Baby Shower Dessert Party

March 20, 2011

Recently, I hosted a dessert theme baby shower for a friend and co-worker. After a lot of discussions on theme and menu, we agreed on having a dessert and drink shower for a small group of her co-workers. There were only two desserts that she requested: carrot cake or cupcakes and lemon bars; and  I was basically left to go with the rest of the menu. I wanted to take more pictures of the party; but really ran out of time but here are a few pictures of the desserts I made. I thought that this was really a fun idea for a baby shower.

In addition to the desserts I listed below, her family made dessert crostini with ricotta spread, sliced strawberries and balsamic vinegar glaze and baked brie with apricot jelly, sugar cookies and Italian fried cookies (I have no recipes for those).  For drinks, we had coffee, iced tea, cold soft drinks, and bottled water.

Here are the desserts I made:

Carrot Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Frosting with Royal Icing Yellow and Purple Pansies


Chocolate Truffles

S’mores Pops (recipe coming up soon, I promise–these were divine!)

Lemon Bars (No pictures)

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipster (No pictures)

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies (No pictures)


Chocolate Scotcheroos

March 16, 2011

I have amazing co-workers, and I really mean it. A few weeks ago, our group had to cover some super early morning meetings, like 5 and 6 o’clock meetings *blah* and we couldn’t really get away from them. There are three of us who were responsible to do these, and between the two of them, they volunteered to cover those early slots for me so I didn’t have to disrupt my daughter’s morning routine. Isn’t that amazing? One of them actually took  all three of my morning slots three days in a row. When I asked him what was his favorite treat, he said chocolate scotcheroos. I was glad to bake these for him and brought them to work. He was kind enough to share with the rest of the people in the office, but happy to have four big pieces himself.  I really don’t think I need to “review” this recipe… if you have had them, you know how addictive they are! 🙂 Happy baking!

Adapted from Mrs. Sullivan

Ingredients
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cup rice krispies cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup butterscotch hips

Directions
Place corn syrup and sugar into 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.

Remove from heat, stir in peanut butter. Mix well. Add cereal, stir until everything is well coated.

Spray a 13x9x2 baking pan with cooking spray. Press mixture into the pan. Set aside.

Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in large 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let stand until firm. Cut into 2×2 inch bars when cool.

Yield: ~24 bars


Praline Cookies

March 8, 2011

In honor of Mardi Gras, Red’s office sponsored a food day with a Mardi-Gras theme. First of all, I have never met a group of folks who love to eat as much as they do.  They have awesome food days, especially around Christmas time. I used to wander around and sample all of the goodies especially since I also contributed to it :-). I especially love it since I get to unload all of my baked goods with them. It really came in handy when I took my Wilton classes last year; all of those cakes didn’t go to waste! 🙂 I wanted something portable that Red can take to work and Red, the self-proclaimed cookie monster, wanted “some sort of cookies” that can fit into the theme. I thought these praline cookies while may not be the official Mardi Gras dessert, still sort of fit into the Southern team.

The cookie base is what I would call a perfect cookie dough; it is not sticky, or too crumbly or too wet. It just has the right consistency to be scooped into small balls, and baked beautifully into rounds of cookies. They spread just enough (not too much, not too little that you have to press them down with a fork!) into these perfect little brown cookies. I actually love them without the praline topping, although the topping really heightened the flavor. I caught myself munching on the un-frosted cookies–and told myself to stop. They were delicious. This may be my new favorite cookie. I also decided to make pecan pralines using the leftover topping, and yum… they were delicious. Happy Baking!

Adapted from From Martha Stewart Living, February 2000

Ingredients

1 -2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 -1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if necessary
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and broken into large pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups light-brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fully combined. Add dry ingredients, and beat on low speed until combined.

Drop batter in rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until firm and barely golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies from pan to wire rack.

In a small saucepan, combine remaining 1 cup light-brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add confectioners’ sugar, and whisk until smooth. (If frosting thickens, thin with cream.) Add pecan pieces. Place cookies on a cooling rack over a lined baking pan. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon praline mixture onto each cookie.

Yield: 3 dozens of cookies


Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle

January 27, 2011

Red has been talking about these “peanut cookies” for as long as I have known him. He keeps on talking on how he grew up eating them at his grammy’s house and how he would love to be able to enjoy them again. We have been looking for a peanut cookie recipe for a while, and then we ran into this  recipe that seems pretty close to it. I was excited to no end to finally be able to try this. These cookies turned out to be as delicious as Red remembers it.

I decided to cut them into bars instead of breaking them; and ended up about a couple of dozens of bars. One thing that I wish I would have done was using salted peanuts instead of “lightly salted” peanuts–I think the contrast between the saltiness and the sweetness of the dough would be a dramatic combo, which would win any peanuts’ lovers in your audience.  They were great with coffee; and made for a very addictive snack. They were also best enjoyed within a few days after making them. If you love sweet and salty dessert combo–this one is a must try! Happy eating!

Adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies via Piece of Cake

Ingredients
1/ 2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into the cup and leveled
4 ounces (1 cup) roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Directions
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat in the salt and vanilla, about 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and gradually stir in the flour, stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary. Stir in half the peanuts.

