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 Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies

These cookies not only look beautiful, they taste fantastic! The gingerbread has the perfect spicy taste and the addition of finely ground pepper is fabulous! I absolutely love all types of gingerbread cookies and I can’t wait for this time of year to load up on them. You will see a couple more gingerbread flavored recipes from me this week too. ūüôā This cookie is soft yet firm and is perfect to decorate with royal icing. This was my first time working with royal icing and I had so much fun with it. I can see why so many people are addicted to making cookies with royal icing. There are so many cute things you can do with it. I am very much looking forward to using it again soon.

Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies

Gingerbread Snowflake Party Favors

I used these cookies as party favors at my daughter’s birthday a couple weeks ago. It was a fun way to say thank you to our guests.

Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies
Printer Friendly Version – Cookies
Printer Friendly Version – Royal Icing

6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing (see recipe below)

Directions

  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into snowflakes with a 7- inch snowflake-shape cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  4. Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
  5. Put icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as Ateco #7). Outline the snowflakes with the thicke royal icing and let dry for one hour. Then use the thinned out icing to flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie.  If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. If you want to add any sprinles or decorative candies, you must add them now before the icing sets. Let icing set completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. Store cookies between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

Royal Icing

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).  Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container.  This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating.  Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated.  Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping.  (Remember, if you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick.  Add a little more liquid and try again.)  Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie.  Let stand so the icing will set.  Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.
Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container.  Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl.  If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again.  Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie.  If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along.  Allow to set.
Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired. ¬†Gel icing color is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid. ¬†Liquid food coloring can be used as well ‚Äď add powdered sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.

Adapted From: Cookies from: Martha Stewart; Royal Icing from: Annie’s Eats

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 Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

Here I go with another cupcake recipe, that makes three in a row, not that anyone is counting. ūüôā What can I say, I love cupcakes! That and I just threw my daughter a birthday party and I am still sharing all my fun recipes from that wonderful day.

Last year I decided to finally try the popular peppermint mocha from Starbucks and oh…my…goodness…was I sorry that I hadn’t tried it before! All year long I have been waiting for it to be back in season and I am so happy that the time is here! I have enjoyed quite a few of them already this season! ūüôā So when I was researching ideas for the party and I came across this recipe, it was like a dream come true. It was the perfect flavor cupcake to go a long with the winter wonderland theme of the party, plus the added bonus was that I got to fulfill my everlasting need for peppermint mocha.

These cupcakes were very delicious. The cake was very moist and chocolatey. The frosting was very light and fluffy and tasty, however when I make this recipe again, I would maybe try a buttercream frosting flavored with peppermint. The frosting was good, it was just time consuming to make and I think that buttercream has a better flavor with much less work. I colored the frosting pink because it was a birthday party, however the original recipe is to do the frosting in a red and white swirl which looks really cute and is festive for the holidays. These would be the perfect treat for any holiday gathering this season.  

Pepermint Mocha Cupcakes

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
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Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2-3 tsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¬Ĺ tsp. salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
6 large egg whites
1¬ĺ plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1¬Ĺ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tsp. peppermint extract
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350¬į F. ¬†Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. ¬†In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir together. ¬†Combine the milk, coffee and peppermint extract in a liquid measuring cup.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the eggs one at a time.   Alternately mix in the dry and liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.   Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof¬†bowl set over a pot of simmering water. ¬†Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160¬į F and the sugar has dissolved. ¬†Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. ¬†Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. ¬†Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. ¬†If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more. ¬†Stir in the peppermint and vanilla extracts and mix just until incorporated.
If you would like a red and white swirled frosting effect, remove about half of the frosting to a bowl. ¬†With the remaining frosting in the mixing bowl, add red gel coloring and mix until you have achieved the desired shade. ¬†Fit a pastry bag with a large tip. ¬†Fill one side of the pastry bag with the white frosting, and then fill in the other side with the red frosting (this does not need to be exact ‚Äď just enough so that both colors are included.) ¬†Pipe a test streak until you see both colors coming out of the tip. ¬†Frost cupcakes as desired, refilling the pastry bag in the same manner as needed.

