Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top Ten Recipes of 2012.

2012, you got in there and got it done

Somehow between moving, starting a new job, un-long distancing my relationship, traveling three times, always, always unpacking, watching and re-watching The Hunger Games, and figuring out just how to be an adult, I somehow found time to brown that butter, bake a whole lot of cookies, and put chocolate chips in basically everything. 

It was a good year... and you were there! I know this because all numbers point to you being just as obsessed with brown butter and chocolate as I am. What were you into this year? I'll totally tell you. 

10. Cheesecake Cookie Sandwiches Two Ways: Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk & Strawberry Shortcake

This year's go-to chocolate chip cookie sandwiched around a creamy cheesecake filling + the origins of my brown butter obsession. If you haven't put that rich, nutty brown butter flavor in your chocolate chip cookies, then I may have a New Year's resolution for you. 

9. Coconut Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies were inspired by my fleeting springtime obsession with mocha coconut coffee. Crunchy, toasted bites of coconut, mini chocolate chips, and a whole lot of coffee flavor.

8. Oreo-Truffle Swirled Chocolate Chip Cookies

Inside my head I'm constantly thinking a whole lot of crazy. Like ... what would Oreo cheesecake taste like swirled into a chocolate chip cookie? These cookies were brought to you by that kind of thinking. 

7. Cinnamon Pumpkin Spice Kiss Blossoms

The very best thing I baked this fall and the first thing that'll come out of my oven October 1, 2013: chewy cinnamon cookies rolled in sugar and topped with a pumpkin spice Kiss. 

6. No-Bake Coconut Graham Cracker Bars

These no-bake bars are a total picnic/summertime situation. A layer of graham crackers + a sugary coconut pecan pie-like filling + more graham crackers + a cream cheese frosting = the only kind of math I can handle during the summer.

5. Banana Monkey Bread Muffins

These were one of the only muffins I made during 2012... and they're the reason "make more muffins" is on my 2013 baking list. If you love banana bread and you love monkey bread, these muffins are basically the best thing ever... especially warm from the oven and freshly-glazed.

4. I Want To Marry You Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies made in a pot on the stovetop and full of oats, cinnamon, chocolate, and white chocolate chips. I may not have a ring on my finger... but these cookies got me whisked away to Monterey for a romantic weekend of ocean, sand, aquarium dates, one or four margaritas. 

3. Triple Fudge Oreo Crunch Cookies

Why are we all so obsessed with Oreos? I have no idea, but this is what last January looked like to me... the first cookies I made 300 miles from home.

2. Chocolate Crinkle Kiss Cookies

I posted these cookies just one month and they're already the second most viewed recipe of 2012. Did you put these in your Christmas? These were the cookies that got me through all of December, through the Christmas shopping, late-night wrapping, and those moments I'm not even ashamed of where I needed a cookie to just plain function.

1. Cakey Lemon Bar "Brownies"

Somedays these cakey lemon bar brownies are all I can think about... and I'm so happy they're your most viewed, most favorite of 2012 too. Thick and dense as a chocolate brownie, covered in a sweet lemon icing, and baked with a crazy good/totally necessary amount of fresh lemon juice and zest? Stop it. This is a "when life gives you lemons" situation I hope 2013 finds myself in.

Did you bake any of these this year? What was your favorite? What would you like to see more of in the coming year? Inspire me! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Brownie-Swirled Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.

In the next 48 hours, I will somehow pull it all together. I will work 21 hours, finish Christmas shopping, wrap everything, bake a few last-minute gifts, clean the apartment, do laundry, figure out why there is still a jar of salted caramel in my car, pack everything within reach, and drive 300 miles home for Christmas.

Until then, moments of stress stitched together with moments of pure Christmas magic.

And fat, pillow-y, soft-baked chocolate chip cookies stitched together with fudgy swirls of chocolate brownies and a handful of dark/mint chocolate chips.

Because buying wrapping paper is stressful and nothing is more real than that.

