Monday, February 27, 2012

Lemon Tea Cookies

Who has the best in-laws in the world? Meeeee! Want to know why? Let me show you:

Oh yeah, that's a 5-gallon bucket of lemons. Score one for the baking addict! I've been scouring the internet for something to use these lemons for. And of course, I have Betty Crocker to fall back on with her many many lemony treats just waiting for me and my baking addiction. And I'm getting into the citrus spirit with some delicious Key Lime Pie Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.


So anyways, back to my friend Betty. As I was searching for the perfect cookie/bar/pie recipe, I found the most appetizing little cookies ever. Lemon Tea Cookies, from Betty Crocker! Check out the recipe I'm using here, or follow along with me as I bake them right now!

Lemon Tea Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, the powdered sugar, and the vanilla until they're well blended and smooth.

Stir in the flour until dough forms. You might need to use the back of a spoon to get everything mixed together perfectly. It's really crumbly and using a mixer might not work well enough. It didn't for me!

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. It'll make the dough easier to play with.

Now preheat the oven.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place them on ungreased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.

Press your thumb into center of each ball to make indentation.

Bake them 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. I stuck them in for 9 and they turned out pretty great! Nice and soft. :)

Combine all the filling ingredients in a saucepan.

Cook over low heat for 25 to 35 minutes, until the filling is thickened. Make sure you stir constantly!

You have to keep an eye on it when you first start out. I left my filling alone for like, 30 seconds, and suddenly, I had lemon-y scrambled egg in my saucepan. :( The second time around went much better, though! I watched it like a hawk!

I'm not sure if you can tell, but the mix started to turn a pale yellow. Judging by the thickening consistency of my filling, I think this is good.

This is what it looked like when I was ready to scoop it into the cookies.

Now, here comes the fun part. Use a rounded quarter teaspoon to scoop the filling into the cookies. Feel free to be generous with your filling!

Sprinkle the leftover powdered sugar over the top of these delicious little bite-sized treats.

It's pretty impossible to eat just one, so good luck!

It was another beautiful, wonderful rainy day today, a.k.a. perfect baking weather. What do you like to bake in stormy weather?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Flour Substitution

Gluten-free is the newest craze sweeping the nation! Opting out of gluten-rich foods has been shown to be beneficial to many people, such as people with ADHD or auto-immune disorders. It's also contributed to many weight-loss success stories. Gluten can be found in wheat, barley, and rye. Also, it's used as a thickening agent and flavoring in many other foods. So many surprising everyday consumables have some form of gluten in it, so it can be tough to avoid. I'm not sure how well I would do without my all-purpose flour or my chapstick! For those of you wanting to branch out and try your hand at some gluten-free cooking, I have a flour-substituting, black bean-toting brownie recipe that's (surprisingly) amazing, and it's very simple, to boot!

Black Bean Brownies

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs
3 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 by 8 pan.

Mix all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until it's puréed and frothy. 

The mixture will be quite thin.

Stir in some chocolate chips or nuts or whatever flits your fancy. Go crazy! I mean, come on, gluten-free doesn't mean you have to scrimp on taste!

Now pour it into your pan. There's not too much batter, so an 8 by 8 pan is the biggest you should try to use.

Bake for 30 minutes, then let the brownies cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then enjoy!

Nom nom nom!

My sister-in-law is gluten intolerant, so she uses lots of flour substitutes and wheat-free flours. For Sam's birthday, she helped me make cupcakes, and hers were made with butternut squash. Gluten-free food, in my past experiences, tends to be more moist than most. So bake away, and let me know how your experience was!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Surprise

I've been in a bit of a baking funk this week. Partly I think it's due to this rotten cold I can't seem to shake fully, but also, I might have burnt myself out with the refreshments from two weeks ago. I won't admit this to my husband, but I MIGHT have slightly overextended myself with that task... So I'm slowly easing myself back into my groove. I searched my recipe books, googled images of yummy treats, and even thought of re-baking one of my former blog entries. However, I couldn't find a single recipe that made my tummy rumble... Until this one. It's got it all: chocolate, peanut butter, and a little bit of intrigue. Hey, they're called "surprises" for a reason!!

Peanut Butter Surprises

For the Cookie Dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (unsweetened) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt*
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter*
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

For the Surprise Center:
3/4 cup peanut butter, creamy
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then grease two cookie sheets.

 In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt*.

Isn't that the cutest whisk ever?? Someone gave it to me for my bridal shower, along with a whole bunch of other cute mini kitchen items. Like I said before, everything is better in smaller packages!