Adapted From: Annie’s Eats

Snow Globe Cupcakes

 Snow Globe Cupcakes

Here are the¬†specific photos and instructions to make the beautiful snow globe cupcakes that I made for my daughter’s 4th birthday party. I found these cute little cupcakes in the fun cupcake book, Hello, Cupcake!¬†These cupcakes were so much fun to¬†research¬†and¬†create, and the kids had a fabulous time eating them! I had so much fun putting these together and Katelyn was so excited when she saw them all completed. You will be a hit at any holiday party with these super cute cupcakes!
Snow Globe Cupcakes

Snow Globe Cupcakes

Snow Globe Cupcakes

Snowglobe Cupcakes

Snow Globe Cupcakes
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6 jumbo cupcakes (your choice of flavor – I used blueberry cupcakes) baked in silver foil liners
16 ounces of vanilla frosting (I used a homemade vanilla butter cream)
Green food coloring
2 tablespoons chocolate frosting (I used the vanilla butter cream and added cocoa powder to make it brown)
2 tablespoons snowflake sprinkles (I found them at Country Kitchen Sweet Art)
1 tablespoon blue nonpareils (I found them at Country Kitchen Sweet Art)
12 chocolate covered graham cracker or cookie (I used a dark chocolate covered cookie sold at Target)

For the House Snow Globes (Makes 2 Snow Globes)
1 whole graham cracker
1 red sour straw candy (Sour Punch Straws)
2 Starburst fruit chews (colors of your choice, these are for the doors and windows. I used red for the door and yellow for windows.)
1 Tootsie Roll candy

For the Snowman Snow Globes (Makes 2 Snow Globes)
2 large white spice drops
1 orange spice drop
2 pieces of black licorice candy
Black licorice laces or 2 additional pieces of black licorice

* The original recipe in the book makes 2 Christmas tree snow globes as follows, we however made number ‚Äú4‚Äôs‚ÄĚ for my daughters 4th birthday on the remaining two, so we do not have photos of the tree cupcakes

For the Tree Snow Globes (Makes 2 Snow Globes)
1 Tootsie Roll candy
2 small yellow star candies

Directions:
Tint ¬Ĺ cup of the vanilla frosting green with green food coloring and spoon it into a Ziploc bag. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the vanilla frosting into a small Ziploc bag. Spoon the chocolate frosting into a Ziploc bag. Press out the excess air in the bags of frosting and seal.

Spread the remaining vanilla frosting on the top of the cupcakes and smooth. Sprinkle the top of the cupcakes with some of the snowflake sprinkles and the blue nonpareils.

For the House Snow Globes
Using a serrated knife, cut out 2 house shapes out of the graham cracker. Press the house crackers into the frosting on 2 of the cupcakes, with the peak toward the center and the flat side at the edge of the cupcake. Cut the red sour straw into 4 segments 2 ¬Ĺ inch lengths for the roof and place 2 pieces along the roofline of each graham cracker house, allowing the straws to overhang slightly on each side. Roll out the Starburst fruit chews on a sheet of wax paper to ‚Öõ inch thick. Cut the fruit chews into four ¬ľ inch squares for the windows and ¬Ĺ by ‚Öď inch rectangles for the doors. Cut 2 small chimneys from the Tootsie Roll candy and add one to each roof. Snip a ‚Öõ inch corner from the bags with the vanilla, green and chocolate frosting. Pipe 3 small dots on each house and attach the windows and doors. Using the green frosting, pipe bushes at the edge of the house. Using a squeeze and pull technique, pipe vanilla frosting icicles along the bottom of the roof. Add a dot of chocolate frosting for the doorknob. Add several dots of vanilla frosting to the house and press a few snowflake sprinkles into the frosting.

For the Snowman Snow Globes
Cut each white spice drop in half crosswise. Roll out the bottom half to make a disk that is slightly larger in diameter than the top half. For the body of each snowman, press the flattened disk at the bottom edge of the cupcake, cut side down. Place the top half of the spice drop, cut side down, above the disk to make the head. Cut the orange spice drop into 2 small triangle noses and attach 1 to each head with a small dot of vanilla frosting.

Trim each licorice candy into a ¬Ĺ square to make the hat. Cut two ¬ĺ inch pieces of licorice lace (or the other 2 licorice candies) for the hat brims and press 1 into the fro above the head on each cupcake. Add a square of licorice to make the hat. Pipe a green frosting scarf across the neck, where the head touches the body. Using the chocolate frosting, pipe eyes, a mouth and 3 buttons down the middle of the snowman. Add a few dots of the vanilla frosting to the house and press a few snowflake sprinkles into the frosting.

