Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lesson #73: Maple Pecan Popcorn

Happy New Year! In our home, New Years Eve is a day for for snacking. I whipped this yummy popcorn up while my husband watched a college football game. This is a super easy recipe and is great to munch on in front of the TV.

This popcorn is crunchy, buttery, and nutty. PERFECTION!

LESSON LEARNED: Popcorn is the perfect snack food!

Recipe for Maple Pecan Popcorn

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lesson #72: Chocolate Chip/Walnut Cookies

My love for chocolate chip cookies continues.....

For Christmas, I received a cookbook by pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner (who was most recently seen on the Next Iron Chef America). I think her desserts are really fun & whimsy and one day I aspire to progress my baking skills to plated desserts, so I was super excited to try out her recipes. I started with the very first one in the book: chocolate chip cookies!

Oh my gosh! These cookies are AMAZING! They are chewy, gooey, and have just the right amount nuttiness. I used one of my favorite brands of chocolate chips (Guittard). I think this chocolate has an extremely smooth taste with vanilla notes (just in case you are interested!). They came out perfect! I was in an extra scientific/precise mood when I made these, so I used my kitchen scale. I'll give part of the credit to following the recipe exactly and part credit for the awesomeness of the recipe.

LESSON LEARNED: I'm going to continue to bake out of my new cookbook!

Recipe for Chocolate Chip/Walnut Cookies

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lesson #71: Pavlova with Cranberry Orange Compote

I love the convenience of make ahead desserts around the holidays. I'm usually in charge of making both the savory and sweet components of a meal, so I need all the time I can get.

The AMAZING thing about this meringue and compote is that they can be made several days in advance. You store each part separately and top with meringue with compote right before serving. In fact, I made both components to this dessert three days before we enjoyed it! The meringue is crunchy on the outside and tastes like marshmallows on the inside. The compote is just tart enough to offset the sweetness of the meringue. DELICIOUS!

LESSON LEARNED: Make ahead desserts are a time saver!

Recipe for Pavlova with Cranberry Orange Compote

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lesson #70: Cinnamon-Sugar Pull Apart Bread

My family enjoyed this bread as part of breakfast on Christmas morning. This wasn't the first time that I made this bread and my mom was very excited when I unpacked it as a surprise on Christmas Eve.

I really enjoy making homemade bread and, for me, this bread is a lot of fun to make. You begin by mixing up the bread dough and letting it rise. Then, you roll out the dough, brush it with melted butter, and sprinkle it with cinnamon/sugar/nutmeg. Next comes the fun part :) You slice it into 6 vertical strips, stack the strips, and cut it again into 6 equal squares. Finally, you stack the squares on top of each other and place them in a bread pan. The end effect is pretty cool and looks tricky to make (even though it's super easy!).

LESSON LEARNED: Sometimes fancy looking bread can be simple to make.

Recipe for Cinnamon-Sugar Pull Apart Bread

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lesson #69: Eggnog Ice Cream

As I was thinking of more holiday ice cream flavors, the idea of eggnog ice cream popped into my head. I haven't seen too many eggnog ice creams, so I decided to experiment with my favorite ice cream base. Instead of using whole milk (typically 1.5 cups of whole milk to 2 cups heavy cream), I substituted eggnog. I then added a bit of freshly grated nutmeg to give the ice cream a warm and spicy note. I was a little apprehensive about this idea, but it definitely worked!

This ice cream is a once a year treat. The ice cream is deliciously SMOOTH, CREAMY, and DECEDENT. I think it's best eaten in small quantities, so you can savor every spoonful.

The first picture is right from my ice cream container and the second is a not-so-small serving (it was my husband's -who loves ice cream- bowl!).

LESSON LEARNED: Substituting eggnog for whole milk creates a wonderful ice cream.

Recipe for Eggnog Ice Cream

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lesson #68: White Chocolate Eggnog Fudge

I'm not a fan of drinking eggnog straight from the carton, but when incorporated into baked goods, it's delicious! This fudge combines white chocolate, eggnog, and marshmallow fluff to create a CREAMY, SMOOTH, and CHOCOLATEY fudge. When you sprinkle the fudge with freshly grated nutmeg, it reminds me of the holidays.

Just an FYI...this recipe makes a ton of fudge. I'm not teaching next semester (my husband and I are moving!), so I'm going to be giving away a lot of these baked goods, since I don't have students to feed next semester.

LESSON LEARNED: Eggnog is a delicious addition to white chocolate fudge.

Recipe for White Chocolate Eggnog Fudge

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lesson #67: Butterscotch Candies

I've been on a candy making kick this week! I recently saw a recipe for a cookie that contained pieces of butterscotch candy and was reminded of how much I LOVE butterscotch. Instead of picking up the store bought version, I decided to make my own candy.

