Archive for the ‘Baking Adventure!’ Category

You’ve heard of Blondies right? They’re basically brownies, but the dough isn’t chocolately. It’s butterscotch instead due to the combination of brown sugar, butter, and vanilla! I just knew I wanted to make brownies this weekend, so I took to my many bookmarked recipes and decided on not brownies, but blondies since I figured they would knock out my craving without being quite as heavy as their dark chocolate cousins. After I had decided, Nick suggested I check in my new favorite book, Baking Illustrated (a very amazing gift provided by my very amazing boyfriend), to see if they had any suggestions on the preparation. I think my love of this cookbook really warrants a full and complete appreciation post, but let me just say it’s the best thing in the universe. The people at America’s Test Kitchen go through a million and twelve different scientific tests of their baked goods, from trying out different brands of flour to see which makes the most tender cookie, to which type of teaspoon is best. The cookbook is like pornography for bakers and I’ll leave it at that.

So I decided to use the Baking Illustrated recipe for Blondies because the faith I have in those folks is overwhelming. I adapted it a bit to suit my needs, using golden brown sugar instead of light brown because I prefer a more rich brown sugar taste (though the book does make a note that tasters found dark brown sugar to be too overpowering). The recipe called for white chocolate chips as well, but since we didn’t have any, I just doubled up on my semi-sweet. They came out amazing, nice and chewy with a sweet butterscotch flavor lying over the chocolate. The chopped pecans added a great texture element and really brought the whole thing together. Just a few hours after I made them, the pan was reduced to just two small pieces! I love when my baked goods get gobbled up so fast.

The two big keys to this recipe, according to the cookbook, are using melted butter and mixing by hand. Creaming the butter with the sugar and using a mixer incorporates too much air into the batter and won’t yield the chewy, dense texture that still has lots of flavor.

Blondies: Adapted from Baking Illustrated

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups packed golden brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F with the rack in the middle position.
  2. Prepare your baking pan. Note: I used a 13×9 pan, as per the book’s instructions, but I found the batter didn’t quite spread to the edges. In the end, the blondies rose enough so that the ends weren’t too crusty or unappealing, but if you really want a thick and chewy morsel, you could probably use an 8×8 brownie pan. Line the pan using two pieces of aluminum foil placed perpendicular over each other so some foil extends out of the pan. This extra foil will serve as handles, make extraction from the pan very easy! Spray the foil with non-stick spray.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. This basically smells like heaven, just so you know.
  5. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  6. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the brown sugar mixture until just combined. Do not overmix!
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans.
  8. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with the rubber spatula.
  9. Bake for about 22-25 minutes (Mine took about 28 minutes) until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch.  The edges will also be golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
  10. Cool completely in the pan, then, using the foil handles, lift the blondies from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into pieces of whatever size you prefer and serve for happy eating!

This weekend I had a special new adventure: I made bread for the first time! Proper bread, I mean, not the cake-like quick breads we all know and love. This was a whole new world of prepping yeast and waiting with baited breath to see if your efforts paid off and your dough rose like it was supposed to (I hear it’s absolutely heartbreaking when it doesn’t) and that your bread all works out. Luckily, I had success with this lovely Swedish Cardamom Braid my dear friend Rachael recommended we make as my beginner bread. This recipe comes to you from The Complete Book of Breads and I tell you, it is wonderful. Dense for a bread due to it’s high butter content, studded with golden raisins, and nice and spicy! I’m told it’s a little dry, but that’s what jam and butter are for, right?

Swedish Cardamom Bread

2 packages of dry yeast
1/2 cup of warm water (for yeast)
1/2 cup of milk scalded (heated to just before boiling)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) of unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 eggs (room temperature)
6 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

  • (Note: We used 4 heaping teaspoons of cardamom! If you want a little more of a spicy punch, go for it! But I also recommend you add a touch more salt for a counterbalance, because the salt will bring out the flavor of the bread).