And it all starts here.

Dark chocolate and mint chocolate chips that I bought in November with no real intention of baking with. You could just as easily use a comination of semisweet/dark chocolate and white chocolate chips and spike the cookie dough with peppermint extract if these minty green morsels aren't available to you. December just seems like the appropriate time for spiking cookie dough, if there ever was an appropriate time.

Then these happened.

And by happened I mean... you only need 2 1/2 of these brownies. Yeah. You just made brownie-swirled mint chocolate chip cookies and you have brownies to offer up as last-minute holiday gifts. You are in there and getting it done!

Could we add a few drops of peppermint extract to the brownie mix before baking? I think that could easily become a thing too. I'd definitely leave that out for Santa with the banana bread.

Brownie-Swirled Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Nestle Dark Chocolate + Mint Morsels
2 cups prepared brownies, cut into small cubes (about 2 1/2 large brownies)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand or electric mixture, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla beating until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add to butter mixture, along with chocolate chips and brownie chunks, until just combined. The dough will be extra thick!

Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough in large tablespoon-sized balls onto a greased or silpat-lined baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until cooked through. Let cool 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Source: Barely adapted from Picky Palate.

Monday, December 17, 2012

White Chocolate Cranberry Banana Streusel Bread.

This is what happens when... 

You want to bake something wintry and festive. 

Something that doesn't require a cookie scoop. 

Something cranberry and white chocolate... but in loaf form. 

It's what happens when you say, "What should I bake today?" and your boyfriend always, always answers with, "... remember that banana bread?" 

I do. I do and I love you.

It's what happens when you know you're about to go into the world to Christmas shop and the only way to get through it requires cake for breakfast.

Basically... this is what happens when you put Christmas in your banana bread.

Strip this banana bread down and it still ranks right up there with just-sugared buttons & bowknots and raspberry almond thumbprints. You know: things that come out of my oven that I absolutely cannot resist... because it's basically banana cake! Thick, dense, and... with a good crumb? Perfectly soft and cakey? Come on. Please don't make me say moist.

Quick! Whisk in some Christmas. 

It's kind of like baking pie... only not.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. A handful of white chocolate. Fat, juicy cranberries bursting with a tangy-tart-sweetness.

Tangy-tart-sweetness is totally a thing.

And, at the last minute, a buttery cinnamon-brown sugar streusel. Because Merry Christmas to me!

And to you! Because this is the type of quick bread you make for someone you love. I was hesitant at first about skipping cookies to bake banana bread baking cranberries into banana bread. Would it be too much? Too tangy? Too sweet, with the crunchy brown sugar topping and melted chunks of white chocolate?

Bake it and believe! One slice and it was over. This just became a new Christmas/everyday/right now tradition.

... and I don't know what you're doing Christmas Eve, but I am officially that girl leaving Santa slices of banana bread and milk. If there was ever a way to do Christmas right... this would be that.

White Chocolate Cranberry Banana Streusel Bread 

Printable Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large bananas)
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup fresh cranberries, tossed in 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

To make streusel, combine all ingredients in a bowl and cut together using a fork or pastry blender.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon), beat the sugar and softened butter until well-combined, about 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the banana, yogurt, and vanilla extract and beat until well-combined. 

Stir in the flour mixture until just moist. Do not over-mix! Gently fold in the white chocolate chips and the cranberries tossed in flour.

Pour evenly into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with streusel, then bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.* Cool 15 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then remove to wire rack and allow to cool completely.

*If the edges start to brown before the center is fully baked, carefully place folded strips of foil around the edges of the pan to keep from burning. Occasionally I'll have to place a sheet of foil over the top as well during the last 15 minutes of baking to keep the top from over-browning/burning.

Source: Adapted from my dark chocolate raspberry banana bread, originally from Recipe Boy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Soft, Chewy White Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies.

The time is now. 

