Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Borrowing a Cup of Sugar

I don't think I've ever had that cliché moment where I dash over to my neighbor's house to borrow a cup of sugar. I think I would feel like I had just stepped out of Pleasantville if I did.

 Having neighbors so friendly that you can ask them for anything? I wish sometimes that life was still like that. I always love watching movies and TV shows set in the 50's and early 60's. Sometimes I think I would have been perfect in that era.

And I'm a terrible rambler. My bad. The whole reason I got on the topic in the first place is because I wanted to make sugar cookies. And I thought about borrowing sugar. I know, my mind works in strange ways. Sugar cookies have usually been hit or miss with me. I don't always like them. Sometimes they turn out too cakey, sometimes not thick enough. I discovered a recipe for sugar cookies while still in high school that I fell in love with. The secret ingredient? Sour cream. Yes, you read that right. Sour cream. And it's a-MA-zing!

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

1 cup sour cream
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl and set it aside.

SO much flour...

Combine the sour cream, sugar, shortening, eggs, and vanilla in another bowl, roughly the same size. Mix well. I ended up having to break out my heavy duty whisk for this one.

My shortening looks a little odd because I used recycled shortening from a frybread party. If you've never had frybread, you are missing out, my friends. It's a (tasty and unhealthy) Navajo food that is just... heaven. Anyways, I've found that once used shortening is softer, making it easier to mix.

Slowly add the dry ingredients until everything is completely mixed together.

You'll need to knead the dough pretty well to mix the flour combo thoroughly.

 Let the dough chill for about 15 minutes in the fridge.

Form the dough into small balls, or use fun cookie cutters. I decided to break out a set of cookie cutters that we got as a wedding present.

It felt like springtime outside today, so I thought little flowers would be appropriate. And they're so cute, too!

I put all the dough still left over (there was a LOT!) back in the fridge to stay chilled while the cookies baked. Now, because there's shortening in the dough, it's pretty greasy, and it leaves everything it touches greasy, too. I kept wiping down my counters with a soapy sponge while my cookies baked.

Place them on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake them until the tops are a light golden brown, so about 10 minutes. I didn't want gooey sugar cookies, so I left them in the whole 10 minutes. They turned out great!

When you take them out of the oven they may seem underdone, but don't worry! They're just perfect. Let them cool on the pan, then transfer them to a rack or parchment paper for decorating. If you want your cookies to be harder and crumbly, leave them in for a little longer. I personally like my cookies soft. :)

Now it's time to decorate!

This is the glaze recipe I used. When it dried, it had a very glossy, pretty look. I almost don't want to eat any...

Sugar Cookie Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
2 and 1/2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon lime juice
4 drops of food coloring

Whisk everything together. If the consistency seems too liquidy, add some more powdered sugar. If too thick, add some lime juice. My blue glaze was a little too thin, but I think it'll still taste yummy!

Dip your cookies in the glaze, then let the excess drizzle back into your bowl. Set on parchment paper to dry completely. Don't touch them until they are. You don't want to crack the beautiful icing!

Here's a picture of the blue glazed cookies:

You can see the consistency difference. The yellow ones didn't drip off the cookie. It's okay though. I think they both look adorable!

So, I stopped counting after like, 10 dozen. And I'm still not done. But I'm tired, and I don't get the kitchen all to myself now. Sad day. Oh well. Let me know if you want some of these babies!

Pleasantville picture:

Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm On a Lemon Kick!

So my hubby and I went grocery shopping yesterday. I'm probably the weirdest person you'll ever know. I absolutely love grocery shopping! I know, I'm a nerd. Anyways, back to my story. We passed by the produce section, and these beautiful, shiny, bright yellow lemons caught my eye. I'm a sucker for yellow, lemons especially. I bought two.

Don't you just love the smell of fresh lemons? So fresh, so soothing. And my hands smell so wonderful for hours after handling a freshly cut lemon. It always makes me smile.

I have so many fantastic recipes that call for lemons, and I was excited to test one or two out. I thought of maybe baking myself some lemon bars, to knock that off of my "To-Bake" list, but I'm just not really feeling like bars today. Perhaps a lemon meringue pie, since I always end up with too much meringue left over and I could make that into some cookies. But I didn't want to hang out in front of the oven for more than half an hour. And lemon meringue is actually a lot of work. I'm not sure who said "easy as pie", but they're incorrect! But enough of my ramblings.

