Friday, December 23, 2011

All Wrapped Up

Here’s a little peek at what my nearest and dearest will be receiving this Christmas.

 Two types of Cookies done up in cute little bundles.

I used little paper bags, folded over and tied with twine, and adorned with these adorable gift tags I downloaded from Eat Drink Chic (thanks Pinterest!). I also decorated the bags with a bit of coordinating Washi Tape. LOVE this stuff. Must get more.

For Friends.

For Co-workers.

For Me!

We are having a little get together at our house tonight and I am very excited to celebrate the Holidays with good friends. And for even more so for the Christmas fun in the days to come. Merry Christmas Eve-Eve everyone! I hope you have a very happy holiday full of love and presents and delicious food!

See ya in the New Year!



Can I offer you a Cookie?

In the beginning of december my holiday baking list looked something like this:
2 Kinds of Fudge
2 Kinds of Truffles
3 Kinds of cookies
2 Kinds of bars
3 Cakes

When I realized that I had gone ABSOLUTELY INSANE, the list got paired down to:
1 Kind of Fudge
3 Kinds of Cookies
1 Kind of bars
2 Cakes

And finally:

2 Kinds of Cookies
1 Kind of bars
2 Cakes

This plan yielded less than the jaw-dropping results I was going for. But it allowed for me to sleep some nights, which is nice. The cakes are non-negotiable, as they are for parties we are invited to. The bars – this blueberry bar recipe but with cranberry and orange instead – for a company function. Delish! And the cookies to gift to family and friends over the holidays.
Deciding on which cookie recipe to make is usually the hard part, but this year it was decided for me. In my oppinion, peanut butter cookies are probably the least Christmas-y of the cookie family. In fact these guys, with their orange and yellow spots, are perfect Halloween cookies to me. But… all my boyfriend wanted for Christmas was Peanut Butter Cookies. And I kinda like him. And see, all I want for Christmas is a puppy.
Sooo… Peanut Butter Cookies it will be. And here's to hoping there is a furry friend under the tree for me on Christmas morning!

Peanut Butter Reese’s Pieces Cookies

1 1/4 Cups all purpose flour
3/4 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1 Cup peanut butter, at room temperature
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 Cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Large egg
1 Tablespoon milk
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 Cup Reese’s Pieces candies
1/2 Cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. Combine the butter and the peanut butter and beat together until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix until combined, followed by the milk and the vanilla extract.
3. Add the flour mixture ½ cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Stir in the Reese’s Pieces candies and the chocolate chips.
4. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, placing cookies about 2 inches apart. Use the back of a spoon to gently press down on the centre of each cookie, but do not overly flatten the cookies.
5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

I am way behind on the holiday baking this year! I know most food bloggers have had cookie and cake recipes coming out of their ears since the second week of December. While I had planned my baking for earlier this month, I just finally got started this past weekend. And I’m actually kind of glad. I personally don’t need a whole month with my apartment overflowing with sweets everywhere I turn. As it stands, the loads of cookies I’ve churned out over the past couple of days are going to have to be gifted ASAP if I want to avoid eating them all. 

This one is gonna be short and sweet. I love love love chocolate and peppermint. They are a match made in heaven. If you also love the combination, you simply must make these cookies. The cookies themselves really are like homemade Oreos, but with a stronger chocolate flavour (which I love). And the peppermint cream filling? I am speechless. It is too good for words.

Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

Adapted from Joy the Baker

I was a little worried these cookies wouldn’t turn out, as I had never made a cookie dough with this technique before. The dough really is quite sandy and dry. But you just have to push the crumbly bits together really well before rolling out the dough and they will turn out perfectly. It’s like a sand castle.

The only change I made to the original recipe (aside from doubling it) was to the levening. I only had Dutch processed cocoa left in my cupboard, so I swapped the baking soda for baking powder. If you have regular un-dutched cocoa, you can change it back to baking soda. I don’t know if this change really affected the end result, as the cookies don’t rise that much to begin with, but better safe than sorry. I also really like the deeper chocolaty flavour I got from the dutched cocoa.

