Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chocolate Crinkle Kiss Cookies.

These chocolate crinkle kiss cookies are brought to you by a wish for a simple, slowed-down Christmas. 

... they're also brought to you by a Black Friday shopping hangover I may or may not have and the unfortunate realization that at 2 AM while everyone is heading straight for the BluRay players and 60-inch flatscreens, I am the girl in the Christmas aisle, loading up her cart with vanilla extract, cookie cutters, and Hershey kisses.

I'm also the girl who waited 35 minutes for a peppermint frappuccino, but that's neither here nor there.

When it comes to Christmas baking, the first think I think about is thumbprint cookies. I don't care if those thumbprints are on top of peanut butter cookies, gingerbread cookies, filled with raspberry jam, or stuffed with peanut butter cups. Let's just be honest: 

There's something so incredibly satisfying about stabbing chocolate candy into the center of a hot, cakey cookie. 

Chocolate crinkles are to Christmas what pumpkin cupcakes are to fall: something I say I'm going to bake every year, but never do because "everyone bakes that."

You guys. I think everyone is on to something.

Also I was also really proud that I was able to stack three of these cookies. It was like baking Jenga.

These cookies truly taste like brownies... brownies rolled in powdered sugar, with crispy edges and dense, chewy, centers. 

Anddddd basically you need to stick a Hershey kiss on top. Because that's what you do at Christmastime. 

My favorite were the Hershey Hugs. White chocolate is a weakness I just don't understand. 

The peppermint kisses were extra bright and festive. 

The cherry cordial kisses tasted like cherry brownie bombs.

But stop. Can we please just talk about the mint truffle kisses? 

These kisses were everything.

I urge you to invite them to spend Christmas with you.

This is a Christmas I can understand. Baking cookies that taste like brownies and sticking minty chocolate in it? Yes.   

BluRay players and coffee shops at 3 AM? Seriously. Slow down.

Chocolate Crinkle Kiss Cookies

Printable Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
Assorted Hershey Kisses (for these I used Hershey Hugs, mint truffle, cherry cordial, & peppermint kisses

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. 

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture, until just combined. Place plastic wrap over bowl and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile unwrap Hershey kisses, place in a small bowl, and freeze until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with baking spray; set aside. Place powdered sugar in a small bowl; set aside. 

Scoop dough into 1/2 tablespoon balls, roll in powdered sugar, and place on baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until cookies crackle and no longer look raw (they'll start to look cakey). 

Remove from oven. Immediately press a frozen kiss into each cookie, then place cookie sheet into the freezer just until chocolate is set and no longer shiny. Remove from freezer and allow to cool completely.

Source: Barely adapted from Recipe Girl.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My favorite things to bake at Christmastime...

It's that time. You know... where life starts to look a little bit like this.

Baking cookies will always be my favorite part of December, more than twinkle lights, candy canes, mistletoe, and Christmas trees. For one, let's be real: they're full of butter and cinnamon and sugar and chocolate.

But more than that, it's about making memories. 

Like... I'll always remember my family getting together to make cut-out sugar cookies with vanilla buttercream, how we had no idea the chocolate chip peanut meltaways would make a hundred & twenty cookies, or how the first cookies we make every year (right after Thanksgiving) are raspberry almond shortbread thumbprint cookies... because we absolutely cannot wait one more day. 

How gingerdoodles came out by being way too lazy to bake two batches of cookies: my mom's favorite (gingersnaps) and my dad's favorite (snickerdoodles). 

... or how everytime we make peanut butter cup treats and peanut butter blossoms I somehow end up with the task of unwrapping all the chocolate kisses and peanut butter cups.  

Sometimes you just need to bake for yourself... like when these fluffernutter chocolate gobs went down.

I remember baking a plate of Mexican wedding cakes in high school for a Christmas party... and eating every last one with my best friend before class ever started. 

Or delivering cookie trays to the elderly in our church a few years back, full of peanut butter reindeer cookiescinnamon sugar cookiessalt river bars, and gingerbread cookie sandwiches and getting totally unsolicited, important life advice in return: go to college, you're much too pretty to work, and get married already.

Last Christmas my mom taught me how to make her homemade English toffee... because apparently my almond cracker candy just wasn't the same thing. 

... and my dad taught me how to make brown sugar shortbread and Scottish shortbread cookie wedges because he felt they were important life skills. 

Inspire me. What are you baking this holiday season? 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Icing.

Thanksgiving is in two days. You're stressed, I'm stressed, there's just no time for lists and adjectives and real life. Let's get in and out with this one.

What: Moist, dense pumpkin cake. Brown butter icing. 

The plea: Please, please make this for Thanksgiving. Make it the day before, make it tonight, make it for breakfast.

Why: Because it's way too easy to skip. Three bowls: mix flour and spices, mix pumpkin and buttermilk, beat sugar and butter. Combine all three.



Wait. This is the holidays. Let's simplify this thing one step further.

I don't condone skipping the brown butter icing, but in a pinch, you can totally just dust this cake with powdered sugar.

Like I said. In and out. There's just no time.

The recipe: Scroll down or click here.

And... done. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of pumpkin pie cake, family, and laughter.

Pumpkin Spice Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Icing

Printable Recipe

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspooon salt 
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter (or spray with a nonstick baking spray) and flour a bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla until smooth.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a wooden spoon and sheer determination), beat the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs and beat another minute until combined.

Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in small batches, starting and ending with the flour mixture and mixing until the batter is smooth.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rake.

Allow cake to cool completely before icing. Or, if you want, you can skip the icing and just dust the cake when cooled with powdered sugar.

