November 2011



I know what you’re thinking.  Pumpkin, seriously??  That was so last month.

…and I couldn’t agree more.  I have baked myself into pumpkin oblivion this fall, trying as many pumpkin-y recipes as I could find, the more obscure the better.  While some were better than others {ahem pumpkin macaroni and cheese vs. pumpkin whoopie pies}, I think it is safe to say my palate is begging for next season.

Before I retire my Libby’s stash, though, there is just.one.more pumpkin recipe I wanted you to see.

The “secret” ingredient in these cookies is pumpkin butter.  I think this is the most superb addition to cookies since their inception… No, seriously, have you tried this stuff?!  It’s like apple butter’s cousin, if that cousin was significantly more awesome and delicious.  The recipe didn’t use the whole jar, so this will most definitely be topping a bran muffin (or old shoe) for breakfast in the a.m.

Of course pumpkin pie spice also came to the party.  #essential

And the final ingredient in our lovely showcase {does anyone else miss Bob Barker?} today is cornstarch.  I’ve never made a cookie recipe that included cornstarch, but it totally made sense… I deduced that it probably helped keep the cookies from spreading too much when they were baked, but decided I frankly didn’t care why it was there because the cookies were so good.

First mix up the dry “stuff”: cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt with some flour and set aside.

Next melt the butter… again, not used to melting the butter for cookies.  And, also again, who cares?

Mix the 2 sugars with the melted butter in your mixer.

… and add some eggs.

Now add the pumpkin butter, flour, then finally the cute little chocolate chip minis.  {chocolate chips: cute? who knew…}

Then tell yourself 3 times slowly: “I will not eat the raw cookie dough.  I will not eat the raw cookie dough.  I will NOT eat the raw cookie dough.”

Divide the dough into generous golf ball-sized portions and bake away.

These were so deliciously unusual… I couldn’t get enough.  Seriously.  Like so serious I just looked at my watch to see if I still had time to go get another bag of chocolate chips before the store closes.

After all, there are still 3 hours of November left….

Ok, now no more pumpkin for the next 10 months.  Pinky promise.

Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, melted
– 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
– ½ cup white sugar
– 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– ½ cup pumpkin butter
– 2½ cups all-purpose flour
– 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
– ½ baking soda
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
– 1½ cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°.  In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice, and baking soda.  Set aside.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the melted butter and both the sugars.  Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix on low until just combined.  Add the flour in 3 additions, mixing after each, until the dough comes together.  {It may help to use your hands with this process}.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes, then roll into golf-sized balls.  Bake for 15 minutes until the edges are crispy.  {The center of the cookies may seem undercooked but will firm up during cooling}.  Let the cookies cool completely and enjoy!

{makes 18 large cookies}

Source: How Sweet Eats

I’ve always been humored by the waning propriety of the Thanksgiving feast over the days subsequent to it.

You know what I’m talking about:  the first day of this gluttonous pilgrimage is seething in formality.  There are freshly-pressed cloth napkins draped effortlessly in tandem with polished Frontenac and cut-glass goblets brimming with sweet iced tea.  There are lemon wedges for the tea.  In sterling bowls created for that purpose alone.  There is also a designated platter for butter.  Butter in decorative shapes.

Day 2 {or “Round 2″ as it is affectionally called in my household} tones down a bit.  The cloth napkins are stained with cranberry sauce and washing the silver is fun but once. Dishwasher-safe is the name of the game.

On day 3, we all know what’s happening: turkey sandwiches.  Off a paper plate.  In front of the television.  Drinking unsweetened iced tea- no lemon- from a giant plastic restaurant cup.  Dinnertime conversation is so over-rated… that, and Ina is on.

By day 4, all bets are off and you find yourself standing over the sink, in sweatpants, shoveling the last slab of pecan pie in your mouth as.fast.as.you.can before anyone sees you and forces you to share.  Healthy habits, people.  We are building wonderfully healthy habits.

This pie is most definitely going into my holiday rotation.  It’s the perfect mix between a classic pecan pie and a chocolately Kentucky Derby pie, all while being deceptively easy to make.  A crowd-pleaser for sure, guaranteed to “startle and delight your guests” Phil Dunphy-style.