3/4 cup seedless raisins
Egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with a splash of milk)

  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over your warm (about 105-115F) water and beat with a whisk or fork until the granules dissolve. Note: Too hot of water will kill your yeast! So it should be warm to the touch, but in no way boiling or steaming. Yeast is tricky!
  2. In a mixing bowl, pour milk over sugar, salt, and butter. Stir to soften and let the mixture cool to lukewarm.
  3. Add the yeast mixture. You will know your yeast is active if the mixture looks frothy. If it doesn’t look ready to you, give it some more time! If there is no bubbling at all, your yeast might have gone bad and you should start afresh. 
  4. Add cardamom, raisins, eggs, and 3 cups of flour and beat until smooth.
  5. Add the next 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time. If mixing by hand, use a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes too difficult, then use your hands to knead. If using a mixer, this would be a good time to switch to your dough hook attachment. The dough should form a rough mass and clean the sides of the bowl as it mixes and it will not be sticky due to the large amount of butter.
  6. If kneading by hand, use a strong push-turn-fold action on a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic (this is about 5 minutes on high with your dough hook). Wonder Baker Tip: Not sure what smooth and elastic is? I’m told that the way to find out if your dough is ready is if it feels like your earlobe! So give your ear a tug and compare.
  7. Place your dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, storing in a warm place for about 1 hour.
  8. Once your dough has doubled in size, punch it down firmly to work out the air bubbles.
  9. Turn the dough out of the bowl and divide into two portions. Then, take one half and divide into three equal parts and roll them into fat tubes.
  10. Now it’s time to braid! First, line your three ropes up. Then, swing the right (or top) rope over the middle, then the other outer rope over that. Continue folding the ropes over each other and finish by tucking the strands in at the end and pressing the dough together. Repeat with the other half of the dough until you have two braided loaves. Here, have some helpful (hopefully!) pictures:(sorry for the blur! Rachael is a very fast dough braider)
  11. Now it’s time to cover our shaped loaves with wax paper and let the dough sit again, for about another hour. This is the second rise! (my dough braids were not perfect, but that’s okay!)
  12. Preheat your oven to 350F. Then, brush the tops of your loaves with the egg wash.
  13. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the crusts are a rich brown and a toothpick comes out clean and dry. Check on them early so you don’t over-bake them, but you will probably need more than 45 minutes (we did).
  14. Remove the bread from the oven and, handling the loaves delicately, transfer to a cooling rack before serving or packing up.

You can see where I missed some spots with the egg wash and our raisins got a little toasty on the top, but the bread is wonderful and lovely and oh so good! It was an easy bread dough to work with and it has wonderful flavor, so give it a shot for some happy eating 🙂

I first tried these cookies at my boyfriend’s Aunt’s house. When we gather there, we eat like the Italians we are. At least six courses, eating for hours, and people. People everywhere. But back to these cookies. I thought these cookies were amazing. So amazing, in fact, that after eating for literally an entire afternoon, I still couldn’t help shoving more cookies into my face. They aren’t all beautiful, but they’re AMAZING. Fluffy and chewy and light and sweet and lovely and “I know I already had seven but please can I have some more?” cookies. And I don’t know if you’d have guessed (because I certainly didn’t) but these cookies have a strange and secret ingredient! Got any guesses? Well, I’ll tell you.

It’s ricotta cheese! The classic lasagna staple in a cookie? I know, it’s weird, but don’t let it scare you. There’s no cheesy aftertaste in these cookies! Ricotta is apparently a classic choice in lots of Italian pastries, including cake! I think it’s what we can attribute the truly amazing texture to.

Hey look, I didn’t forget to cream the butter and sugar this time! Look at the fluffy texture, it’s an essential step in cookie making. Make sure your butter is softened before creaming and for best results, let your butter soften on the counter instead of in the microwave (though there’s nothing wrong with a quick blast from the microwave, we don’t always have time on our hands for such patience).

Your dough will look a little strange after you add the ricotta, but don’t worry. Just blend all your wet ingredients as instructed. Oh, and use a big bowl. Probably the biggest one you have.

You’re gonna need at least 4 cups of flour to make the dough manageable. I had to use just a touch more than this, maybe 1/4 cup extra. Just add in small amounts as you need it.