Turn the dough out onto a rimmed sheet pan, about 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches. Lightly flour your hands and pat the dough in a thin layer (don’t worry about making it perfectly even). Sprinkle the rest of the peanuts evenly over the dough. Cover the dough with a sheet of waxed or parchment paper and using a rolling pin or a tall, smooth glass, roll over the paper to smooth the dough and press the peanuts firmly into the dough.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until golden brown, rotating the sheet halfway through baking time. Cool in the pan for five minutes before cutting the warm slab into bars, or wait for it too cool completely and break into pieces like brittle candy. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Yield: Approximately 2 dozens


Caramel Crunch Bars

December 22, 2010

I looooove….. food days at work.  It gives me an excuse to try a new recipe for a sinful treat like this one. I have tagged so many recipes from Dorie’s book Baking: From my Home to Yours that I knew that this one was next in line. It starts with a layer of cookie with delicious espresso hint, then covered with a layer of melted bittersweet chocolate. To top it off; add chopped Heath toffee bits which adds a contrast of crunchy, salty, and sweetness all into one.  Do I need to say more? If you are a caramel or chocolate lover, give these a try. They were so addictive that you may need to cut them up into smaller pieces that the book recommended. Happy eating!

Adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours

Ingredients
For the base:
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. instant espresso powder or finely ground instant coffee
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 sticks (8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 oz. bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped

For the topping:
6 oz. bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup Heath toffee bits

Directions
Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9×13 inch baking pan, line the pan with foil and butter the foil. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

To make the base:
Whisk together the flour, coffee, salt and cinnamon.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for another three minutes or until the mixture is light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla and turn off the mixer.

Add all the dry ingredients, cover the stand mixer with a kitchen towel (so you and your kitchen don’t get showered in flour) and pulse the mixer on and off at low speed about 5 times- at which point a peek at the bowl should reveal that it’s safe to turn the mixer to low and mix, uncovered, just until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated.

Add the chopped chocolate and mix only until the dry ingredients disappear. If the chocolate isn’t evenly mixed, finish the job by hand with a spatula. You’ll have a very heavy, very sticky dough. Scrape the dough into the buttered pan and, with the spatula and your fingertips, cajole it into a thin, even layer.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the base is bubbly – so bubbly that you can almost hear it percolating – and puckery. It will look as though it is struggling to pull away from the side of the pan. Transfer the pan to a rack and turn off the oven.

To make the topping:
Scatter the chocolate evenly over the top of the hot base and pop the pan back into the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chocolate is soft.. Remove from oven and immediately spread chocolate over bars, using offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate and press them down lightly with your fingertips. Place the baking pan on a rack to cool to room temperature.

If, by the time the bars are cool, the chocolate has not set, refrigerate them briefly to firm the chocolate.

Carefully lift out of the pan, using foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. Trim the edges if they seem a bit thick. Cut about 54 bars, each about 2 inches by 1 inch, taking care not to cut through the foil.


Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

December 20, 2010


My sister loves plain old sugar cookies. She actually prefers them without icing (… she also prefers the cone instead of the ice cream; which is fine by me, I will take her ice-cream!). I decided to try these old fashioned sugar cookies for her. I eliminated the lemon zest and juice, and replaced it with vanilla because I was really looking for plain sugar cookies without any lemony flavor. And I think I really found it! These cookies were thinner–and really spread during baking. They were crisp in the outside and chewy in the center. I used a 2-inch ice-cream scoop but made sure that I had generous scoops; and ended up about 26 cookies that had diameter of about 4-5 inches.

I was pretty happy with the result; and this recipe is definitely a keeper in my recipe box. This is great not just for the holidays- but all through the year. Happy eating!

Slightly Adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla (my add)
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
Mix butter and sugar until pale and fluffy in a mixer with paddle attachment, about 2-3 minute. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and then vanilla extract. Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
Scoop dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop; space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies slightly with a spatula. Sprinkle tops with sanding sugar, then lightly brush with a wet pastry brush; sprinkle with more sanding sugar.
Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Yield: 26 large cookies


Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

December 17, 2010


Have you ever had one of those days… when you’re faced with decisions on which type of cookie you’d like to eat? Should you have a peanut butter cookie? Or oatmeal raisin? What about the classic chocolate chip cookies? If you have, just like me –this is the cookie for you, because it has the components of all of these three great cookies into one! With the holiday baking in motion, I decided to give this recipe a try. Dorie’s recipes have yet to fail me, and this one was another winner. Unlike some of the other cookie recipes I have made, this one requires chilling prior to baking. So you need to be planning ahead if you are going to need something quick. I refrigerated mine overnight per the recommendation and they were delicious! The only thing that I may do differently next time was the baking time. I pulled these out at 13 minutes and let them sit on the baking sheet for an extra one or two minutes–because they were too soft to be removed onto the cooling racks. I think these extra two minutes made the cookies crispier than I would like to. Maybe next time, I would pull these out at 12 minutes and leave them out for an extra minute on the hot baking sheet, to make these cookies softer.

Finally, I went an extra step with this one and decided to do a cookie-ice-cream sandwich using these cookies. I figured, we’ll get the weight gain started early for the holiday, and they did not disappoint! While the outside temperature may be in the negative range, ice-cream is a permanent resident of my freezer, and these cookies were wonderful with them. Happy eating!

Adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours

Ingredients
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter–chunky (my choice) or smooth (but not natural)
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 -1/2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks

Directions:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips. If you have the time, cover and chill the dough for about 2 hours or for up to one day. (Chilling the dough will give you more evenly shaped cookies.)

If the dough is not chilled, drop rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets. If the dough is chilled, scoop up rounded tablespoons, roll the balls between your palms and place them 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press the chilled balls gently with the heel of your hand until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be golden and just firm around the edges. Lift the cookies onto cooling racks with a wide metal spatula – they’ll firm as they cool.

Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Storing: Wrapped airtight or piled into a cookie jar, the cookies will keep at room temperature for about 4 days. Wrapped and frozen, they’ll be good for 2 months.

Playing Around: You can substitute soft, moist raisins for the chocolate chunks or just stir in some raisins along with them. If you’re really looking for crunch, toss in chopped peanuts too (salted or not). With or without the chocolate chunks, raisins, and nuts, these cookies are great with ice cream or around ice cream – think about them the next time you want a chipwich-ish ice cream sandwich.