And as for the whole mouth-shovelage thing?  Make this pie and get back to me on how successful you were at preventing that.

Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie

- 1 pie crust (store-bought or your favorite recipe)
– 1 cup pecans, roughly shopped
– 6-ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks
– 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
– 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
– 1 cup light corn syrup
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 4 Tablespoons salted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°. In the bottom of the pie crust, scatter the chocolate chunks followed by the chopped pecans. In a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, butter and flour until well combined. Pour the filling evenly over the chocolate chunks and pecans. If desired, decorate with whole pecan halves placed lightly on top of the filling.

Bake for 70 minutes until the filling is set and the crust is lightly browned. To prevent excessive browning of the crust, tent the pie with foil after approximately 20 minutes in the oven. Once baked, let the pie cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. Delicious served both warm and at room temperature.

{serves 8}

Source: adapted from Emeril via Martha Stewart

This morning I was all prepared to share the recipes for the Thanksgiving desserts that graced our table this past week, but then I made Stone Soup.  Well, actually I made Broccoli Cheddar Chowder… and that’s basically the same thing, right?

I don’t know about you, but my body is still in “detox” mode from all the turkey/dressing/cranberry feasting… Basically, I feel like a slug and hypothesized a nice dose of un-gravied vegetables might be just the fix I needed.

The problem was, I just plain didn’t feel like cooking.  {I know, how surprising…}  I mean “helping” your grandmother, playing with adorable babies, and slapping together a few pies is hard work.  I wanted to make something easy.  Something I could come back to between Kardashian marathons and shooting a documentary on molasses in my Dad’s study {don’t ask…}

If you, too, had enough post-Thanksgiving energy to nod your head, I know you would be echoing my sentiments: easy.  good.  not turkey.

Well, good news, my friends: this soup fits that bill perfectly.  Seriously, the only prep work required is chopping a few veggies… {I even used pre-sliced carrots I found in the produce section}

Don’t be like me.  Don’t fill your plate with corn and potatoes as “healthy vegetables”, stifling your choice validation with “IT’S A HOLIDAY” and extra buttered rolls.

The holiday hiatus is over: this is your re-introduction to real vegetables {ok, ok… that tiny bit of leftover green bean casserole you found in the fridge can count, too}

And the crusty bread?  #necessary

Broccoli Cheddar Chowder

- 4 Tablespoons butter
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 2 cups carrots, shredded
– 1 bunch celery, chopped
– 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
– 8 cups (64-ounces) chicken broth
– 4 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
– 1 Tablespoon flour + ½ cup water
– 2 Tablespoons cornstarch + ½ cup water
– 1½ cups milk
– 6 cups frozen broccoli, thawed and chopped
– 1 Tablespoon seasoned salt
– 1 Tablespoon black pepper
– 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute over medium heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the chicken broth and potatoes, then bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 30 more minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, make your two slurries: in two separate small bowls, combine flour and water and combine cornstarch and water, stirring each mixture until opaque and homogenous. When the potatoes are tender, add both the slurry mixtures and simmer over medium-low heat until the soup is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Next add the milk, broccoli, and seasonings, and cook until the broccoli is just heated through, about 10 minutes. Remove the soup from heat and stir in the cheese. Let the soup cool for 5 minutes before serving to allow the cheese to melt and the soup to continue thickening. Serve with crusty bread.

{makes 20 cups}

Source: adapted from Lulu the Baker

Welcome to the Day After Thanksgiving.  The day to anathematize turkey, gorge yourself on leftovers {again}, and, above all, a fresh day to thank God for your blessings.

Yesterday I…

…was serenaded by Adele and Nicki

…played big sister

…baked {and.baked.and.baked}

…devoured this

…got a lesson in making these

…enjoyed these from ground-to-table

…watched the domination of Angry Birds

…and WENT SHOPPING….!!!

My sisters and I had never experienced the Black Friday, uh, craze first-hand… that is until last night.

After finishing our Thanksgiving dinner, we somehow coerced our way into the Walmart 15 minutes from my grandparent’s house… with resounding confidence, all I can say is never.EVER.again.  There were three police cars, a first responders truck, and an ambulance parked out front… you know, just in case.  Um, in case of WHAT?  $200 TV > use of your leg.  Apparently in Black Friday land, that’s how they roll.