The dough will be sticky, but as long as you can work it into dough balls, you’re good. Popping it in the fridge for a while helps.

My dough balls were a little over a teaspoon in size and I found that baking them for between 10-11 minutes was best. These cookies tend to undercook and, though we all like doughy cookies, these were a little too doughy. Err on the side of leaving them in until they’re golden brown on the top and sides too. Also, if the bottoms aren’t too brown, leave them on the hot pan for a while and that will help the centers cook all the way.

Note: If you do make your cookies this size, you’re going to wind up with nearly 100 cookies! So make them bigger if you like, but don’t forget to increase the cooking time.

As an aside, this was the first time I ever used parchment paper and it is incredible. Seriously, go get some. Right now. Or while you’re shopping for cookie ingredients. I never want to bake without it again, the cookies just slide right off and don’t leave the pan with grease marks. Amazing stuff.

Some might find that these cookies aren’t quite sweet enough, so you have the option to whip up a quick glaze. I have no doubts the almond would be wonderful, but my mom prefers vanilla, so I substituted vanilla extract. When making the glaze, keep it at a liquidy consistency as opposed to a thick icing) and spoon it over the warm cookies. The cookies will soak it right up and lend some sweetness. Then you can add a little fanciness with sprinkles if you like. Nonpareils are my favorite.

These cookies were wonderful and tasted even better the next day! I recommend giving them a shot, they were easy and certainly a hit with my Italian family, your family might love them too.

Want to make these cookies? I think you should.

Here, have the recipe I was given from Allrecipes:

  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt*
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together butter, sugar, eggs, ricotta cheese, and vanilla extract. Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; blend into the creamed mixture, mixing in additional flour as necessary to form a workable dough. Roll dough into teaspoon-sized balls, and arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until lightly browned.

For glaze:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat milk, confectioners’ sugar, and almond extract until smooth. Spoon over warm cookies, and sprinkle with colored candy sprinkles

*I did not put any salt in these cookies and didn’t even notice until afterwards. The recipe didn’t call for it, but in hindsight that’s a little suspicious. Salt brings out flavors, that’s why you put it in everything! So, though I cannot personally attest to the addition of salt in this recipe, I think I’ll still recommend it. It’s up to you and there’s nothing wrong with experimenting!

And the wonder baker blog is revived, not with a bang, but with some plain old boring cookies.

Well, not that boring. It’s still a tasty cookie after all!

I decided to do these because one day my sister said that what she was really craving was some chocolate chip cookies, but without the chocolate chips. What do you even call those? “Chipless chocolate chip cookies” seems to be too much of a mouthful, so I decided to just go with “Buttery Brown Sugar Cookies” and if you make them, you’ll see why. But I did have some leftover mini chocolate chips, so I tossed those in too for a few of the cookies.

I decided to choose Annie from Annie’s Eats’  favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe to use as my base. But silly me forgot that when making cookies, butter is almost always creamed with sugar. When reading the recipe and seeing “whisk together dry ingredients”, I tossed the sugar in with the flour and other dry things, totally missing the next line below that said “cream butter and sugars”. So, as an Important Note: Keep in mind that, if you’re making cookies, you’ll probably be putting the sugar with the butter separately! Or you could read the whole procedure before you start, that’s a good tip too 🙂

I really liked the method described to form these cookies. I dipped my half-cup measuring cup into the batter and just scooped some out, not actually measuring or anything. Roll that amount of dough into a ball, then pull into two halves with your fingers. Then you place them on the sheet as seen above. I liked the way they cooked, nice thick edges and a chewy center.

Maybe a little too chewy? As you can see (I hope), the centers are quite undercooked. However, in this house that’s how we like our cookies, so that was a big plus for me. I cooked these big ones for about 12 minutes in the 325F oven and they came out lovely.

The bottoms were just gorgeous. I took them out of the oven when the very bottom edges started to turn just the slightest bit brown. Cookies still cook for a bit even after they’re taken from the oven, so to avoid overcooking, make sure you don’t leave them in until they’re too brown!

