bananas, chocolate, brown sugar and all the good stuff. Happy effortlessness and lots of it!

(I had to double the recipe since my jelly roll pan (aka cookie sheet with sides) was bigger)
Yields about 4 dozen!
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 medium mashed ripe bananas
1 large egg
2 cups Nestle semi-sweet choc. morsels
Powdered sugar, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 15x10 jelly-roll pan.

2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in bananas and egg. Gradually beat in flour mixture; stir in morsels. Spread into prepared jelly-roll pan.

3. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, optional. Cut into squares..and EAT!
Recipe from Nestle's