Ingredients – Peppermint Filling

1/2 Cup heavy cream
8 Ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 Teaspoon pure peppermint extract

1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to boil over medium heat.  Remove from the heat and add the finely chopped white chocolate and peppermint extract.  Let the mixture stand for 1 minute (this is important), then whisk the white chocolate until completely melted.

2.Transfer the filling to a small bowl and let stand until room temperature.  The filling will need to be thicker to assemble the cookies, so cover and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour, until a thick consistency is reached.  If the filling hardens too much, it can be warmed in the microwave for a few seconds.  It’s best if left at room temperature until the proper consistency is achieved.  I actually sat mine out on out chilly balcony for about an hour, where it was cold but not as cold as the fridge.

Ingredients - Cookies

3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
3/4 c+Cup unsweetened dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 Teaspoons salt
15 Tablespoons (7 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, but into 3/4-inch cubes, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed.  With the mixer running, add the butter a few pieces at a time.  The mixture will have a sandy texture at first and then will begin to form pebble sized pieces.  As soon as the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer.  Make sure all the butter is well incorporated.  If there are large butter pockets, mix for a few seconds more.

3. Form and roll the dough straight from the mixer.  The dough becomes hard to work with if chilled. Transfer the dough to a board and use the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper to shape the dough into a block about 5 by 7 inches.  Cut the block into two pieces.

4. Roll each block of dough between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper until about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.  Use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into 2 inch rounds.  Place about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.  You can form and roll the dough scraps once after the first roll.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking.  Remove from the oven and cool on the sheets for 2 to 5 minutes.  They will be too soft to move straight from the oven.  Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

To assemble the cookies

1. Place half of the cookies upside down on a work surface.  Stir the filling lightly to loosen it, but don’t over mix or it will separate.  It will lighten in color and fluff up a bit.

2. Dollop a teaspoon of filling in the center of each upside down cookie.  Place another cookie on top and press down gently. I found it helped to twist slightly as you press, to distribute the filling evenly.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. My double batch made about 4 dozen cookies. I had a few cookies left over when I ran out of filling, but I like a lot of filling in mine.

Are you all enjoying the holidays? I hope you are able to find some time to enjoy the season amidst all the craziness. I finished up my shopping this afternoon (thank god that is over!), and I am looking forward to sipping hot cocoa while I wrap my gifts by the fireplace tonight.

It might be an electric fire, but I make the best of things. Happy holidays!



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream and Candied Pears

Oops! I seem to have taken an impromptu break from blogging. Sorry friends. I thought when classes ended and I only had work to deal with that I would be all over this blogger thing. But I just could not get with the program! As much as I wanted to want to whip up decadent sweet treats, and photograph them, and write about them here for you all. I guess I wanted more to spend my few free hours on the couch, in my pyjamas, eating cereal from the box for dinner and tending to my overflowing PVR. 

So I did. And it was wonderful.

Anywho, I seem to have gotten my motivation back. Here I am and suddenly the Holidays are in full swing! I think I must have slept through the first week of December because there are now only 12 days until Christmas. That's right. TWELVE. Holy moly, have I a lot to do! And I have lots of recipes I want to share with you. So lets start with cupcakes, shall we?

I cannot believe I have yet to post a cupcake recipe here. The summer before I started the blog, I was in cupcake overdrive. I was a one woman cupcake making machine. I baked cupcakes for every baby shower, bridal shower, birthday, barbeque, potluck, and picnic (hooray for accidental alliteration!). My clothes were permanently coated in flour and sugar, my fingers stained with a rainbow of food colouring and sticky with fondant. I’m pretty sure my kitchen walls are still spackled with ganache and marshmallow fluff in some places. Sorry, Henry.

But then something awful happened… I got sick of cupcakes. 

Shocking, I know. But I think I just got bored. Making cupcakes had become something I could do in my sleep... 

Wet ingredients.Dry ingredients.Measure.Mix.Scoop.Bake.Whisk egg whites.Add butter.Beat butter cream. Piping bag. Swirly frosting. Sprinkles. Wash dishes. Wash frosting out of hair. Sleep. Repeat.

My love for cupcakes had died. The passion was gone. The flame extinguished.

