Friday, February 16, 2018

On Friday's We Bake: Thumbprint Cookies

I love canning in the summer and making big batches of strawberry and plum jam. I give most of them away as gifts through out the year, but I always save a few jars to make these timeless classic cookies.

Aren't they pretty? You will love them!

These jam thumbprint cookies are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. An added bonus about this recipe is that it is customizable! The base of this cookie is so versatile, it can be filled with just about anything from jam to caramel or Nutella.


Because Valentine's Day was this week... I still had heart shapes on the brain, so we made "Double Thumbprint" Cookies. We just crisscrossed our thumbprints to make the heart shape. Normally we just do one thumbprint or use a 1/2 teaspoon to make the indents.


To fill the indents easily after baking, I placed the jam in a sandwich bag, snipped off the corner, and let the kids pipe out a heart shape into the indentations.


Here is the recipe for these sweet, buttery, absolutely irresistible cookies.

Ingredients:



2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour


Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy (about 5-6 minutes).

3. Mix in vanilla and beat until combined, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as needed. Turn mixer off then slowly add in cornstarch and flour. Turn mixer back on low and beat until the dough starts to crumble and clump together. If dough seems too wet - add a tablespoon of flour. If dough is too dry, add a teaspoons milk.

4. Turn mixer off and gather the dough with your hands to press the dough down and together while kneading and squishing the dough with your palms to form a big ball. This might take about 2 minutes. The warmth from your hands will soften the dough and form together.

5. Pick off roughly 1" pieces and roll and squish tightly into round cookie dough balls and place about 1.5" apart onto prepared baking sheets. Make an indentation with thumb or using a 1/2 teaspoon in the center of each dough ball.

6. Bake in oven about 10. Be careful not to overbake, as the cookies will continue cooking as they are cooling. Remove from oven and indent center again if necessary with the back of a spoon. Dough will continue to cook as it cools.

7. Allow to dry on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wired cookie rack to cool completely. Fill with your favorite jam and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Friday, February 9, 2018

On Friday's We Bake: Brownies


This is my favorite brownie recipe! You can easily make this sweet treat with your kids from scratch without expelling a lot of time, money, or energy.


A lot of brownie recipes are made from chocolate bars. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't have any chocolate bars jut hanging around my kitchen. (My mouth, maybe.) Instead, we will be using cocoa powder, which as an added bonus eliminates that extra step needed to carefully melt the chocolate.


 You only need 1 bowl, 5 ingredients, and 30 minutes in the oven to whip up these chewy, fudgy, oh-so chocolatey brownies. The awesome thing about this recipe is that the ingredients couldn't be more basic. In fact, I bet you have all of them in your kitchen right now, so lets get started!

INGREDIENTS
½ cup flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup salted butter, melted
2 eggs
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1. Prepare the ingredients and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-9-inch baking pan.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, butter and eggs. Stir just until combined.

3. Bake the brownies for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into smaller squares.

Best served warm, with cold milk, a good book!




Friday, February 2, 2018

On Friday's We Bake: Bread

Ah bread. Apart from the wonderful aroma and cozy hygge feeling it instills in many of us; baking bread is also an incredible learning opportunity for kids. There's the obvious sensory, math, reading, and science... but there's also the whole culture of bread making, its history, and different recipes.


Baking bread takes time, but this recipe is perfect for a lazy pajama or snow day.

- 3 cups of AP flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 packet, or about 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar or brown sugar or honey
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 cup warm water (not hot, just warm)

1. Using your kitchen aid mixer or a big bowl and wooden spoon,  measure the flour into the bowl.  Make sure your flour measurements are level with the top of the measuring cup. Don’t pack the flour down into the cup. Just scoop it in lightly, and have your child even off the top of it with their finger by brushing off the excess. Next, add the salt, sugar and yeast. Stir the yeast, salt, sugar and flour all together.

2. Now measure in your oil. Add a cup of warm water. If the water is too hot and it will kill the yeast. Stir the dough with your spoon or dough hook attachment to your electric mixer until it gets sticky and stiff.

3. Next, dig into the dough with clean hands. It will be gooey, and warm... your kids will love this! Work the dough, right there in the bowl. Scrape the dough off of your fingers as needed and try to get the dough together into a ball. If it is too sticky, then add more flour. If it is too dry, then add a little of water at a time, to get it right. Keep mixing and mashing until you get a ball of dough, turn the dough out onto your counter or kitchen table. Scatter a bit of flour about the dough, and around the counter. Knead the dough. Press it, fold it, stretch it, turn it. Keep kneading the dough for a full 5 minutes.

I usually tear off a smaller piece for the kids to knead.

4. Pour a tablespoon of oil into an empty clean bowl. Place the ball of dough into the clean bowl, on top of the oil. Roll the dough around in the oil, to coat it evenly. Place the dough in a warm spot, or on the counter near the stove. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Allow the dough to sit and rise. You'll want it to double in size, this may take up to 2 hours. Sometimes this happens in as quickly as an hour, but usually it takes longer, especially if the kitchen is cold.

5. When it is well risen, have your child put their fist into the dough and smash down to force all the air out of it. Knead the dough again. This time, just knead it for a minute or so. Long enough to get all the air out of it.