Surprisingly, these taste EXACTLY like the store bought equivalent. The whole cooking process was pretty hands off - as long as you have a candy thermometer. One piece of advice while making these candies is to score the candy into the shapes you want to cut while the candy is slightly warm. After the candy completely cools, the candy is easier to cut along the lines to break the candy into similar size/shape pieces. I thought I would share this recipe even though I have big plans to incorporate the leftover candy into a cookie.

LESSON LEARNED: Score this candy while it's warm so it's easier to cut later.

Recipe for Butterscotch Candies

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lesson #66: Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb Candy

After much trial and error over the years, I have finally improved my candy making skills. In graduate school, many errors occurred because my friend and I are did not have a candy thermometer. We decided to "eye ball" our chocolate fudge and peach jam, which respectively became fudge and peach ice cream topping when the candy did not set. Here's my advice to you: invest in a candy thermometer if you want the recipe to work!

I thought these candies would be the perfect addition some homemade gifts I've been making this week. The recipe its self is pretty simple - just water, sugar, and corn syrup. After the sugar comes to the correct temperature (see, this is where the candy thermometer becomes helpful!), stir in baking soda, pour on a baking sheet, and cool. The baking soda bubbles up in the candy and creates a really COOL texture. It looks exactly like honeycombs!

After you break the candy into pieces (this can be messy - see the first picture), I dipped the candy partially in dark chocolate. The candy tastes like a mixture between a caramel and honey. I liked the bitterness of the dark chocolate to offset the sweetness of the candy. My husband doesn't care for chocolate and he liked the candy plain. In any case, this candy is YUMMY!

LESSON LEARNED: Use a candy thermometer!

Recipe for Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb Candy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lesson #65: Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

This past weekend, we had a Christmas celebration at my Grandma's house, so it was the perfect excuse to try another dessert that could easily feed a large crowd. I've been fixated on the idea of trying a peanut butter cheesecake, so here's what I came up with!

I first made a crust out of chocolate graham crackers. Next, I blended a generous amount of peanut butter into my cheesecake batter. Finally, I topped off the cheesecake with a milk chocolate ganache and chopped mini peanut butter cups. The end result was a super RICH and DECADENT peanut butter/chocolate cheesecake. YUMMY!

LESSON LEARNED: Holidays are the perfect time to bake rich and decadent desserts!

Recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lesson #64: Gingerbread Cookies

I'm pretty particular about gingerbread cookies. I like the cookies to be more spicy than sweet; soft than hard; thicker than thinner. I first made this recipe last year and thought these were great! By adding molasses and milk, these cookies stay super soft for days!

The only tricky thing about this cookie dough is that is MUST be chilled before you can roll & cut the cookie dough. If you don't you will have a sticky mess on your counter top.  

LESSON LEARNED: Soft gingerbread cookies rock!

Recipe for Gingerbread Cookies

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lesson #63: Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

I think that chocolate and mint are a WONDERFUL combination. I'm especially partial to peppermint patty candies, so encasing this candy around a chocolate cookie sounded like something I had to try out.

These cookies are soft and tender with a nice chocolatey flavor. The peppermint candy nicely holds its shape once it cools. I would recommend double checking to make sure the dough completely wraps around the candy - if you don't - the peppermint will spread onto the baking sheet as it cooks. Not that I know this from personal experience or anything :)

I packaged up the cookies for my class after I drizzled them melted white chocolate and red sprinkles.

LESSON LEARNED: Chocolate and peppermint combine to produce a very tasty cookie!

Recipe for Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lesson #62: Oreo Cheesecake Truffles

Are you looking for a dessert to add to your holiday cookie platter? Look no further! These YUMMY bites are super easy to make and only require 3 ingredients: a package of Oreo cookies, one 8 oz. package of cream cheese, and melted chocolate.

These chocolate received GLOWING reviews from my students and husband (who usually doesn't care much for chocolate desserts). The tangy-ness of the cream cheese nicely offsets the sweet cookies and you can dip them in whatever type of chocolate you prefer (I used milk chocolate). Enjoy! 

LESSON LEARNED: Desserts with only a few ingredients can be wonderful!

Recipe for Oreo Cheesecake Truffles

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lesson #61: Candy Cane Ice Cream

I've mentioned this before, but to re-iterate, my husband LOVES ice cream! I was out of town last weekend and there was no ice cream in the house, so he (gasp!) bought ice cream. I came home, saw the Ben & Jerry's in the freezer, and knew I should definitely make ice cream this week.

