Category Archives: Baked Goodies

Chewy Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies

When I was little, carrots were my favorite vegetable. Now, I can’t really get excited about them. I think it’s because they’re so hit-or-miss – sometimes you get a really good one that makes you think about your vegetable rankings (what, you don’t rank your favorite vegetables? or favorite everything?), but sometimes you get one so foul tasting you have to spit it out and throw the rest away.  Is that just me? Couldn’t be.

I bought a few (3) carrots the other day and cut one up to eat with lunch. I ate it with our new house favorite almond butter – Barney Butter. While the Barney Butter is fantastic, the carrot just wasn’t doing anything for me. I didn’t want to waste the other two carrots, but I know myself and know I would eat them before they went bad, so I grated them and put them in a container to add to salads or sandwiches (it dilutes the carrot-y taste).

The next day as I was about to make some homemade granola bars, I stumbled upon this recipe for Carrot Walnut Cookies from Whole Foods and decided I had to make them instead. It was fate – I already had my 2 carrots grated in the fridge, just waiting for me to add them into this healthy cookie.

Stuffed with only whole grains, and sweetened with only fruit (no added sugar!), this is the perfect way to get some fruit, vegetables, fiber, protein and healthy fats into your breakfast. You could eat these any time of day really, but I think they’d be the perfect Easter breakfast before you spend the rest of the day stuffing yourself with candy.

Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies
(adapted from Whole Foods)

1 cup raw unsalted walnuts
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 carrots, grated
1 apple, peeled, cored, and grated
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup orange juice

Combine walnuts, oats, and raisins in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Add carrots, apples, banana, and juice and stir until combined. drop by rounded tablespoons an inch apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment. Press down lightly on each cookie with your fingers or the back of the spoon/disher to flatten them slightly. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops and bottoms are lightly browned. Serve warm. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. They also freeze well.

Yield: 25 cookies

The one classic carrot cake ingredient missing from the recipe is coconut, and while you can easily add it to the dough, I decided to pour some warm, homemade coconut butter into the little bowl I made on top when I flattened them with the cookie disher.

They kinda look like little birds nests!

These are so quick and easy to make, and a wise way to start Easter or any day!

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Glazed Lemon Ginger Crumble Muffins

I think that we might travel a lot compared to other people. At least we used to, definitely. After we graduated from UK, Brett moved back home to PA for his job, and I found a job in Northern Indiana. We made it a point to go no longer than 3 weeks without seeing each other, so we would go on mini weekend vacations together to exotic places like Lexington, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee, and once to San Francisco. But most often, I ended up flying the 650 miles between us to Philadelphia (because really, who wants to go to Northern Indiana?). Between all the driving and flying I was doing, there were a lot of meals eaten at the airport or in the car on my way out of Indiana. I figured out all the best airports to have a layover in (Detroit and Charlotte), and the best exits to stop at for shopping (always at Trader Joe’s in Indianapolis, and the TJ Maxx across the street is the best I’ve ever been to), the cheapest gas, and the best food.

Starbucks is usually the most consistent place you will find while traveling. It’s consistently pricey, yes, and even more so at an airport or turnpike rest stop, but you know that you’re getting more thoughtful food than most fast food, and it’s about as common a travel option these days as KFC and McDonalds, but with far better options. While I rarely go to Starbucks outside of traveling, my standard Grande Soy Peppermint Latte is always thoroughly enjoyed while waiting out the inevitable flight delay.

The past few times we had Starbucks, they’ve had a Lemon Ginger muffin that is one of the best baked goods I’ve had from the chain. I’m not a huge ginger fan, but I’ve been on a lemon kick ever since I worked in the yogurt biz, so I was drawn to it immediately. It’s dense and chewy, with small chunks of candied ginger laced throughout the muffin. As all muffins go, the top’s the best part, with a sweet and slightly crunchy crumble topping. I’ve gotten it at least the last 3 times I’ve been at the ‘Bucks, and each time thought about how I’d like to make a similar muffin. I finally did, and a good thing too, because I can’t find anything about it online, and can only assume Starbucks stopped making it, along with my very favorite banana pound cake.

These muffins aren’t quite as dense and chewy as the muffin I remember, but a lighter, fluffier version that I can eat while sitting at home drinking coffee next to my husband, instead of traveling 6 hours to see him. I like that much better.

Glazed Lemon Ginger Crumble Muffins

Muffins:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup candied ginger
Zest from 1 large lemon
1 cup sugar
10 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (I used 1% fat)

Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into small cubes

Glaze:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4-1 cup powdered sugar

To make crumble topping:
Mix flour and sugar together in a small bowl. Add butter cubes and cut them into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or fingers, until it resembles coarse meal. Set aside.

To make lemon glaze:
Combine lemon juice and sugar until desired glaze consistency is reached. Set aside.