6. Oil a large loaf pan. If you don’t have a loaf pan, then use a casserole pan, or a round cake pan. Coax the dough into the shape of the pan you are going to bake it in. Cover it with a dish towel or plastic wrap again. Set it aside and let it rise for about an hour to an hour and a half. It should double in size again.

7. After it has risen enough, it is time to bake it. Set the oven to 350°. Place the bread into the oven. You do not need to preheat the oven. Let the bread bake for 30 to 40 minutes. When it is done the top will be golden brown. Carefully turn the hot bread out of the pan and onto a dishtowel on the counter. Be careful not to burn yourself. Flick the bottom with your finger. If it sounds hollow then it is done. If it doesn’t sound hollow, then put it back into the pan and bake it some more.


8. Allow the bread to cool down for a few minutes before slicing it. When you slice it, use a serrated knife and saw back and forth across the bread like you are sawing a log.

If by some miracle you don't eat all of this fresh out of the oven with a little bit of butter or jam... this bread makes amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and French toast.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Pumpkin Bundt Cake



It's October, the month of all things pumpkin! Seriously, all of the things are pumpkin. I'm not just talking about pies, donuts, and lattes. They even have pumpkin flavored Oreo's, Cheerios, and gum. Well, you want to know what's not pumpkin?--this cake!

To make this pumpkin shaped (not flavored!) cake, I used this delicious vanilla bundt cake recipe. Be sure to double the recipe if you have two bundt cake pans. I only have one, so this became an all day event while I waited for one cake to bake and cool, and then make another batch of batter before I could finally reuse the pan.



Once both of your cakes are cooled, you will flip one of them upside down. This will be the bottom half of your pumpkin. Spread some frosting on the top (technically bottom) of your upside down cake--this will act as a glue for the top half of your pumpkin. Place the second bundt cake right side up directly on top of the frosting. You should start to see a pumpkin shape now. Cover with orange frosting and stick a small green log shaped piece of fondant on top for the stem. Ta-da!

Bippity Boppity BOO! -- see what I did there?
Now put a glass slipper next to it, because you think you are so clever and might possibly be a huge Disney freak.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Did you know that Boston cream pie is the official dessert of Massachusetts? I suppose that's an easy guess because "Boston" is in the name, but it's a fun fact that I didn't know about until recently. Thanks to my 6 year old for being part of a post card exchange group, I've been researching interesting (and sometimes tasty) facts about Massachusetts.


If you've never heard of a post card exchange group, it's when you mail out 50 post cards and receive one back from each state. It's a fun way to teach geography, learn unique state facts, and if you're like me... another excuse to bake.


To make Boston cream pie cupcakes, you will need your favorite yellow cupcake and pastry cream recipe. If you want to cut corners and use box mix and instant pudding, go for it! However, I do recommend taking the time to make a whipped chocolate ganache. It's not only super easy to make, it's also a lot of fun to say. Say it with me: ganache. See? What did I tell you? Fun!


Once your cupcakes are baked, your pastry cream set, and your chilled ganache is a peanut butter consistency; you are ready to assemble. First, take tip 230 and place it inside a piping bag. Fill the piping bag with your pastry cream and insert the tip approximately half an inch into the cupcake. Give a gentle squeeze, don't squeeze too hard or your cupcake will explode.


If you don't have this tip, no worries. Just cut off the top of the cupcake and hollow out the inside a little bit. Then, take a spoon and scoop some cream inside before re-assembling.

After your cupcakes are filled, you will need to frost them. Whip your ganache until it is fluffy and place it in a plastic bag with the corner snipped off or use a piping bag fitted with tip 1M. Push the frosting towards the hole in the bag, squeezing out any air pockets. Then, pipe the frosting out on top the cupcake in a continuous circle one on top of the other forming a pyramid.


Or you can do like Dexter does and just have at it.

Does your home state have an official dessert?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse Cake



I wasn't exactly planning on celebrating the recent solar eclipse. This will be our first official year homeschooling and I've been super busy planning and organizing. We don't technically begin until September, but what kind of homeschool mom would I be if I let such a momentous day go by without including a little last minute learning (and baking.) 

First, I had to admit my ignorance. I know next to nothing about space, so we watched an episode of "Bill Nye the Science Guy" to jog my memory on what exactly a solar eclipse is.


After that, I searched Pinterest for a craft that we had all the supplies for on hand. We stumbled upon this and it was a fairly simple art project involving coffee filters. 

For our "out of this world" dessert, I was inspired by this cake. First, we baked a chocolate cake and covered it with chocolate buttercream. Then, I took a small Mason jar and placed it on the center of the cake. After that, I gave the kids tiny brushes and let them apply gold and white petal dust around the jar. It got messy fast, but I resisted the urge to take over and they had a lot of fun.


How did you celebrate the eclipse?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Unicorn Cookies and Cupcakes



This year my daughter wanted unicorn-themed treats for her 4th birthday. I was more than happy to deliver because we all need a little magic in our lives, and it's such a fun, whimsical way to celebrate.




Almost too pretty to eat, these unicorn cookies were a blast to make! I made my favorite sugar cookie recipe and used this cookie cutter set. To get that luscious mane and sparkly horn, I used a small star tip and painted on this gold airbrush color.




These adorable unicorn cupcakes are easy to create by sculpting a horn and ears out of gumpaste. Add a rainbow frosting swirl, and you have a truly magical cupcake.




These treats will delight the imagination in any little dreamer. Unicorns may be real after all...well, at least in dessert form.

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