Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Simple Thumbprint Cookies (with kids!)

I know these pictures aren't the greatest, but these cookies were too good not to share.

   Things have been crazy this month in my house. Mix finals, a trip to Brazil and various other shenanigans, and it makes for a busy start to the year. Last weekend, I was able to take a couple of hours to teach some kids how to bake cookies! 
   My mom's friend runs a childcare, and she asked me if I wanted to come spend the morning with her group of three-year-olds. I knew I wanted to bake with them, but it had to be something simple enough for tiny hands to manage! These cookies were perfect - the kids helped me measure ingredients and stir the dough, and then they each got to roll their own cookies in sugar and make dents with their thumbs to fill with jelly. They were all so excited to see their lovely cookies come out of the oven!
   Besides being extremely simple to make, these are also really yummy. The cookie dough has a light vanilla flavor that pairs well with just about any filling - I chose a mixed berry jam, but these would be great with any other fruit spread, or even something like nutella for a slightly more indulgent treat. Enjoy!
Super Simple Thumbprint Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup jelly, jam or preserves (your favorite flavor)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using an electric mixer or by hand, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Stir in the flour and salt just until mixed.
Scoop about a tablespoon of dough for each cookie. Roll into a ball and roll in the sugar. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.
Using your thumb, press a dent into each cookie. Spoon in a little bit of desired filling.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

TWD Rewind: Finnish Pulla

   Hello from finals week! I have seven (!!!) finals coming up this week, so I have been super busy studying and trying to distract myself from just about everything else I would rather be doing! I decided to take a few hours off today, and I wanted to leave you with this quick post.
 I made this over Christmas break, and it was the perfect holiday treat - it is like a challah, but a bit sweeter and with a distinct note of cardamom (which actually comes from whole cardamom pods!) This recipe was actually pretty easy to make - the only issue I had was when it came to the baking time. The pictures above are from the first baking time the recipe gives, but when I cut into it, I realized that it actually needed about 20 minutes more. After that extra baking time, it was perfect!
  The recipe can be found on Erin's blog, The Daily Morsel.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Falling in Love" Chocolate Mousse Pie (with Coconut Crust!)

   Several years ago, I saw the movie Waitress. It was part of what made me get into baking so much - I mean, how could you not want to bake pies after sitting through two hours of watching others do it? On the way out of the movie theater, I was handed a little "swag bag" - it was the movie's opening weekend, so the theater was giving away goodie bags. Inside, among nail polishes and perfume samples, were a few recipes from the movie.
my cousin was very excited about this pie!
   In the movie, the pie baker names her pies after whatever is going on in her life - this one was her "Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie." I decided to make it for New Year's (it has only been on my to-bake list for five years!!). I found a great recipe for a "crust" that is really like a giant coconut macaroon - just coconut and a little butter. It's surprisingly delicious - I liked it more than a graham cracker or classic pastry crust. This pie is naturally gluten-free, and, if you use shortening instead of butter in the crust, the crust is vegan. More importantly, this is one of the best desserts I have ever made - it disappeared within minutes of being placed on the table!
Falling In Love Chocolate Mousse Pie with Coconut Crust
(mousse filling recipe from Waitress, coconut crust recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)

for the coconut crust
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
11 ounces (about 6 cups) sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie plate.
In a food processor, process butter and one-third of coconut until mixture is fairly smooth, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Sprinkle remaining two-thirds coconut over mixture and combine with your fingers.
Place a 9-inch pie plate on a baking sheet. Press coconut mixture into bottom and up sides of pan to form crust, leaving top edges loose and fluffy. Place a foil ring over edge to prevent burning. Bake until center begins to brown, about 10 minutes; remove foil and bake until edges are browned, about 15 minutes more (the baking time will depend on what kind of pie plate you are using). Let cool completely. 

for the chocolate mousse filling
                                                  1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
                                                                       2/3 cup water
                                    1 (4 serving) package chocolate pudding mix (not instant)
                                                     1 1-oz. square unsweetened chocolate
                                           2 cups (1 pint) whipping cream, stiffly whipped

In large saucepan, combine condensed milk, water and pudding mix; mix well. Add chocolate. Over medium heat, cook and stir rapidly until chocolate melts and mixture thickens. 

Remove from heat; beat until smooth. Cool. Chill thoroughly; stir. 
Fold in whipped cream. Pour into prepared pie shell. Chill until serving, at least 4 hours.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cinnamon-Topped Breakfast Cake

 Happy 2013!! I hope you all had a great night celebrating the new year - I know I had tons of fun drinking sparkling apple cider at midnight with visitors from out of town. This morning, I woke up a little earlier than everyone else, and wanted to make something quick to have as a treat for breakfast. This cake was perfect - it came together in about 5 minutes, was easily made gluten-free so that my mom could eat it, and was enjoyed by all of us.
This is a really simple cake - the bottom is slightly sweet and buttery (despite having very little fat in it), and the topping pulls adds a layer of great flavor with cinnamon and some chopped nuts (use your favorite kind). The recipe actually comes from a cookbook for little kids that I got about 10 years ago, but all that means is that it's super simple to make, and has a taste that will be loved by all ages! It was the perfect, sweet start to the year.
Cinnamon-Topped Breakfast Cake
(slightly adapted from The Everything Kids' Cookbook)

for the cake batter:
2 cups flour (see note)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk

for the cinnamon topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup nuts of your choice, roughly chopped (I used walnuts)
1 teaspoon butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8" square cake pan.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
Whisk in the tablespoon of butter, egg and milk, mixing just until combined. Be careful not to over-mix. Pour into the prepared pan.
In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts and teaspoon of butter. Sprinkle evenly over the cake batter.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly. Enjoy, preferably warm!

Note: This can be made gluten-free by substituting the flour with an equal amount of gluten-free all-purpose flour and adding two teaspoons of xanthan gum.