To make muffins:
Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside.
Finely chop the candied ginger (with a knife or with a food processor), leaving some larger chunks.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time until just incorporated. Mix in the lemon zest and candied ginger.
Add dry ingredients and yogurt alternately, mixing each addition until just incorporated. Do not over-beat.
Pour batter into prepared standard muffin tins until 2/3 full. Sprinkle some crumble topping on each muffin. Bake on the center rack of  a preheated 375 degree oven for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
Using a pastry brush, apply glaze to each muffin. The hot muffins will absorb some of the glaze, so as the muffins cool, you can apply more glaze as desired.

Yield: 18 muffins

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Update: Making Macarons

I last left you with pictures of macaron cookies cooling on my silpat. I was so excited that I had conquered what seemed to be the “toughest part” of making macarons (getting the feet!) that I took a picture, then immediately finished assembly and proceeded to stuff them all in my mouth. After reading countless tales of disastrous attempts making these delicate little cookies, I was happy to proclaim my first try a success, although they weren’t perfect.

Chocolate Macarons with Dark Chocolate Espresso Ganache Filling

I followed this recipe from Annie’s Eats exactly, since I found it to be the most user-friendly and confident of the recipes I’d found. I even made my own almond flour in my food processor, the blades of which must be getting pretty dull, because I did end up with a pretty lumpy flour. That’s why the cookies above are lumpy and not as smooth as picturesque macarons. They tasted delicious, but they weren’t perfect. And since it’s such a long process (you have to plan days in advance!), I put off trying them again.

Somehow I came across this post on Macaron Myths from Brave Tart, and it immediately empowered me. I wanted to try to make the cookies by her recipe immediately to see if it was really all true. You mean I don’t have to leave egg whites on my counter for 2 days? And I don’t have to wait an hour after piping before I could put the cookies in the oven? This seriously shortened the start to finish time on these things from 3 days down to 45 minutes. Finally, they were a cookie I could make spontaneously (which is how I like to bake)! I followed the recipe exactly, and ended up with these little beauties:

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Vanilla Bean Swiss Buttercream Filling

Smooth, speckled tops, and perfectly formed feet! Don’t look too closely at the filling… I still need work on my Swiss Buttercream technique (the problem was that my butter wasn’t at room temperature… I get impatient and can’t wait that long!), but believe me, this didn’t affect the taste one bit. These were addictively delicious and I’m so excited. No cookie can defeat me!

If you want a boost of confidence in the kitchen, and love delicate little sweet cookies in any flavor imaginable, try this recipe. I have so many different flavor combinations in my head that I’m excited to try next! What flavors would you like to see?

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S’mores Cupcakes

So, I’ve always had this thing with marshmallows. When I was probably 7 or 8, my aunt bought me a GIANT bag of mini marshmallows from Sam’s Club. As in, 5 pounds of fluffy, airy, little marshmallows giant. I’m not sure if that was the start of it all, or my love of all things sugary just lead to an association with me and marshmallows, but it stuck. I mean, I’ve never proclaimed my love for marshmallows, but I’ve always been fond of them, and everyone seems to know it. I’m not sure how my sister-in-law became aware of my marshmallow association, but she believes that I loves them, and gave me three different kinds for my birthday a few years ago.

This Christmas, the same aunt that started it all gave me a bag of GIANT marshmallows. These were not your regular jumbo marshmallows. They are probably the size of two or three jumbo marshmallows. They’re huge! Like you’d only need 3 to make rice krispie treats huge. I needed to find something to do with these monsters.

I seem to have come across the idea a few times recently (although I forget everywhere I read it) of “frosting” cupcakes with marshmallows instead of buttercream. Of course I was drawn to this idea, and knew that was exactly what I wanted to do with my big guys.

 

S’mores Cupcakes
(adapted from bon appetit)

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (~11 sheets)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup whole milk
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 giant marshmallows, cut in half

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Mix together graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Add vanilla. Add graham cracker mixture in three additions alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the graham cracker mixture. Spoon into muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

For the ganache: Place the chocolate in a medium heat-safe bowl. Bring the cream just to boil in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Let stand one minute and then stir until smooth. Cool to lukewarm. Spoon into a pastry bag.

Putting everything together: Push an apple corer about one inch into the top of each cupcake (or use a small knife to carve out a small hole), remove the cake. Pipe ganache into the holes, then swirl on top of the cupcakes. Smooth out the ganache with a knife. Before serving, preheat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Put the marshmallow halves on the baking sheet. Broil until the marshmallows are lightly charred, 1-2 minutes. Use a small metal spatula to place the marshmallow on top of each cupcake.

 

Seems like lots of white. Also, look at the size of those marshmallows!

Action shot of my mom chopping chocolate. I used Trader Joe’s dark chocolate because it recently won a taste test on SeriousEats. Next time I’d use a milk chocolate to get the classic “s’mores with a Hershey bar” taste.

You will have some leftover batter. Don’t worry about getting out another muffin tin – we’ll do something with it later!

Ganaching.

Cored. This is also good for quality control.

Ganached.

S’mored.

Chocolatey marshmallowey goodness.

And what to do with the leftover batter? I’m glad my mom was here to come up with the idea:

Pancakes! Just add a splash of milk to the batter and viola! These might have been even better than the cupcakes!