In two weeks time we'll be looking back on two thousand-twelve and making our New Year's resolutions. We'll be picking out glittery dresses, skyscraper heels, getting midnight kisses and/or high-fives, and putting rum and cake vodka in basically everything.

So I hear. I wouldn't know. I'll still be drinking peppermint coffee and eating gingerbread things.

I've been stress-baking my way through December, but it's time to face the facts: Christmas is in eleven days. Eleven. Days. No more I need to Christmas shop... but I think I'll make peppermint bark instead. I spent how much on Amazon? I really should make banana bread. My boyfriend and I can't decide where we'll spend Christmas... and my phone bill just came?

Sounds like a bundt cake situation to me.

Can we just stop? Put down the whisk and just chill?

My favorite Christmas moments aren't the ones I spend stressing about what needs to get done... they're the moments in between the Christmas shopping and present-wrapping. Sticking peanut butter cups in a peanut butter cookie. Driving around with my family with no purpose but hot chocolate and Christmas lights. That moment when there's a new present under the tree and I am 100% certain it's for me. Finding the perfect gift for someone. Hiding new ornaments on the tree while watching The Holiday so no one knows it's December 14th and I'm still buying cupcake and/or elephant shaped ornaments.

I think we should just skip New Years resolutions this year and make Christmas resolutions instead. Like... slow down, breathe, enjoy the season. Sing more carols. Watch The Santa Clause. Spend an afternoon hidden in a coffee shop with a half-finished good book and a stack of Christmas cards. Let's do all that instead.  

Wait. Work is calling? They want what?

Nope. Gingerbread cookies with white chocolate chips. I can't even deal.

Soft, Chewy White Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 package white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening, brown sugar, egg, and molasses until smooth and creamy. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves until combined. Add to molasses mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips.

Scoop onto an ungreased baking sheet at least 2 inches apart using a cookie scoop (or roll in tablespoon-sized balls) and bake for 10-11 minutes, until lightly brown. Remove from oven and let cool for at least three minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Source: Barely adapted from Hanging On by a Needle and Thread.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cheesecake-Filled Gingerbread Bundt Cake.

It's two thousand and twelve and I have just discovered the bundt pan

I've also discovered a few other things. Like... gingerbread is a situation I like finding myself in.

Adding cheesecake is bold. Do it.

Sometimes cake for breakfast is totally a necessary thing. Is it cake if there's no buttercream though? One could argue that it's just a round, cake-y quick bread.

One could argue that every morning for a week.

I've learned that baking gingerbread will make it all about Christmas, all of it, for 40-50 minutes. It's basically baking Christmas spirit.

And on that note: let's discuss how deeply I wish I still believed in Santa.

Maybe it's being an indepedent young lady, living life with a career and a pretty permanent boyfriend and her first ever apartment. Is decorating your own Christmas tree and baking your own Christmas cookies being an adult? I think it might be.

Is reminding yourself to slow down, get off Amazon (you've ordered enough already!), keep calm, eat some gingerbread, and maybe do some laundry what being an adult is all about?

It totally is. And if it's not, don't tell me.

Maybe it's recently finding out I have to change my Christmas plans, from being with family to driving 300 miles back in the opposite direction on Christmas Eve so I can spend Christmas day working. Maybe it's that. That sudden realization definitely ended with an angry white peach margarita Saturday night.

I wish Christmas magic was still as effortless as believing in Santa. I wish that kind of wonder was something I woke up with. But I've learned that, as an adult, Christmas magic is kind of a thing you have to make for yourself. It's a real thing, don't get me wrong, but it's kind of like fitting into your jeans at the end of December. It's not going to happen unless you believe it will... and then get out there in the world and make it happen.

So I make peppermint bark at midnight. I let my boyfriend whisk me away for night of Christmas shopping, eating respectable amounts of deep-dish pizza, and seeing Rise of the Guardians... even though there's at least a hundred five other things I should be doing. I very stealthily fill out Christmas cards at work. I call home. Often. Most importantly... I try and put that magic into somebody else's life.