We padded around the store, grabbing some 2-dolla waffle makers and restating our stock in Hasbro.  By some stroke of luck, we were ushered by the “event staff” to the front to check-out, slipping past the 4+ hour line and weary-eyed experts.  After passing the final security barricade, our receipts were raspily highlighted, and we wove our way through the yellow-taped maze back to the car.

Then we stopped at the gas station for ice cream bars and went home.

The End.

#busted

Last night, I was watching Taylor Swift sweep the AMA’s and really wishing I had some of this caramel corn.

I know, I know.  I am reading your mind: “okkk, you wanted some caramel corn… and your point is?…”

Well my point is: I don’t even like caramel corn.  Never have, never thought I would.

Cracker Jacks, Crunch ‘n Munch, and those tritely enormous popcorn trios of Christmases yore… take ‘em or leave ‘em.  Preferably leave them.  Far, far away.

This hate/hate relationship with caramel corn had a brief revision when I was in high school.  The shell of a mall close to my piano lessons had a caramel corn shop.  Not even a kiosk, a full-blown wildly impressive store-front shop.  

{In addition to this full-blow, wildly impressive, store-front shop, you can also visit Fragrance-N-Fashion, The Country Cottage, and Dollarama at this fine establishment.  I’d highly recommend it for all your luxury shopping needs}

Needless to say, I started a little habit with the Popcorn Palace {disclaimer: not the real name. I cannot remember the name.  Guess I loved it so much I forgot the name?} and the Corn Dog 7 next door.

When I moved to college, my love affair with the Popcorn Palace came to a halt.  The one place that served the most elite caramel corn in all the land was out of my life. #crushing

Fast forward a few {or six} years, and I still had not found a substitute for this sweetly buttery, sealant-removing snack…

… until I made this recipe.  No doubt, I have enabled myself to start said addiction all over from day one and that first pivotal bite.

Seriously, I would totally recommend this {and a visit to Garlands & Roses} for your holiday break snacking pleasure.  Making the caramel on the stove is seriously easy and doesn’t even require a candy thermometer for perfect results.

Caramel Corn: a favorite snack of mammals everywhere.

Now, if I can only find the recipe for Cheese-on-a-Stick…..

Homemade Caramel Corn

- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
– 3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
– ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
– ¼ teaspoon salt
– ¼ teaspoons baking soda
– ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
– 2 bags natural-style microwave popcorn (such As Orville Redenbacher’s Simply Salted)

Preheat oven to 275ºF. In a medium-sized pot, melt butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt over medium heat until boiling. Once the mixture boils, continue cooking for 5 minutes without stirring. While the caramel mixture cooks, pop the bags of microwave popcorn according to package directions. Empty the popcorn into a large bowl and set aside.

After the caramel has cooked for 5 minutes, remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Immediately pour the hot caramel over the popcorn and toss with a wooden spoon to coat. Pour the caramel corn into a large roasting pan and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the caramel corn cool before packaging.

Optional: This recipe is also delicious with pecans! Simply add a cup of toasted pecans to the popcorn before coating with caramel.

I, like the seeming rest of the internet, have been pulled into the fall pumpkin baking craze.  As I was baking these, my sister starting naming off the pumpkin-based concoctions I’ve made since the weather cooled off and the results laughingly could not be counted on two hands… in the case of extremes, this has been a very tasty one to endure.

While some of the results were good enough to keep in my repertoire for future fall seasons, this recipe will become a year-round staple.  I seriously have never tasted a cinnamon roll I loved more (including these) and although I can’t wait to experiment with other seasonal flavors, I genuinely would eat these all.year.long.  Pumpkin in June? One bite and you will agree… you bet.

Start with a package of instant or rapid rise yeast {may also be called bread machine yeast}…

… and some bread flour.  Bread flour has more gluten (which gives elasticity to dough) than all-purpose, therefore helping your baked goods rise better and retain the desired shape and structure.  All you need to know is more “structure” = prettier cinnamon rolls.