For the Tree Snow Globes
Cut the Tootsie Roll candy into two ¬Ĺ by 1 inch pieces. Press 1 piece into the frosting at the bottom edge of each cupcake for the tree trunk. To make the tree, pipe a 1 ¬Ĺ inch wide row of vertical lines of green frosting across the top of the tree trunk, squeezing and pulling each line into a long downward point. Pipe the next row above and overlapping the first. Continue piping in this way, each row smaller than the last, to make a tree shape. Sprinkle a few snowflake sprinkles and nonpareils on the tree. Top each tree with a yellow star candy.

Blueberry Cupcakes

 Blueberry Cupcakes

When I asked¬† my daughter what kind of¬† cupcake she wanted for her birthday she immediately said “strawberry” then¬†VERY quickly she changed her mind to blueberry and that is all she wanted after she came up with that idea! I was thinking blueberry?¬†I had never heard of blueberry cupcakes,¬†but I¬†knew my foodie¬†bloggers would not let me¬†down, so thanks to Food Gawker,¬†I found this fabulous recipe! I used these for the snow globe cupcakes that I made for my daughters party, but I managed to save a few extra for us to enjoy. ūüôā These cupcakes were absolutely delicious! The cake was perfectly sweet with a¬†subtle blueberry flavor. The blueberry is pureed¬†so the cupcakes are a very beautiful¬†purplish blue color, which¬†was fun for the kids. ¬†This buttercream¬†frosting is out of this world delicious! This will now be my go to buttercream for future cupcake recipes!

Blueberry Cupcake

Blueberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Printer Friendly Version – Cupcakes
Printer Friendly Version – Frosting

Blueberry Cupcakes
Makes about 18 cupcakes

2 cups + 2 tablespoons sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups of Sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of blueberry puree
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F and line cupcake pan with paper liners

Blueberry Puree:
Bring one pound of blueberries (fresh or frozen) to a boil in a sauce pan. I used organic frozen blueberries. Reduce heat to low and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 1/2 hour) and the mixture is thick, making sure to stir often. Cool the blueberries slightly and place in a food processor. Mix until smooth. For an
extra smooth puree pass mixture through a fine sieve before using, but I didn’t do this and it was fine. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Cupcake:
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating until incorporated after each one.
Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Mix milk with 1/2 cup of blueberry puree and vanilla. Add wet and dry ingredients alternately to butter/sugar mixture starting and ending with the dry ingredients in three additions. Mix until just incorporated after each addition. Do not over beat batter. The batter will puff up when baking, but then settle again once it cools, so you want to make sure that you fill each liner at least 3/4 full of batter. If you want an extra punch of flavor you can mix in a little of the blueberry puree into each cupcake and swirl slightly with a wooden skewer or small spoon. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until cake springs back to the touch. Cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Ingredients:
20 tbsp. (2 ¬Ĺ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ¬Ĺ cups confectioners‚Äô sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream  

Directions:
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.  

Adapted From: Cupcakes: Blondies Cakes¬†& Things¬†Frosting: Annie’s Eats

 4th Birthday Invite

Wow! I can’t believe my little girl just turned 4! She is such a sweet little girl and it has been so much fun watching her grow and learn. Ever since her 1st birthday I have put a lot of thought and time into the theme of her parties, the invitations, the food and of course the desserts. I have so much fun planning and preparing for her special day (and my younger daughter’s birthdays as well). This year Katelyn helped with the theme and one of the cupcake flavors. Her and I sat down together and looked through a cupcake book, Hello, Cupcake! , and she picked the snowglobe cupcakes and she wanted them to be blueberry flavored.

ÔĽŅSnowglobe Cupcakes

Since her birthday is in December I thought it was a fun choice. Once I knew I was going to have a December baby, I never planned to do a Christmas theme for her birthday (unless she absolutely would like one) so with this theme I decided to just stick to a winter wonderland theme and focused more on snowflakes and snow. Now living in Southern California we really have to imagine and create a winter wonderland, but I think we did a pretty good job.