There's this petite cafe close to my house that is absolutely charming. It's called Rex's. It feels so cozy and welcoming inside, and I just love a homey atmosphere for eating breakfast. Or lunch. Oh, did I mention? The walls are yellow. Yeah, I'm in love with yellow. The food is fantastic, as well, don't get me wrong. The food and the atmosphere are what keep me coming back! Offered on the menu is stuffed french toast. So great! And of course, their muffins are to die for! Pumpkin raisin, orange muffins with actual bits of orange, and one of my favorites. Lemon poppy seed. I wanted to channel my inner Rex's baker, so today, I'm making lemon poppy bread! Here goes!

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

For the Bread:

3 cups flour
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 eggs
2 tablespoons lemon zest

For the Glaze:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine together in a small bowl the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt.

I love this black and white contrast of the flour and poppy seeds! 

Now, cream the butter and sugar together. I always stick my butter in the microwave for about 15 seconds, just so it's easier to work with.

Add the milk, lemon juice, eggs and lemon zest. I like adding my wet ingredients one at a time, mixing in between each new addition.

Mix in the flour and poppy seed mix, stirring until it's just moistened.

Pour it into a slightly greased loaf pan. At first, I wanted to do muffins again, to better emulate my favorite cafe. But the batter was super thick, and I chickened out. Try it out, if you like.

Bake for 1 hour, then allow it to cool for 10 minutes. My bread wasn't done at just one hour, so I let it cook for 10 minutes more. The batter still clung to the toothpick I inserted.

While you're waiting for the bread to cool, start preparing the glaze. That's easy. You mix all the listed ingredients, then pour it over the top.

I like to whisk my glazes with a fork. I feel like, for smaller portions, like this glaze, a fork works better than a whisk. Plus it's pretty thick stuff.

I felt like my glaze was a touch too thick, so I added just a couple more squeezes of juice. It's fantastic! The glaze is truly what makes this bread so fantastic. I tasted the batter before I popped it into the oven, and I was worried because there wasn't too much flavor to be had. Thank goodness for this AMAZING glaze!

I discovered yesterday, as I was mulling over the idea of lemon poppy seed bread, that my husband very strongly dislikes poppy seeds. More so than raisins, because he'll actually eat raisins if they're in trail mix. Lucky me! I get this all to myself. Until my mom comes by for a "visit". By visit, I mean a "What'd you bake, Ariel?" visit. Then she'll make out like a bandit, since there will inevitably be more to share. But I really do love giving away what I make. When I made all the banana muffins, I took most of them to the aquarium I volunteer at to share, and they were all devoured within minutes. So, go enjoy baking this delicious snack, and let me know how yours turns out!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mug Cakes???

Wow, I'm beginning to think all my Pinterest friends are a bad influence on me! I keep seeing all these horrible, fattening, chocolate-y treats that I just HAVE to re-create at home. Sam keeps getting mad at me for constantly baking and baking. But I did stumble upon a decadent treat that is, dare I say it, easier than my peach cobbler? Oh, but I have! I have, and I'm so excited to share this one! Chocolate Mug Cakes, which remind me slightly of those Betty Crocker microwave desserts. You know the ones, the Warm Delights. So here it is, your very own, make at home Warm Delight!

Nutella Mug Cake

4 tablespoons self rising flour*
4 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons Nutella
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients in a large coffee mug. I always combine my dry ingredients first because it's a whole lot easier.

Now to add the egg, oil, and, my personal favorite, Nutella.

Whisk all the ingredients well with a fork until smooth.

Microwave on high for 1 1/2 – 3 minutes. (Time depends on microwave wattage. Mine took 3 and 1/2 minutes.) This is what it looks like fresh out of the oven microwave.

Top with whipped cream and a little chocolate sauce if desired. Too bad I didn't have any chocolate sauce. But do you know what goes best with cake? Vanilla ice cream, of course! And peppermint whipped cream. That just makes everything so much better. Here's the peek-a-boo of the yummy ice cream.

This makes 1 very large serving!

*I do not just have self-rising flour laying around. I had a mini freak-out when I realized that all-purpose flour is not, in fact, the same as self-rising flour. So I looked it up. Here is a good flour recipe for such circumstances like these.

For one cup of all-purpose flour, mix in 1 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

It worked like a charm. And so will this recipe! A little warning though, this will be a challenge to finish!