Start your dough by heating some milk and butter over medium heat until the butter has just melted. {the milk will be warm to the touch, but not hot}… Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the pumpkin, sugar, and salt.  Mix for a few seconds to combine, then add the melted butter/milk mixture to the bowl and blend until just combined.  Next add the egg and yeast to the bowl, beating after each addition.

Stir together both your flours in a separate bowl.  Add half the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat {still using the paddle attachment} for 5 minutes, stopping the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides.  Next add the remaining flour and beat for 2 more minutes {dough will be super soft and sticky!}

Dump the dough into a lightly greased bowl {grease the top of the dough, too} and cover with a layer of plastic wrap directly touching the dough then a clean kitchen towel covering the whole bowl.

Leave the covered dough in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

While the dough rises, make your filling: stir together brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  Yes, that’s all there is to it… you could also add some chopped pecans in this little combo if your heart desires, but seriously, why mess with perfection?

Now it’s time for the “fun” part… Punch down your dough inside the bowl.  It will still be very soft and sticky… to combat this, use a wooden spoon to stir in all-purpose flour a bit at a time until the dough becomes cohesive and workable.

This took me about 1/3 cup of additional flour, but don’t be afraid to add as much as you need!  This is a problem I’ve had with making cinnamon rolls in the past- I was always afraid to add any drop of flour over what the recipe called for and usually ended up with a sticky mess… this dough is much less finicky and fragile than others, so don’t worry about babying it! Bottom line: if you can roll it into a rectangle, your flour ratio = perfecto.

In effort to keep the wreckage of my kitchen to a minimum, I floured a silpat on top of a cookie sheet and used that to roll out the dough… and it actually worked great and was a perfect guideline for how big to make the dough.  #ingenuity

After you’ve rolled the dough, slather on some melted butter… {and although I hate to keep harping on this flour thing, check for sticky edges now, too  If the edge is sticky, add flour…. you will thank me once you start the next step.}

Sprinkle the cinnamon/brown sugar filling evenly over the dough, leaving atleast a 1″ margin on each of the long sides.

Also waxing wise from previous cinnamon roll attempts, this margin is important for several reasons: aesthetics {the uniform spiral shape} and functionality {if you don’t leave an empty edge, the filling will come sloshing out the edges and infuriate even the most placid of bakers}

Roll the dough tightly and evenly into a long tube, starting with the long side of the rectangle.

I like the score my dough with the knife before cutting it into rolls… Since I have a tendency to get overzealous during this process, this helps eliminate the huge to tiny size gradient that I am prone to create.

After placing the rolls in your greased dish, cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise again, this time around 30 to 45 minutes.  After the rolls are doubled, bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown and cooked through.  {I also suggest covering the entire dish with tin foil after the first 10 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning}

While the rolls are doing their thing, make the obvious best part of this dish: the warm caramel frosting.  Start by melting some butter over medium heat.  Once the butter has fully melted, whisk in the brown sugar and milk, cooking over medium heat for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt.

Pour the warm mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and allow to cool briefly.  After 10 minutes, pour in the powdered sugar and blend until homogenous.

After the rolls are out of the oven, let them cool for 5 minutes, then drench them in the frosting… seriously, drench them.  There is no technique here, just pour all the frosting over the rolls and swirl the pan ensuring no nook or cranny goes un-sugared. Let the rolls rest for 5 excruciating more minutes.

The moment of truth: the baking is over, the waiting is over….. finally time to eat some dang cinnamon rolls.

Seriously, one bite and all the effort you put into making these will be eliminated from view… If I were making these to serve for breakfast, I would make the dough and do every step except baking the night before- that way these can go from oven to mouth in well under an hour.

With Thanksgiving coming up, what a perfect time to try these, especially if you’ve never made cinnamon rolls from scratch.  Pour yourself a giant mug of coffee, recruit a partner, and make a fun morning out of it… all while being thankful Holland didn’t have these, otherwise the Pilgrim’s would never have left.  Bon appetit!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Warm Caramel Frosting

for dough
– 1/3 cup milk
– 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
– ½ cup canned pumpkin
– 2 Tablespoons sugar
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 egg
– 1 package instant (rapid rise) yeast
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 cup bread flour

for filling
– ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
– 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
– 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

for frosting
– 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
– ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
– 2 Tablespoons milk
– 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
– dash salt
– ½ cup powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, heat butter and milk over medium heat until just warm and the butter is just melted.  Remove from heat and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine pumpkin, sugar and salt.  Add in the milk mixture and beat with the paddle attachment until just combined.  Next add the egg and yeast, beating after each addition.

