Pound Cake with Strawberry- Raspberry Compote

This past week I had a birthday. I’m now 32 years old.

Last year, when I turned 31, I was still on my hiatus from blogging, but every year before then, I had a tradition of ‘celebrating’ my birthday on the blog that’s a carry over from my ‘real life’:

I bake myself a birthday cake.

I’ve mentioned it here before that even in the pre-Covid days, as an introvert, I wasn’t much of a celebrator of ‘My’ day. For many years, it’s just passed with little fanfare or fuss. And I’m okay with that.

But I do take the time and effort to make sure that if I don’t have anything else on my birthday, I have cake. A good cake.

And to be perfectly honest, if I want a really good cake, I typically prefer to rely on the girl in the mirror.

My preferences for birthday cakes have varied over the years, and usually it just ends up being a casual decision that I make on the fly depending upon what me and my taste buds are in the mood for.

It may have been a number of things that swayed me in the particular direction of today’s recipe for my 32nd birthday.

My taste for desserts nowadays that aren’t overly sweet. My increased want for simplicity in baking that lets simple ingredients shine with their simple but delicious flavor. Or, it could’ve just been that my schedule is somewhat hectic nowadays and I just didn’t have time to do a three layer cake over the course of two days.

Regardless of the reason, I’d say the results turned out pretty tasty.

This really was the only kind of birthday cake that I wanted this year; a simple, golden slice of pound cake, and a side of sweet & tart fruit to eat with it. The ‘side’ of fruit turned out to be a strawberry-raspberry compote that comes very quickly and easily.

I love several things about this: first, even though it’s a pound cake, it’s not overly sweet. If you’ve made them before, you’ll probably notice that 1 cup of sugar isn’t the norm where most pound cake recipes are concerned. But I actually thought that worked out for the best, especially when the cake is paired with the compote, which is sweet, but also tart, which balances out the flavors wonderfully.

Pound Cake and Strawberry-Raspberry Compote

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour & Epicurious

Ingredients

For Cake

  • 16 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

For Compote

  • 1 container (10 ounces) fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 containers (6 ounces each) fresh raspberries

Directions

For Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan

In a large bowl, with a handheld mixer, or in the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until very light.

Beat in the sugar gradually and then the eggs, one by one. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the milk and extracts.

Alternately add the wet and dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Stir to combine after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. (I had extra batter leftover; about 1/2 cup’s worth. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so if your loaf pan is not deep enough to fit all the batter, DO NOT OVERFILL IT. Overflowed cake batter in the oven is a PAIN to clean up. Just let the excess go.)

Bake the cake for 60 to 65 minutes, until it springs back when pressed lightly in on top, and a long toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If the cake appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with foil for the final 15 minutes of baking.

Remove the cake from the oven, and loosen its edges. Wait 5 minutes, then carefully turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool

For Compote: Bring strawberries, raspberries, sugar and lemon juice to a simmer in a medium size saucepan over medium heat.

Cook, stirring occasionally until reduced to 3/4 a cup. (You can check the consistency by examining how it sticks to the back of a spoon after you’ve stirred it.)

Let cool completely before refrigerating.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #400, hosted this week by Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons.

Mixed Berry Streusel Bars

Apologies for yet another hiatus. As I said last time, I’m going through another huge transition in my life; a 2800+ miles kind of transition, and for those of you who have never been through one of those, they are…a lot.

Between crappy moving companies, crowded airports, uncomfortable flights, hot & muggy weather, a whole lot of sweat, and an endless (ENDLESS, I tell you) barrage of cardboard boxes. I am so.over.moving.

The good news is, the move itself is finally done, and we’re finally starting to settle into the new space. It might even start to resemble a real home provided I can muster up the energy (and to be honest, the ability) to actually put together some furniture rather than just continuing to camp out on a mattress on the the floor like a college student.

I do plan on getting back into my full cooking/baking swing in this new space but, in full transparency, today’s post is one I’ve had in the arsenal for a while now, but still haven’t gotten around to posting yet. It still fits the time of year though and looking back at the pictures I’m feeling rather tempted to make it one of the first desserts I make in our new home.

Here’s a pro-tip: just about any summer fruit dessert recipe you can think of, can be adapted to suit just about any summer fruit that you’ve got on hand. So long as the volume measurements match, it’s your world.