These Muffins Are Bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

My sister-in-law and her husband went out of town for about a week last week, and unfortunately, their stockpile of bananas was quickly turning black. And my mom, my sweet mother, sneaked some spotty bananas into our house under my radar. So we had a plethora of bananas at our house this week. They looked a little like this:

Not quite so browned, but still, riper than your average plantain. If you happen to find these babies in your pantry, they are not rotten! You know what they're perfect for? Banana bread! Or muffins. So, after I finished my Brookies, my next baking adventure was this one!

Now, if you decide that you would rather make muffins than bread, the baking times vary significantly. But I'll get to that soon!

Banana Bread

1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
4 very ripe bananas
1 1/2 cup sifted flour
2 eggs
raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, etc (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan or muffin tin.

Sift together the baking soda, salt and flour. Set them aside.

Cream together the sugar and margarine.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and blend between each addition. Add the dry ingredients.

Peel the bananas and add them to the batter. The mushier they are, the more perfect they are for the batter!

Add any extra ingredients that flit your fancy. For me, personally, I love the way melted chocolate just goes with banana bread, so that's usually what I add. If my husband didn't have a vendetta against raisins, I'd probably toss some in, but alas, he would probably never eat my baked goods ever again if I did.

Now, pour the batter into the loaf pan or muffin tins. Here's where your choice matters most.

 For muffins, bake them for 20 minutes, then insert a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, they're done! For bread, however, it needs to stay in significantly longer. That puppy needs to bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Then, insert the toothpick to check for done-ness.

Since I had 8 very ripe bananas, I decided to make both bread AND muffins. Those muffins sure are perfect  with a little slab of butter early in the morning.

Photo of Overly Ripe Bananas From This Website:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Operation Congo Bars and One Resolution Down

It's a very rainy day over here where I live, so my hubby and I are cooped up in the house. He's feeling sick, and I needed something to do. What's better for a rainy day than a day full of baking?

Remember that post about my New Year's resolutions? Well, I've got one done! They're called Congo Bars, but I seriously love the name "brookies". That's really what they are: cookie brownies! I got the recipe from Bakerella, and if she loves it, I do, too!

Also, these babies are way easy, and I really enjoyed baking them! Apparently, if you use a mixer, you'll get a different texture than if you do it all by hand. Bakerella said she liked them better hand-mixed, so that's the way I tried them. Maybe next time, I'll try by mixer.

Congo Bars

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 pound light brown sugar (Oh yes, please!)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
11.5 ounce package milk chocolate chips

By hand:

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Set it aside.

Stir the pound of brown sugar into softened (not melted) butter in another large bowl until butter disappears. If you melt the butter, the batter won't get as thick as it needs to be.

It helps to use the back of your spoon to better mix the two together, like this:

Add eggs one at a time to butter mixture and stir well after each egg.

Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts. Mix well.

Add dry flour mixture and stir until well combined.

By mixer:

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

Combine butter and sugar using a mixer until blended.

Add eggs, one at a time to sugar mixture, mixing on low in between each one.

Add vanilla and continue to mix on low.

Add flour and mix until combined.

The rest of the steps are the same, so I didn't want to repeat them. Keep reading:

Stir in the chocolate chips. I had some leftover butterscotch chips that needed using, so I tossed them in as well. The beauty of these babies is that you can put anything in!

Coat a 13 X 9 pan with non-stick spray and spread batter evenly into dish. I accidentally got a little overzealous with my greasing, but I guess that's okay. They'll pop right out of the pan, right? :)

Here's what my batter looked like with the mixer:

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Make sure you don’t over bake, but apparently, 30 minutes hasn't been enough for most bakers. If that's the case, and the tops are already brown and toasted, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top and bake a little bit longer. For me, I just had to  keep them in for like 3 minutes more, checking them at 1 minute intervals.

They turned out perfect!

You want to see a close-up, don't you. Go on, take a peek. And be careful not to drool on your keyboard!

Oohhh, yes. And they taste just as amazing as they look!


Though the mixer was much easier to use than my chicken arms, success was just beyond my reach. They looked so perfect, smelled so divine, but not cooked all the way through. The corners were basically perfect, but the middle never did quite make it. I covered it with foil, then put it back in for over 15 minutes, checking every 3 just to be sure, and still, gooey and uncooked. I had to leave for an event at the aquarium I volunteer at, and so I left them in the capable hands of my husband. He turned the oven off and let them sit inside for a while longer. And then they burned. :( So, lesson learned. 1. The oven will still cook your food even when it's off. 2. I will never use a mixer for Congo Bars ever again!

If you had a different experience with these two methods, I'd love to hear it! Maybe I did something wrong with my mixer. Anyways, tell me about it!