So I took a hiatus from the cupcake thing. I tried out some pies, some cookies, some cakes. For a while I even stopped eating (or making) baked goods completely. It was gluten free August. I may have been thinner, but there was a void in my heart that could only be filled by Swiss buttercream.

And then recently, friends of mine held a party, and when I asked what I could bring there was an enthusiastic request for cupcakes. There is something you should know about me and it is that I am a people pleaser. I like giving people what they want. I like to see my friends smile. And not much can bring on a smile like the combination of moist cake and sweet, fluffy frosting, all in a cute little portable bundle. A cake. In a cup. It's as simple as that.


They want cupcakes? Cupcakes they will get. But still, I wanted these cupcakes to be different. I wanted to create a mature, elegant, grown up cupcake. Not too sweet. Not covered in rainbow sprinkles. But still rich, sweet, and indulgent. So this is my interpretation of a grown up cupcake. I combined this light molassas cake, studded with candied ginger, with a creamy subtly maple flavoured Swiss meringue buttercream. Then I topped each little gem off with a candied pear slice, shards of glowing crystalized sugar, and more of the sparkly candied ginger.

 Now, thats one classy cupcake, if I do say so myself. But I'll let you be the judge. What do you think?!

I think the flame is rekindled.

I'll apologize now for the crazy amount of photos. I think these cupcakes are all so uniquely beautiful that I have to show you each and every one of them. 

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Candied Ginger


3 Cups all purpose flour
2 Teaspoons baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or combine cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and all spice to make your own)
1 Teaspoon ground ginger
1 Cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Cup dark brown sugar
3 Eggs
3/4 Cup molasses
1/2 Cup warm water
1 Cup candied or crystallized ginger, chopped into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. 

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and have a hand mixer ready), beat the butter and brown sugar together. Add the molasses and mix well. Beat in the eggs one at a time. 

4. With mixer on low, add half of the dry ingredients, then the water, followed by the rest of the flour mixture. Use a spatula to gently fold in the candied ginger. 

5. With an ice cream scoop or large spoon, fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full. Careful not to over fill your cups, or your cupcakes will end up with an unsightly muffin top. And no one likes a muffin top.

6. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cupcakes are done with a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for a few minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Maple Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This is my all time favourite frosting for cakes and cupcakes. It is so perfectly smooth and heavenly, and isn't nearly as sweet as American buttercream. You can swap the maple for pretty much any extract or flavouring you'd like.


1 1/2 Cups liquid egg whites (375 grams, or about 12 egg whites)
3 Cups granulated sugar
4 Cups (2 pounds) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
2 Tablespoons maple extract
Pinch of salt

1. Wipe the bowl of an electrical mixer, whisk attachment, and wire whisk with a paper towel and lemon juice to remove any trace of grease. Bring a pot of water to a boil, reduce to low and let simmer. 

2. Combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of your mixer and set over top of the simmering water. Make sure the water does not come to a boil. Whisk constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm (feel a drop between your finger tips to make sure there are no sugar granules).

3. Remove the bowl from the heat and place it back on your electric mixer. Whip the mixture with the whisk attachment until it is thick, glossy, and cool. 

4. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter one cube at a time. Increase the speed and continue to mix the buttercream until it is smooth. If it curdles, just keep mixing. Add the maple extract and salt and continue to mix until it is smooth and fluffy.

Swiss buttercream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks or frozen for 6-8 weeks. Leave at room temperature before using.

Candied Pears

3 Small pears (these were labeled as "fragrant pears" and were quite miniature)
1 Cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour sugar into a shallow dish. 

2. Slice the pears from root to tip, as thinly as you can. Or use a mandolin if you have one. Dip each pear slice in the sugar, coating each side well, and place on the parchment.

3. Bake for about 40 minutes, flipping after 20 minutes, until pear slices are golden and caramelized. Carefuly transfer each slice to a wire cooling rack to harden. 

Transfer the icing into a piping bag and give each cupcake a generous swirl of buttercream. Top with a candied pear and sprinkle with candied ginger. I also scraped some of the sugar from the pear pan and threw this on top too.

Cupcake and Buttercream recipes are adapted from Marth Stewart.