In another bowl, beat together both sugars, the (softened, of course!) butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy.

My butter softening ended up semi-melted, which might have contributed to problems I'll explain later.

Add the vanilla and egg and mix until it's well combined.

Now, stir in the dry mixture, and make sure you blend it really well.

 My mix ended up kinda dry and clumpy, so I tossed in about two teaspoons of water.

It's time for the creamy center! Mix the peanut butter and the sugar in a small bowl until there's no leftover sugar in your bowl.

Form about 30 little peanut butter balls, 1 inch or so in diameter.

This is the fun part: roll a ball of chocolate dough about twice the size of the peanut butter balls. Now flatten it.

Place a peanut butter ball in the center of the circle, then bring the sides of the dough up over the filling.

Roll the (mostly) finished product in granulated sugar.

Now, place them on the baking sheet. Use the bottom of a wide cup to press the cookie down.

Bake for 7 to 8 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack or on the cookie sheet before you try to take a bite. Then enjoy!!

This recipe makes about 30 yummy cookies.

*If your butter is not unsalted, you can omit the addition of salt to the recipe.

And that's the story of how Ariel got her groove back! And gained 5 pounds.

Do you have a fun recipe with a hidden surprise in the center? Post a comment below!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Au Revoir, Waistline!

I was going to post something for Valentines' Day, but then I realized I had spent so much time working on my hubby's present that I forgot to bake. I know, me, forgetting to bake?? It's like Judgement Day, Zombie Apocalypse, and December 21, 2012 all wrapped up into one! Zoinks! So I decided the situation needed remedying. Where did I turn, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

I noticed, as I was wasting away an hour on Pinterest, that there has been a recipe circling many of my friends' pinboards. I was intrigued partially by the Oreos tucked snugly in the center of this decadent treat, but mostly the name: Slutty Brownies. Supposedly because these girls are waaay too easy, and they're more than a little filthy. You can see the Slutty Brownies recipe I used here, or just follow along with me as I recreate this horrible influence on my diet. With the wonderful help of my darling friend, Amy Joy.

Slutty Brownies

1 package chocolate chip cookie mix
1 package brownie mix
2 Eggs (or 3, depending on the brownie mix)
1 Package of Oreos (Double Stuf is the best, but I guess you can settle for plain oreos...)
A smidgen (technical term) of oil

The Londoner said in her ingredients list that you needed two, count 'em, two packs of Oreos. I think I might have had a mini heart attack reading that. 80 Oreos??? Goodness. I realized not much later that she lives in Europe, which might explain the difference of packaging.

First off, you want to prepare your cookie dough according to the package directions. Or you can prepare them from scratch if you're feeling up to it.

My recipe called for 1 egg and 1/2 cup butter, since I wanted them NOW and was not feeling very homemaker-y today.

Now, since you'll be baking the cookie dough significantly longer than it is supposed to be in the oven, you'll want to add a teaspoon or so of both water and oil, making the dough slightly gooey.

Press the dough into a well-greased 9 x 13 pan.

You have to kind of plop it, first. It's quite goopey.

You can see AJ's hand as she holds the pan steady for me to press the dough in. It kept sliding around, due to the well-greased greasing we gave that pan.

NOW! Layer #2: milk's favorite cookie! Layer them atop the glorious cookie dough. Do not, I repeat, do not use broken cookies. These brownies deserve only the best! A suggestion from The Londoner that I wholly agree with!

AJ and I really tried to make the most of the oreo layer, so we kinda forced in a few more. Fact: there is no such thing as "too many Oreos."

Now it's brownie batter time! We picked out the richest, most artery-clogging box we could find: dark chocolate fudge. Aw, yeah! Prepare according to the directions on the box. Ours needed 2 eggs, plus 1/3 cup oil and 2/3 cup water.

The lovely Amy Joy is modeling her impeccable whisking skillz. Brava, Amy!

Next, you'll pour the brownie batter over the oreos.

You'll want to use a rubber spatula to spread the batter evenly across the cookies.

Finally, this baby is ready for the oven! 

I love how you can see the layering here...

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I didn't know until after I had baked for about 20 minutes extra that it's actually okay if the brownie part is gooey. In fact, The Londoner said she preferred them that way. Oh well. They were still good, albeit cakey.

So there you have it, a new comfort food to make it impossible to keep your New Year's resolution! You're welcome. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go reacquaint myself with the treadmill...