I made a small batch of smaller cookies by taking the big ball and splitting in, then rolling the halves into balls and splitting them again. Above you can see the size comparison and the smaller ones cooked for about 8 minutes.

My sister really liked these, so I consider it a mission accomplished! Though whether it was because the butter/sugar element was different or perhaps because there were no chocolate chips, I felt these cookies were extra buttery tasting. Also, I used light brown sugar because that’s all we had, but I would definitely suggest regular or even dark brown sugar to really up the flavor. If you’re into that sort of thing, then you’ll probably like these cookies too. Since Annie says these are her favorite chocolate chip cookies of all time, I’ll probably be making them again soon, but the right way next time.

Happy New Year and even happier eating to everyone 😀

Fridays are pretty dull for me. I take my sister to school at about 8:30am and then have nothing to do until 5:00pm when I head to work. So it’s usually in this big block of lonely time that I find a baking project to sink my teeth into. We don’t have much at my dad’s house, so I decided to go with something relatively simple and then try and jazz it up. I thought Bakerella’s Coraline Cookies would be just the thing, they’re super cute and simple and everyone in my house loves a nice peanut butter cookie.

Bakerella used a simple box mix, but as I didn’t have one and was far too lazy to run to the store, I decided to make a dough from scratch. It only needs 5 ingredients!

Those five ingredients are:

1 cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup peanut butter (I used smooth)
1 large egg
1/4 cup of oil

(I pulled this recipe off of Wikianswers after a google search for “easy peanut butter cookies”)

Mix them all together and you’ll get an amazing smelling cookie dough!

I rolled the dough into little balls using a water bottle cap as my guide and then baked them for 8-10 minutes in a 350F oven. This batch was in for about 10 minutes, but when I took them out and started to press them into the button shapes…

They split and cracked! I was very upset, I had no idea what had gone wrong. Did I leave them in too long? Not long enough? I asked some friends and the general consensus was that perhaps my dough wasn’t moist enough. So, I added just under 1/4 cup of water and mixed it into my dough. Note: Was this part of a recipe or a baker’s help guide? No. Did I know from my many years of experience that this would help and not completely destroy my cookie dough? Not at all. I simply figured that a box cookie mix uses egg, water, and oil in combination with a  dry bag of flour, sugar, and dehydrated peanut butter stuff, so adding water couldn’t hurt. Wonder Bakers live life on the edge of reason!

My dough did look a little shinier when I was rolling it, like the dough Bakerella uses to make her cookies, but in the end the result was the same. They didn’t spread out much and they continued to crack! I even stopped from putting the dough in the fridge and cooked these for only 8 minutes. I was a little bit anxious at this point trying to decide what to do. I didn’t want to add more water since I had already baked so much of the dough, so for my final batch I decided to try pressing the button shapes before putting the cookies in the oven.

There was a little bit of splitting all the same, but I was pleased that the shapes were holding. Now it was just another 8 minute wait before I would know for sure if my plan was successful.

Praise the baker, it was! All the cookies came out like neat little peanut butter buttons! Right out of the oven, after I got over my joy in success, I grabbed a straw and poked the holes by inserting the end and giving a little twist to lift the tiny section of cookie out. Be careful not to get too close to the edges or your cookie will break. You can poke holes in about three cookies before the pieces start to cool inside the straw and give you a hard time, so I recommend gently squeezing out the little pieces after a few cookies. Careful though, they make the straw hot! But of course, if you have more than one straw at hand, using a new one is an option too.

The best part of this baking misadventure is that even the pile of messy scraps and failed buttons I ended up with were still super tasty! Peanut butter cookies aren’t the most exciting, but they seem to be a crowd favorite most of the time. I wish I had had some chocolate for dipping, but I think that even plain these cute cookies made for happy eating 🙂

Were you wondering about those very tasty cupcakes I mentioned in my earlier decorating post? Wonder no more, because this is the post where I tell you all about them! I found the recipe, as I have found so many of my recipes lately, on “Annie’s Eats”. I was looking for a chocolate cupcake that would really stand out against a lot of pretty bells and whistles and not be overlooked as the cake part of such cupcakes tend to be. Also, I was looking to use up the rest of the buttermilk I had bought from making those biscuits way back when, so I was so glad when I found this recipe. They seemed to be just the thing I was looking for.