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Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Scented Filling

In my last installment of blabbering about organic pumpkin vs. Libby’s, I will provide a visual that will illustrate everything I’ve been trying to explain.

The organic is on the left, Libby’s is on the right. While the Libby’s is thick, creamy, and orange, the organic pumpkin is watery, grainy, and brown/almost green. If you still choose the organic, that’s your prerogative. And it leaves more Libby’s for me!

Just because I’m done talking about pumpkin doesn’t mean I’m done cooking with it.

I admit I had never heard of a whoopie pie until this past year when I was researching popular foods in Montreal (for work… although I sometimes do that for fun). Since then, I feel like I’ve seen them mentioned all over the place (perhaps because now I’m closer to their origins?) and decided I had to try them for myself. And what better flavor to try first than my favorite?

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
(cookies from Serious Eats, filling adapted from Martha Stewart)

For the cookies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together and set aside. In a seperate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until combined. Add pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.
Use a cookie scoop to drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough about one inch apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the filling.

For the filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
6 ounces marshmallow fluff (about 3/4 of a jar)
1 tablespoon Grade B maple syrup

Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. add fluff and maple syrup and continue mixing until well combined. Refrigerate before using.

Assembling the Whoopie Pies:
Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature or refrigerated. Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Use a small cookie scoop or pastry bag to drop a large (~1 tablespoon) dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

Yield: about 26 finished Whoopie Pies

I made my own marshmallow fluff using this recipe, because I thought it would be interesting. It was fun to make, but definitely needs some tweaking to get it closer to the stuff in a jar. It was just not very sweet and almost tasted soapy? I didn’t notice the off taste in the final product though.

The amount of maple in the filling could also be increased. You could taste it if you really looked for it, but a little more wouldn’t hurt. Grade B is important because it has a richer maple flavor than the more expensive Grade A stuff. And please, don’t use the fake stuff.

I actually made a half recipe of the cookies twice. The first time everything was at room temperature or slightly warm, and by the time I placed the top on the last pie, most of the tops had slid off their base and made a mess of gooey white filling. I stuck them in the refrigerator and they firmed up fine, but looked pretty sloppy, and most of the filling ended up around the edges instead of between the cookies (the best ones are pictured above). I was making these for Brett to take to work, so I decided I needed to make some prettier ones. I refrigerated the filling and a baking sheet so I would have a cold surface to work on. After the second batch of cookies were finished (they’re really easy to put together!) I let them cool completely, then put them in the fridge for about 5 minutes, just to be safe. These turned out much prettier and worthy of taking to work.

I don’t mind eating the practice batch.

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Pumpkin Mystery Solved. Also, Muffins.

My mother-in-law graciously provided me with 4 cans of the highly coveted Libby’s pumpkin last weekend and I couldn’t have been more thankful. I somehow choked down all of the organic cans and I still haven’t found any down here (sold out every time!). So I have been able to fulfill all of my pumpkin desires this week.

This morning while going through my food blog reading ritual, I saw a comment that cracked the “Why is organic pumpkin so different from Libby’s pumpkin?” mystery. Ready for this? It is because they don’t actually use pumpkin, but a squash called the Dickinson Field Squash:

This lil guy is what makes the world go crazy for 3-12 months out of the year.

Libby’s calls it Dickinson Field Pumpkin, and after some Google research it looks like it’s called both. Some people feel duped that its not actually pumpkin and just a squash, but as far as I’m concerned, it is “pumpkin.” This is why when you try to make pumpkin pie out of a traditional carving pumpkin you buy at the store you completely fail. Also I’m sure organic producers do not use this variety either and that’s why theirs is so so bad.

Keep your bright orange-skinned pumpkins carved and outside for the world to enjoy looking at, and keep those not-so-pretty cousins in a can in my pantry.

Now that that’s settled, we can make muffins.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Crumble Muffins
(from Chocolate Therapy found through the Foodbuzz Top 9, and made immediately)

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar

Muffin:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups Libby’s pumpkin
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

To prepare filling: combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl and mix until blended and smooth. Transfer mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Put in the freezer and chill until slightly firm.

To make muffins: In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, salt, and baking soda; whisk to blend. In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Stir in dry ingredients until just incorporated, do not overmix!

To make the crumble topping: Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend, Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.

To assemble muffins: Line muffin tins with paper liners. Fill each muffin well with 1-2 tablespoons of batter. Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. place a slice of the filling into each muffin. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing it on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of crumble topping over each of the muffins. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Yield: 24 muffins

The only thing I did differently from the recipe is I used Sucanat in place of half of the sugar in the muffin, and all of the sugar in the crumble. It’s my first experience with Sucanat, and let me just say, I almost threw the bag away when I smelled it. For some reason this stuff stinks. But it tastes really good, and I thought the molasses flavor would compliment the muffin really well and add some depth, which it did. Oh also, I didn’t wait for the cream cheese to firm in the freezer. Two hours was way too long. It was more like 20 minutes. A little more messy, but workable.

These muffins are reeeeeaallly good. Extremely moist and pumpkiny. Go make them. Now!

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