For instance, this recipe was originally only supposed to be for blueberries. But at the time, I didn’t just have blueberries on deck; I had blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. So, I used a combination of them all. The only thing that mattered was that what I used came out to equal 4 cups of fruit.

The base of these bars is a basic vanilla shortbread crust that gets pre-baked to a golden brown before the fruit filling is added and topped with an almond streusel. It’s a really simple dessert to throw together that is a perfect blend of sweet and tart.

Mixed Berry Streusel Bars

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients

For the Shortbread crust:

  • 14 Tbs. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups, plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For Filling

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries or blackberries
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

For Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup, firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 Tbs. chopped raw almonds

Directions

For the Shortbread Crust

Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking dish.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt and vanilla and beat on medium speed until the mixture is crumbly, about 30 seconds.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish and using damp hands, gently press in an even layer into the bottom of the pan. Using a fork, prick the dough in several places. Bake until the crust is light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the dish to a wire rack and let cool completely. Increase the oven temperature to 375°F.

For the Filling

in a large bowl, combine the berries, lemon zest, lemon juice and almond extract and toss to coat. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the berries and toss to distribute evenly. Transfer to the cooled crust and spread in an even layer. 

For the Streusel

in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and almond extract and stir until the mixture is crumbly, with some large chunks remaining. Stir in the almonds. Sprinkle the streusel over the blueberries. Bake until the filling is thick and bubbling and the streusel is golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into squares and serve.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #389, cohosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Deep Dish Summer Fruit Pie

Hey y’all, sorry for the extended absence. There’s a lot of change going on in my life right now (again) and I’ve been super busy with getting ready for the transition.

Change is great but it can also be uncomfortable, irritating, overwhelming and downright stressful. I really needed a break from all that, so here I am, taking a few minutes to actually act like I’m a food blogger.

There are very few things that can cheer me up like pie. I love to make and eat it year-round, but especially during the summer time when particular fruits are in season, like stone fruits and berries.

When both became available at my local grocery store, I knew I wanted to make a pie, but I wanted to do something a little bit different with it than the typical 9-inch round with a lattice top or something else like that. I also had a LOT of fruit, that I didn’t think would fit in my regular pie pan.

So, what was a girl to do?

Deep dish pies are a favorite go-to of mine for when you have a lot of fruit you need to use, and when I was deciding how I would make it work for this one, I started wondering if it would be possible to use my 11 x 13 baking dish to make one (a first for me.)

I’m really happy with what I came up with. It’s a variation on several pies and fruit desserts I’ve made in the past and decided to smush together here as a sort of experiment. The bottom crust is a standard, all-butter one you’d find in most pies out there. My filling is a combination of peaches, nectarines, and blueberries, but as I’ve noted in the recipe, you can opt for what you most prefer here.

The top crust of the pie is where I deviated a little bit from the norm. It’s actually the ‘crust’ recipe I use for whenever I make peach cobbler. It comes together in minutes and doesn’t require any resting or intensive labor. You just scoop and plop it on top of the filling. It spreads and puffs as it bakes, creating a fluffy biscuit-dumpling crust that soaks up all the juices from the peaches wonderfully.

I know I talk a lot about certain foods tasting like the seasons, but this really does taste like summer time. The fruit is bright, tart and slightly sweet while the different textures of the crusts give it that buttery richness without overtaking the filling completely.

This was a successful ‘change’ for me when making pie. Here’s to other changes going well.

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Deep Dish Summer Fruit

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients

For Bottom Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, frozen
  • 6 to 8 Tbs. (90 to 125ml) ice water

For Filling

  • 3 lb. yellow peaches, peeled, cored and cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 lb. yellow nectarines, peeled, cored and cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries, blackberries or raspberries (or a mixture of both, it’s up to you)
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbs. bourbon
  • 2 Tbs. vanilla extract

For Biscuit Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

For Bottom Crust:

 In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt and stir together with a fork. Using a box grater (or use a knife to cut it into cubes) grate butter directly into the dry ingredients. Add 6 Tbs. of the ice water and gently stir together. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water 1 tsp. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight, preferably overnight (the crust will be more tender).

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 20-by-14-inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Unfold the dough and press into the bottom and sides of the dish. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, and fold in the excess dough so it extends just beyond the rim of the dish. Refrigerate the pie shell for 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F

For Filling:

In a large bowl, stir together the fruit, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cornstarch, bourbon and vanilla until well combined. Pour the fruit filling into prepared shell.