Sometimes that magic comes in the form of spicy gingerbread cake stuffed with a creamy, sugary cheesecake center. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it happens for breakfast.

Bundt cakes are way too easy. It's a mix-and-pour situation. And cheesecake centers? Stop it. I can totally make this happen. I'm not always patient and I'm not always as kind as I should be... but I can definitely can bake you a cake and tell you you look nice today.

And you do, really. You totally deserve cake.

This is real Christmas magic. Make it happen! 

Cheesecake-Filled Gingerbread Bundt Cake

Printable Recipe 

8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup molasses
Powdered sugar, for dusting over finished cake

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

To make the filling, beat together the softened cream cheese, sugar, flour, and egg, until well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and ginger.

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, oil, and molasses until well combined. Whisk into larger bowl with flour mixture until just combined and no clumps of flour remain.

Pour 1/3 of the cake mixture into the bundt pan, using the a rubber spatula to evenly spray to edges. 

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop cheesecake mixture on top of the gingerbead mixture, being careful to keep it in the center and not spread it to the edges. You want it to be a surprise baked inside your cake!

Pour the rest of the gingerbread mixture over the cheesecake, again using a spatula to gently and evenly spread it. 

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Place wire rack on top of bundt pan and inverse to remove cake. Allow to cool completely. 

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Source: Group Recipes, originally from Taste of Home.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles.

I think if my boyfriend had to make a list of all the things he didn't like about me, "not making the same cookies twice" would be somewhere near the top. For me, baking is kind of like reading. I love it, but unless it's mind-blowing, can't-put-it-down, literary perfection... I'm not going to read it again. I'm just not.

Chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, sugar cookies, snickerdoodles... these are the classics. I'll bake them maybe once or twice a year. They're good, but nothing I crave...  except, every so often, when the mood strikes and I'll set aside a rainy afternoon to revisit them. 

Like Twilight. Or anything really by Nicholas Sparks.

Most of my reading falls into the "that looks new and exciting." It's how I stumbled into The Hunger Games and, my new love: anything Stephanie Plum. It's a much-needed jolt from my predictable daily life. 

Then there's the Harry Potters and the Pride and Prejudices. The books I can't stop thinking about. Whenever I close the last page of whatever I'm reading, I run right back to thinking about them. I want them in my life again as soon as possible.

Basically these brown butter snickerdoodles fall right into that category. 

Snickerdoodles just might be my least favorite cookie, but these. THESE.

They're crispy thin, yet have these sugary, chewy centers I can't explain... except I just did. Between the brown butter and that sultry dark brown sugar, they taste like a cross between snickerdoodles and gingerbread.

Basically I ate every last one of these cookies like it was my job... including the ones I froze for "cookie trays." I did that and I am not ashamed. They are the Pride and Prejudice of Christmas cookies and, if I may be so bold, I'd just like to drop this truth here and now: brown butter in snickerdoodles = Mr. Darcy to every girl ever. Mind-blowing. Can't put it down. Perfect.

I think you know. 

Brown  Butter Snickerdoodles

Printable Recipe
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (I used regular vanilla yogurt

For rolling cookies in: 1/2 cup granulated sugar + 3 tablespoons cinnamon 

Place butter in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk constantly until butter foams up and turns golden brown (more info on browning butter here). Immediately pour into a small bowl and allow to cool for several minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

With an electric mixture, beat the cooled brown butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients slowly until just combined. 

Chill dough for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350°F

Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick baking spray. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar with 3 tablespoons cinnamon. 

Roll dough into 1 1/2-tablespoon balls. Roll in cinnamon-sugar, place on baking sheet 2-inches apart, and flatten slightly. 

Bake for 8-11 minutes or until cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Bake longer if you like crispier cookies. Cool cookies for two minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Source: Ambitious Kitchen, featured on Tasty Kitchen.