To make the icing, place butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until golden brown (more info here on how to brown butter). Pour browned butter into a medium bowl and stir in powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Let stand 1-2 minutes or until slightly cool. Drizzle over cake.

Source: Pumpkin cake from Collecting Memories and brown butter icing from Pillsbury

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Cookies.

I have a secret. It has nothing to do with cranberries or sugar, but now that Christmas is just thirty-seven days away, I feel like I can I be honest with you.

... I've been buying Christmas ornaments since September.

Moving into our first apartment in October was the perfect cover. Hey, we need pots and pans and bath towels. Let's just stop by World Market and see what's up.

"Did you find towels? What do you think of this couch?" Towels? What? I don't know, but I'll tell you what I think of these sparkly sea otter ornaments I just found and accidentally bought.

Oh we need a wine opener and bread? Target's a few minutes away. Let's just pick that up right now.

TRAP. We will also leave with gingerbread ornaments, glittery snowflakes, and twinkle lights. 

The rest of my brain is mildly freaking out.

Why are you asking for my Christmas list. Be real... I don't even have a grocery list. What do you buy the man who seriously thinks a 12-gallon shop vac was the best gift you've ever given him? Where does one find mistletoe? Why can't I tie my scarf like Pinterest? Work Christmas parties. They're real and they are happening. I love this apartment. But seriously... where is the Christmas tree going to go? We still don't have pots and pans. Should I have started Christmas shopping already? Wait... 37 days? What am I going to bake?!?

This Christmas I'm on a winter mission. Like The Hobbit trailer, but with more mistletoe, butter, and Christmas lights. I really want to dig deep and be adventurous. I'm talking gingerbread. Real cakey squares of gingerbread. Homemade fudge and chocolate bark, perfect yeasted cinnamon rolls, something with crushed candy canes, crispy peanut butter balls, and, I'm so serious this time... at least one pie.  

Probably not. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Phyllo, am I right? I just can't deal.

Up first: discovering a new favorite Christmas cookie. Something to shake up my cookie trays with all the peanut butter blossoms and sugar cookies that I make every. single. year.

Like a chewy, soft cranberry-orange cookie, rolled in sugar, if you will, with just-barely-crunchy sugary edges, a chewy cookie center, and all that purely festive cranberry-orange flavor.

I can't stop.

These are cookie tray cookies, Thanksgiving Eve cookies, breakfast-and-hot-chocolate-cookies, Black Friday cookies, I-just-spent-how-much-Christmas-shopping-on-Amazon cookies, and no, seriously: I'm-just-going-to-sit-here-and-eat-cookies-until-I-figure-out-where-the-Christmas-tree-is-gonna-go cookies.

I'm not going to tell you how many of these I ate the first day. I'm not.

Cranberry-Orange Cookies

3/4 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 tablespoons milk, if necessary
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon orange zest

For rolling cookies in: 1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just incorporated. If necessary, add 1-2 tablespoons milk, just until the dough comes together. Fold in the cranberries and orange zest. Chill dough for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon orange zest in a small bowl and rub zest into sugar until thoroughly combined and fragrant.

Roll dough into large 1-inch balls. Roll in orange sugar and place on baking sheet, flattening slightly with your hand.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges just start to turn golden.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Source: From Cooking with Cristine.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fall 2012. ❤

I know... it's still fall. There's still salted caramel in the world, leftover Halloween pumpkins in my apartment, Thanksgiving is still another week away... and I even feel like there's one last pumpkin recipe in me. Maybe a bundt cake. Bundt cakes are festive. Something with brown butter icing? Stop it.

But I'm ready to make room for Christmas trees and mistletoe. Maybe because every trip to Target stresses me out, with those sparkling, lit-up Christmas signs and the Christmas trees and the glittery Christmas cards next to all the red and green ornaments, wrapping paper, and bows.

I'm not saying yes... but yes, yes it does.  

So let's get with it and give Fall 2012 the high-five it deserves. 

And then find some dang mistletoe.

Can September just always start like this? 

I spent seven stress-free, totally necessary, slowed-down days in Hawaii. 

Seven days of this. 

And island life.

Girl... I need to get my nails done.

A gem. From me to you.

I saw a sunrise in its entirety. It made me feel small and connected and totally at peace. 

Maybe it was all the mai tais.

Or the fact that at this hour, please... I am basically still asleep.


Hawaii is all about finding little hidden adventures to be had, just tucked off the road in all that green.

Like conquering a fear.

P.S. Swinging bridges are both awesome and terrifying... and I totally crossed this.

What's everyone staring at?


Bucket list! I finally drank out of a coconut.

... and I didn't like it. Coconut water is just not my thing.

In October I went to Disneyland for magical Halloween times.

I finally visited Radiator Springs!

... where the wait for this ride was almost two hours. I waited one hour.

It broke down.

I switched out my coconut for a traffic cone.

How cute is this? The Disneyland monorail is in the Cars Land spirit too. 

Does anyone else watch Once Upon a Time? Because I flipped when I saw this display.

Sigh... to be a little girl for just one more day.





You think I'm joking. 

P.S. Disneyland, what is your secret? How do you make these giant, perfect scooped-shaped cookies with chunks of white chocolate and peanut butter discs? 

Like... I don't even like snickerdoodles that much, but I still devoured three of these. 

Whatever it is, as I get older... Disneyland is still pure magic. From the tallest peak to the smallest (not-so-small) cookie.

Legendary fall? Check.

Okay. Now I'm totally ready for candy canes.