The buttermilk is sitting out in its measuring cups because it was coming to room temperature. I find it’s much more practical to set it out that way, but if you don’t have multiple sets of measuring cups, just measure out what you need and pour it into another glass or bowl. Much better than leaving all your buttermilk out to get warm.

Ah, this reminds me of a great Wonder Baker Tip! Always have something on in the background while you’re baking, whether it’s your great new playlist or your favorite kid’s cartoon show. Dancing, smiling, and laughing all contribute to the greatness of your treats (though they might also contribute to messes).

It’s time to start sifting! Start with 2 and 1/3 cups of All-Purpose Flour

Then grab a cup of cocoa powder and toss it in your sifter

1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

Plus half a teaspoon of baking soda

Finish up with half a teaspoon of salt

And start sifting into a pretty powdery mountain

In another bowl, preferably one under an electric mixer, beat 12 tablespoons of butter until it’s nice and smooth

Now it’s time to start packing brown sugar

Firmly packed brown sugar. Two cups of it!

Brown sugar everywhere! Since my other cup was holding the buttermilk, I used a 1/4 and a 3/4 cup. Also, about halfway through my 3/4 cup, I ran out of light brown sugar. So I started to substitute for dark. I don’t have anything to compare to, but I don’t think the substitution had a lot of bearing on the end result. Maybe it made for a richer flavor? I may never know.

Gradually add the brown sugar to the butter and beat it until it becomes fluffy. You might need to spoon it out of the measuring cups because it should be packed in there really tight.

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract go into your fluffy butter mixture

Along with 4 eggs!

Your batter will be tan and smooth and smell delightfully of brown sugar

Now it’s time to make that batter super rich and chocolatey

First you’re going to add a third of your dry mixture and blend it all in

And then add half of your buttermilk.

Continue in this way, adding another third of your dry stuff, then the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour mixture, mixing everything in between each addition

Your batter will turn a lovely shade of chocolate brown. Make sure you detach the whisk to mix in all that stuff collecting inside it and don’t forget to scrape down the sides.

Now you’ve got a super thick cake batter that’s ready for your cupcake liners

This particular batter was so thick and heavy, my usual cupcake filling method didn’t work great

Oh no, cupcake down, cupcake down!

Woo, cupcake salvaged. I think when it comes to filling these liners, it’s best to leave them in the pan

So just spoon a decent sized glob right into the liners

Until they’re all filled up nicely! Make sure to shake your pan a little to let the batter settle or you’ll get some lopsided cupcakes. They taste the same, but they’re a little trickier to decorate.

The baking time on these beauties is 18-20 minutes. Start at 18, of course, but I think they’ll definitely need more time as the super moist and dense cake needs the extra time to cook

And they did turn out super moist and super delicious. Nick really loved them, but he noted that when they were frosted, it took away from the flavor of the cake a little. I think a light whipped cream topping, such as the oreo one Annie uses, would compliment them much better than the store bought sugary buttercream I bought. But in my opinion, having these little cakes naked makes for some happy eating too.

Check out the full recipe over here at Annie’s Eats!

But what about a sweet and delicious cupcake decorated to look like an apple?

Those are all cupcakes! Aren’t they darling? What’s even more amazing is that I decorated them myself! I think I’m on my way to building up some serious decorating skill, I’m going to keep challenging myself even more!

Oh, did you want to know how to make these adorable goodies too? That’s good, because I really wanted to show you how.

The first thing you can do is run out to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of “What’s New, Cupcake?” which, along with its predecessor “Hello, Cupcake!“, is probably the most adorable cupcake decorating book on the planet. That’s where you’ll find the original instructions for these, but I’ll provide you with some more visuals.

First you will need some cupcakes.