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We had so much fabulous food and I can’t wait to share all the recipes with you all over the next few weeks. Here was the menu for her fun and special day followed by some of the photos:

Appetizers:
White Bean Dip with Pita Chips and Home Made Pita Bread
Spicy Cheddar and Cream Cheese Dip with Tortilla Chips
Veggie Platter with Ranch Dip

Main Course:
Beef Sliders
Chicken Sliders
Winter Salad with Candied Pecans, Cranberries, Pears and Feta Cheese
Fruit Salad
Potato Chips

Desserts:
Blueberry Flavored Snowglobe Cupcakes
Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
Oatmeal Cranberry and Pecan Spice Cookies

Party Favors:
Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies Decorated with Royal Icing

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All the yummy appetizers!

Lots of Yummy Desserts

All the yummy desserts!

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes with snowflake sprinkles!

Gingerbread Snowflake Party Favors

A little “Thank You” to all our fabulous guests! We had such a wonderful time and we are¬†so glad that everyone could share Katelyn’s special day with us!

Katelyn is 4!

Happy 4th Birthday sweet baby girl! We love you so much!

Italian Bread

 Italian Bread
I have really been enjoying learning to work with yeast. It is not as scary as I thought it was going to be and I can’t wait to try so many new recipes. Although I am not sure many can top this recipe!¬†I absolutely love bread dipped in oil and vinegar and this bread was perfect for dipping. It has the perfect crusty outside with the soft spongy inside. The flavor of this bread is also perfect. It is just like the bread they would serve you at a nice Italian restaurant. This¬†is a recipe that I plan to make very often. ln fact I¬†plan to¬†make it¬†to go with¬†our Christmas¬†Eve dinner this year which is usually an Italian themed meal. If you love crusty bread, I promise this recipe will not disappoint!

Italian Bread
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Overnight Starter
3/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
Dough
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 cup water
2 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons saltTopping
1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water
sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:
The Starter: Mix the starter ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.

Manual Method: In a large bowl, combine the starter and the remainder of the dough ingredients, stirring till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it’s supple, but the surface is still somewhat rough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes, turning it over and gently deflating it after 45 minutes.

Mixer Method: Combine the ingredients as above, using a flat beater paddle or beaters, then switch to the dough hook(s) and knead for about 5 minutes; the dough should have formed a ball, but its surface will still be a bit rough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes, turning it over and gently deflating it after 45 minutes.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients, including the starter, into the pan of your machine, program the machine for manual or dough, and press Start. When the cycle is finished, remove the dough, deflate it gently, and let it rest, covered, for 30 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into three pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch rope. Braid the ropes (tucking the ends under), set the braid on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise it rise for about 60 to 90 minutes, or till it’s very puffy.

Brush the braid with the egg white glaze. Sprinkle it heavily with sesame seeds. Bake the bread in a preheated 425¬įF oven for 25 to 35 minutes; the longer it bakes, the crunchier it’ll be. Remove it from the oven and cool it on a wire rack (or cool it in the turned-off, door-propped open oven). Yield: 1 loaf.

Adapted From: King Arthur

 Oatmeal, Cranberry and Pecan Spice Cookies
I am not one for dried fruit or nuts in my cookies, however I could not stop eating these cookies! These cookies are absolutely fantastic!!! They have a wonderful blend of flavors with all the spices, molasses, sweet cranberries and nutty crunchy pecans. They have a gingerbread like flavor (I love gingerbread and molasses cookies!) with the texture of an¬†oatmeal cookie. These are the perfect cookie for the fall holiday season. This recipe is easily adaptable to fit your personal fruit, nut or chocolate preferences. I think these would be great with some walnuts and mini chocolate chips…I¬†just might have to try that combination very soon! So grab a big glass of milk or hot steamy cup of coffee (that is my favorite way¬†to eat¬†them) and enjoy these super delicious cookies!

Oatmeal, Cranberry and Pecan Spice Cookies

Oatmeal, Cranberry and Pecan Spice Cookies
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Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 Tbs. dark molasses
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Directions:
Preheat an oven to 375¬įF. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and continue beating until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your finger and thumb. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the molasses and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon just until blended. Beat or stir in the oats, dates and walnuts just until evenly distributed.

Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared pans, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies until the edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle the cookies with coarse sugar while they are still warm. Let the cookies cool on the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then transfer them to the racks and let cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Adapted from: Williams-Sonoma