In a separate bowl, stir together the two flours.  Add half the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture.  Beat the mixture on low (still using the paddle attachment) for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. Add the remaining flour and beat for 2 more minutes (dough will be very soft and sticky).  Turn the dough into a lightly greased bowl, then also grease the surface of the dough lightly {I used cooking spray for this}.  Cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the dough then a clean kitchen towel over the entire bowl.  Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Once doubled, punch the dough down inside the bowl.  Dough will still be very sticky.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in additional all-purpose flour (approximately one-third cup) gradually until a soft, workable dough forms.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle another dusting of flour on top.  Roll dough into a large rectangle, about 12-by-10 inches, touching up any “sticky” areas on the top or sides with a little flour.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Pour the melted butter on top of the rolled dough, leaving a 1″ margin on each of the long sides.  Next sprinkle on the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, also adhering to the 1″ margins.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes before rolling.

Roll the mixture up jelly roll style, beginning with the long side of dough.  With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 slices. {Be sure to slice in a smooth, unidirectional way- avoid cutting or chopping at the dough!}  Place the rolls in a greased 9×13 dish.  Cover with a dish towel and let the dough rise again, this time about 45 minutes.  Bake rolls at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes until the top is golden, covering with tin foil after the first 10 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.

While the rolls are baking, make the frosting.  In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted.  Stir in milk and brown sugar and cook over medium heat for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer to cool.  After about 10 minutes, stir in the powdered sugar and beat with the mixer until well blended.

Remove rolls from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  While still in the pan, pour the frosting over the warm rolls, letting the frosting set for 5 minutes before serving.

{makes 12 cinnamon rolls}

Raise your hand if your house is still full of this:

Yeah, that’s what I thought.  You and me both… and the worst part is now that all the “good” candy is gone (i.e. reeses, twix, and milk duds), the rest of the lot is just, uh, sitting there.

I needed something to do with all this junk.  Some way to feed it to boyfriends that have unfortunately subscribed to my “good candy” notion as well and are therefore not doing their due part in ridding me of it.

Some way to make it transcend November and be delicious again. {m&m’s walk a fine line on the “good candy” scale… hence the only 3 measly packs left}

There were enough Snickers to make a decent contribution, too…

… followed by some mini 3 Musketeers, a few random Milky Ways, and a lone Twix hidden at the bottom of the bowl.  The Skittles, Starburst, Nerds, and Laffy Taffy above did not make the cut.  That would just be wrong.

I’m sure you could have guessed by now that this little bowl of candy randomness is going to become cookies…!

The reason these cookies are especially chewy, toffee-ish, and absolutely delicious have everything to do with the combo of ingredients above and the order in which they are mixed, but the whole “science of a perfect chewy cookie” thing will have to wait, otherwise it will be Thanksgiving and I will be too embarrassed at my procrastination unable to share these.

In addition to taking care of my extra candy, these are fast, one-bowl, and don’t need to be chilled before baking.  Check, check, and check.

And in case you were wondering, my plan totally worked…

…candy gone, boyfriends fed, and a new cookie staple in my repertoire.  #success

Enjoy!

Halloween Candy Cookies

- 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
– ½ teaspoon baking soda
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
– ½ cup white sugar
– 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
– 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 2 cups leftover Halloween candy, chopped

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the cooled melted butter with both sugars and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and stir until well combined. Next add the flour mixture into the sugar mixture with two additions, stirring well after each. Stir until a uniform dough consistency forms (using your hands is helpful!)

Divide the dough into 1/4 cup-sized portions. Place dough 6 cookies at a time on an ungreased baking sheet (I still use parchment/a silpat) and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until the edges are ever-so-slightly browned and the middle still looks “soft”. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack or plate to finish cooling completely.

{makes 18 giant, chewy cookies}

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