When it comes to the cupcakes, the choice is completely yours. As for me, since I was sending these off with my boyfriend to hand out where he works, I really wanted the cake to be wonderful, so I ended up making a from scratch chocolate cupcake that was truly a tasty sensation (and the topic of a post to come, so stay tuned!). If you have some red cupcake liners, which would be ideal for your apple cupcakes, then a light colored cake would also be best. Again though, it’s totally up to you and the people you’re baking for. If you really want the red effect of the liners, but want to make chocolate cupcakes, double up on the liners before you bake.

Next, some frosting! Any white frosting will do, homemade or store-bought. I chose a canned buttercream. It wasn’t phenomenal, but contrary to their appearance, these cupcakes are actually very light on icing! So choose something you like knowing that it won’t be too overpowering in the end.

If you’re wondering why there’s some in a bag here, it’s for that cupcake that looks like it has a bite out of it. If that’s one you’ll want to do, make sure you set some of your white frosting aside for it.

Then we tried to color the frosting red. The book says to use a paste frosting, but I assumed that a regular red liquid food coloring would work just as well.

So we mixed

And added more.

And mixed…

And added more!

Honestly, I think we went through nearly a whole bottle and we still only ended up with this shade of dark pinky-red. It wasn’t until after this first batch that I realized that it’s really not even necessary to have a red frosting as the decorating sugar will hide it anyway! So, unless you really want a red frosting, save yourself time and spare your arm muscles by leaving your frosting uncolored.

Now you frost your cupcakes! Start by holding a cupcake and putting on a decent sized dollop of frosting on. This is going to be a relatively thin layer, so don’t go overboard.

Then, with the knife (or offset spatula) blade against the frosting, slowly rotate the cupcake under it, trying to get as near the edges as you can

Turning the cupcake is much easier than flinging the knife around and look how pretty it comes out!

Ta-dah! A nice thin coating of frosting.

Next, you’ll need a box of miniature chocolate-frosted donuts

Using as many donuts as you have cupcakes, take a small slice off the bottoms, about 1/2 of an inch. You’re just trying to remove the rounded bottom so you end up with a flat-bottomed dome donut

Take your cut donuts and place them on top of each frosted cupcake

Press each donut down firmly so it sticks into the frosting layer

And then you stick these bad boys into the freezer for about 10 minutes, or until slightly frozen

Meanwhile, you’ll need some special tools for making your stems and leaves! Any sort of green chewy candy would work for the leaves, I just grabbed these watermelon airheads. They’re a little bit light as far as the color goes, but I think they worked fine.

To make your stems, just cut your tootsie rolls in half diagonally

Tons of super simple, super tasty apple stems!

The stems are a little trickier. You can start by attempting to roll out your chewy green candy. Make it as flat as you can, but don’t lose any hair over it.

Then it’s just a matter of cutting, twisting, and shaping until you get something of a leaf shape. It’s a little tricky, but it can be done!

You might be super lucky (or talented) and have some come out like that gorgeous specimen above. Nick made all my leaves and he did an astounding job. To make the crease in the middle, just push down gently with the paring knife or a butter knife, making sure you don’t exert too much pressure and cut the leaf in half

After your ten minutes are up, take your chilly cupcakes out of the freezer because it’s time to make them fruity!

Put a glob of frosting on the side of the donut and spread using the rotating method you used before.

It’s a little trickier with the donut in play, but with some patience you can get a nice coat on there. Make sure you get frosting into the donut hole as well, as that will help your stems and leaves stick when assembling the final products.

You might need to add additional frosting on the sides to keep it from being lopsided. And don’t forget to keep the tops flattish, like apples, rather than cone shaped. Oh, and if your frosting doesn’t look perfect, just remember we’re about to roll it in some sparkly sugar.

This little box of Cake Mate red decorating sugar turned out to work perfectly! We just happened to have some lying around, but you can probably find it at Micheal’s or other such craft stores. Otherwise, you can just buy a little container of red sprinkles and pour them into a shallow bowl.