Since there's a ton of candy canes in the stores right now, this was my inspiration for the ice cream. First, I melted candy cane into the custard base for the ice cream. As I was churning the ice cream, I intensified the candy cane flavor by adding additional crushed candy canes. Finally, I added a few drops of red food coloring to make the ice cream look extra festive. DELICIOUS!

LESSON LEARNED: Homemade ice cream beats store-bought ice cream any day!

Recipe for Candy Cane Ice Cream

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lesson #60: Apple Brown Betty

I've never had apple brown betty, so when I saw this recipe in my America's Test Kitchen cookbook, I thought I would give it a shot. From what I understand, this dessert was pretty popular years ago. When I asked my mom about this, she said that my grandma used to make it all the time.

As far as desserts go, this is a relatively healthy dessert. There's not too much added sugar or butter. My husband described it as an applesauce with a crunchy topping  and I think that's pretty accurate. This would be amazing as an ice cream (less healthy) or yogurt (more healthy) topping. In any case, it was pretty simple to make since you sauce the apples in a skillet on the stove top. I was feeling super speedy the day I made it and finished under 20 minutes :)

LESSON LEARNED: This recipe is a blast from the past!

Recipe for Apple Brown Betty

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lesson #59: Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

I made up this cheesecake recipe on a whim this week. Blueberries were on sale in the grocery store and I thought they would be perfect in a cheesecake.

I first decided to make cupcake sized cheesecakes so they were in single portions and less messy to cut. I whipped up a standard cheesecake base, swirled blueberry puree on top, baked, and cooled the cheesecakes. To top off the cheesecakes, I made a blueberry compote! YUM!

LESSON LEARNED: Make small size cheesecakes for easy serving (no cutting involved!).

Recipe for Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lesson #58: Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

A few people gave me suggestions about variations in the recipe for chocolate chip cookies. One suggestion was using a mixture of butter and shortening. I also made the cookies considerably smaller than my previous post.

These little cookies are super ADDICTIVE! They are crunchy, yet gooey in the center. YUM! It's very easy to eat a few of these at a time. This recipe also makes  A LOT of cookies....I gave some to a class, my brother, and a bunch for our house.

LESSON LEARNED: Chocolate chip cookies have a ton of variations!

Recipe for Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lesson #57: Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Justin has been asking me to try new ice cream flavors! BTW, I'm planning on having an ice cream tasting party next summer, so everyone will be able to try all the flavors I invent. :)

I thought peanut butter ice cream sounded interesting, and I've never had peanut ice cream before, so I used my favorite ice cream base and added peanut butter.

This flavor of ice cream is definitely a keeper! It's super YUMMY! I added some marshmallow fluff during the last minutes of churning and I'm sure chocolate chips would be a great addition as well.

LESSON LEARNED: Thinking creatively about ice cream flavors has delicious results.

Recipe for Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lesson #56: Blondie with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

These cookie bars slowly grew on me after I made them yesterday. They are pretty messy to try cut, and at first, I was turned off by this. I would describe them as breaking apart better than evenly cutting apart. Even though they aren't the prettiest dessert I've made, these bars are surprisingly ADDICTIVE.

First, there is a layer of gooey brown sugar blondie. Then, peanuts are roasted in the oven, mixed in with pretzels and tossed with a homemade caramel. This mixture is generously poured over the blondies. The result is a salty & sweet dessert with multiple textures from the blondies, peanuts, and pretzels.

LESSON LEARNED: Messy desserts taste good too!

Recipe for Blondie with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lesson #55: Hot Chocolate Cookies

Even though it's been unseasonably warm the past few days, I've been getting into the holiday spirit. I saw these cute cookies in a magazine this month and I knew right away I had to try them.

Yes, they definitely taste like hot chocolate in the form of a cookie! A sweet chocolate cookie is partially baked and then topped with a piece of milk chocolate topped off with a marshmallow. The result is a crunchy cookie topped with melted chocolate and a gooey marshmallow. DELICIOUS! In case you weren't already convinced of the deliciousness, the pictures will convince you. In fact, I may go get one out of my freezer right now :)

LESSON LEARNED: Be careful when you take a bite of these cookies, the marshmallow might come off in the first bite!

Recipe for Hot Chocolate Cookies

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lesson #54: Peppermint Twist Cupcakes

Happy December! I thought I would start off the month with these festive cupcakes to get in the holiday spirit.

The cupcakes have a white cake base which is swirled with a mint flavored batter. To mix up the flavors, I made a few different icings. One was a mint flavored meringue and a chocolate butter cream. These cupcakes are just minty enough without being too overwhelming.

LESSON LEARNED: These cupcakes look pretty and taste good too!

Recipe for Peppermint Twist Cupcakes
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