To coat, just press one side of the cupcake right into the sprinkles

Then turn to another side and press

And repeat until all the sides are covered

Plunge your cupcake upside down to get the top

And voila! As you can see, there’s a few tiny patches with no sprinkles, but to fix those, just take a pinch of decorating sugar and drizzle on to touch up. You also might find that the top got too flat when dipping the top, so just pat the the frosting into the desired shape with your fingers. If any of the sprinkles come off, just retouch with a little sprinkling where needed.

To add the stems and leaves, just plunge the pointed end of the tootsie rolls into the donut holes. Put the leaves on the opposite sides and press them into the frosting very gently.

If you want to get adventurous and make one of your apple cupcakes look like it’s missing a bite, take your knife and cut a small chunk out of the donut on one side of the fully decorated cake. Then, with the frosting bag you set aside earlier, snip the tip off and squeeze some frosting into the hole you made, spreading it gently out to the edges so it meets the red. To make the “seeds”, I took a large chocolate chip and cut it into little pieces, choosing the best chunks to lightly press into the white frosting.

I was so thrilled with how these came out. As you can see, they’re all far from perfect, but they still look so gorgeous! They were a little messy when they were being eaten, but I found that the sprinkles and the frosting weren’t too overwhelming, especially with the donut in there. As far as fancy decorated cupcakes go, I feel like these were relatively simple to make, so they’re great for anyone not super confident with their ability (like me!). Best of all, they were a huge hit with the high school kids Nick works with, everyone was taking pictures of them and getting really excited and it made for one happy baker and some very happy eating 🙂

If you know me, you’ll know that although I have a deep passion for baking, I have an equally great dislike for cooking. There’s a lot more variables with cooking, a lot of standing in front of hot pans and pots and watching, waiting, stirring, flipping, waiting. I just get so antsy and nervous while I’m cooking in a way I never do while baking. But I think I’ve found my niche and it’s casseroles!

Dictionary.com tells me that a casserole is any food cooked in a casserole type dish and, thinking about it, what’s the difference between cooking a bunch of savory goodies in the oven and cooking a pastry? Well, lots of things I suppose, but it’s still kind of baking, right? I’m going to go with yes. I just can’t resist sharing this dish with you guys. It comes highly recommended from the beautiful Kelsey and I wish I had more than two thumbs to put up for it too.

See, it’s literally a bunch of stuff tossed into a pan. A sweet potato, two or three regular potatoes, a grated apple and a big leek to be exact

And then halfway through the baking you put a cupful of gruyere cheese on it and when it’s all done, it comes out looking amazing

See? Cheesy potato-y goodness. Beautiful.

It’ll jazz up any meal for sure or you can eat it on its own! Either way you really won’t be able to get enough of it. It makes for some seriously happy eating.

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I love spinach. It’s probably the best leafy green in the whole world. And when you add cheese to the equation, there’s no way to lose! My friend Lauren shared this recipe for spinach and egg cups from The Village Cook and I just couldn’t wait to make them, but I think you’ll soon see why I might have to file this one under a baking flop. Though is it really a flop if it still turns out delicious? I don’t think so, but I’ll let you decide.

The biscuits: I used a tube of extra flakey ones. I found that the individual biscuits were too big, so I ripped off about a third of them before rolling them out, then I put the pieces together. They all sort of came together in funny ways, but they were alright. Just jam them into your muffin cups with enough on the tops to contain the egg.

The spinach: I used a bag of frozen and drained cut leaf spinach and mixed it with lots of cheeses. Mozzarella, Parmesan, Cream Cheese, and a mixed blend with some Asiago and other stuff in there too. Basically a bunch of really tasty white cheeses. I don’t think you could have too much cheese, ever.

The eggs: Well, this is where things got a little messy. When I first tried to just crack an egg right into the spinach, it just slid off everywhere. Herpy derpy me didn’t make an indentation in the spinach to hold the egg, so they were all too stuffed to keep the whole egg in there. Instead of going through and taking some spinach out, I decided to just use the yolks instead of all the egg.

I separated my eggs using the shells that somehow all cracked nicely. But if you want, you can just strain the whites out through your fingers. Messy, but it works great!

Some of them came out perfectly

And some not so much

But after a few minutes in the oven, the ugly ones were just as tasty. I really loved these, they made a great breakfast as I run out the door to school in the morning and a nice light snack around lunch. The egg was fluffy and the spinach and melted cheese was so scrumptious, just like a spinach dip at a fancy restaurant.

You can dig in with a fork or just take a big bite, but either way it’s happy eating!

Butterscotch and pumpkin? I didn’t think it could work either. But when Annie of the oh so fabulous Annie’s Eats pronounced these pumpkin cookies to be her favorites of all time, I took a leap of faith and tried them out (though honestly it was more like a tiny jump, since I love all the flavors).

Set your oven to 325F. After you grab all your ingredients, keep an eye out for sneaky kitties wandering around eying your treats

Then you mix two cups of flour

1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

And a heaping teaspoon of ground cinnamon

A gentle whisking will mix everything up nicely, then you can set that bowl aside and grab another

In it you should put 1 cup of sugar

And two eggs!

Then, beat just these two ingredients until you have a smooth liquid that is very light

Just like this! Wonder Baker Tip: err on the side of using your bigger mixing bowls for wet ingredients because, more often than not, you’ll be adding your dry ingredients to the wet ones and not the other way around

Speaking of wet, it’s time to add 1 cup of pumpkin to your egg goo

Along with 1/2 a cup of vegetable oil

And a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Doesn’t the vanilla in the oil look really cool? I think so.

Blend that up until nicely combined

And then add your dry ingredient mixture. My bowl was big enough to add it all at once, but if you have a smaller bowl, add in halves or thirds

When that’s all combined, you’ll get a lovely orange dough that’s not too thick or sticky

Now, my sister is a little picky and doesn’t like butterscotch, so at this point I decided to separate out just a small amount of the cookie batter into another bowl and fold in some of my leftover mini chocolate chips from the pumpkin bread. That way she could still get some cookies and we’d have a different flavor on hand too.

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that was a little less than a third of the batter overall. And I didn’t measure out the chocolate chips, I just dumped them in there until it looked right.

And the rest of the batter got just under a full cup of butterscotch chips folded right in.

To my sister’s delight, the chocolate batch ended up yielding nine whole cookies for her. I decided to set my timer for 12 minutes, though the recipe stated 14-16, because they seemed a little smaller than the ones in the recipe and it’s always good to check early.

Meanwhile I prepared a batch of butterscotch! For scooping, I just used a tablespoon measuring cup and plopped them onto the baking sheet using another spoon to scoop out. If you’ll notice, I didn’t have any parchment paper or silicone baking sheets, so I just lined my cookie pans with wax paper. It seemed to work out just fine.

After 12 minutes precisely, the chocolate chip cookies were finished. The toothpick came out clean and they looked amazing!

Just look at those bottoms! Set up perfectly with a little bit of browning on the edge, but the entire cookie is still fluffy and wonderful inside. I was extremely impressed with my choice of cooking time, if I do say so myself 🙂

I baked all my batches for 12 minutes and they all were perfectly done. Including this bonus batch which had butterscotch and chocolate chips in it! It was fun to just toss chips around into everything.

Oh wow, look at those! Now, one thing that was strange was the butterscotch chips didn’t seem to want to stay inside the cookie dough. They rolled out to the sides and even formed little craters as the cookie baked. The ones that were sticking out on the sides tended to stick to the wax paper, making it tricky to get the cookies off. So if you’re making these cookies, try to form them before you bake so that there aren’t any butterscotch chips sticking out on the sides. You can do this by just pushing them on top with a spoon or adding a little more of the dough to the edges around. It’s not a problem at all if they stick out, but this could make your life a little easier later

Hey, it’s the pumpkin bread I made earlier and a whole bunch of wonderful little cookies! I found that the pumpkin and the butterscotch worked great together, but the ones with both kinds of chips were probably my most favorite! Compared to the bread, the cookies are much fluffier and tend to get moist on the tops when you store them, but it’s not a soggy moisture so don’t worry about that. Pumpkin cookies are one of my favorite parts of fall and I hope you enjoy them too!

Check out the full recipe here at Annie’s Eats and have a  very happy eating!