For Biscuit Topping:

Into a bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut or grate the butter into small pieces. Add it to the flour mixture and stir with a fork or a pastry blender until it looks like coarse bread crumbs. Pour in the cream and mix just until the dough comes together. Don’t overwork; the dough should be slightly sticky but manageable. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls over the pie filling; There can be gaps, the dough will puff up and spread out as it bakes. Brush the top with some heavy cream and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar; put it into the oven on a baking sheet to catch any drips.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven 75-80 minutes, until the filling is bubbling, and the top is golden. (You may need to cover the pie with aluminum foil to keep it from browning too quickly.)

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #386.

Raspberry Hamantaschen

This post is late. In more ways than one.

I typically try to have my weekly blog post up by Saturday, but I was up against a deadline for work and had to push the blog post back a day. Then, this particular post is one I intended to have up several months ago, when it would have made more sense and aligned more with its cultural significance.

But in any case, here we are.

I’m not Jewish, but I was raised in a Christian church where we read from the Book of Esther at least once a year. Long story short, Esther was an ancient Hebrew queen who married a Persian King called Xerxes. The villain in the Book of Esther is one of the King’s advisors, a man named Haman who conspires to kill all of the Hebrew people in Persia without realizing that the Queen herself is Jewish.

In the end, Esther and her cousin Mordecai manage to outsmart Haman and save the Jewish people of Persia from extermination, which from what I understand, is what the Jewish celebration of Purim commemorates. At Purim, Hamantaschen cookies get made. For what ever reason, the cookies are named after Haman, with their triangular shape signifying the shape of his hat.

(At least, that’s my understanding of it, but anyone can feel free to correct any part of the above that’s not accurate if you celebrate Purim.)

Anyway, Purim 2021 was several months ago, but I’ve been intending to try to make Hamantaschen for several years now. I had some raspberry preserves on hand and the process seemed relatively easy, so I decided to give it a try.

Don’t be intimidated by all the steps. The directions are thorough but that’s just to make the process as clear and easy to follow as possible, and if you’d like visuals, just check out the link to the blog I adapted the recipe from.

These were delicious. As you can see, they bake up very pretty and although there was a little bit of seepage of the raspberry preserves, it wasn’t anything that ruined the look or the taste.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine if you can. Be kind.

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Raspberry Hamantaschen

Recipe Adapted from Tori Avey

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into chunks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-5 tsp water (if needed)
  • 1 10 oz jar of raspberry preserves (I liked mine with the seeds, but you can go with seedless if you prefer)

Directions

Sift flour together in a small bowl with the salt. Stir with a fork and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium sized mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

Add the egg, orange zest and the vanilla, beating together just until combined.

Add the flour in two batches, mixing just until combined. Begin to knead dough with hands till a smooth dough ball forms. Try not to overwork the dough, only knead till the dough is the right consistency. If the dough is still too dry to hold together, add a few teaspoons of the water at a time, just until it comes together.

Form the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly flour a smooth, clean surface. Have the raspberry preserves and 1 teaspoon scoop ready.

Unwrap the dough disk and place it on the floured surface. The dough will be very firm after chilling.

Divide the dough into quarters. Roll one quarter at a time out to 1/4 inch thick. At the beginning, it will be tough to roll out– you may need to pound it a bit. A heavy rolling pin works best. As you roll, cracks may form on the edges of the dough. Repair any large cracks with your fingers and continue rolling.

When the dough reaches 1/4 inch thickness, scrape the dough up with a pastry scraper, lightly reflour the surface, and flip the dough over. Continue rolling the dough out very thin (less than 1/8 of an inch thick). The thinner you roll the dough, the more delicate and crisp the cookies will turn out– just make sure that the dough is still thick enough to hold the filling and its shape! If you prefer a thicker, more doughy texture to your cookies (less delicate), keep the dough closer to 1/4 inch thick. Lightly flour the rolling pin occasionally to prevent sticking.

Use a 3-inch cookie cutter (not smaller) or the 3-inch rim of a glass to cut circles out of the dough, cutting as many as you can from the dough.Gather the scraps and roll them out again. Cut circles. Repeat process again if needed until you’ve cut as many circles as you can from the dough. 

Place a teaspoon of the preserves into the center of each circle. Do not use more than a teaspoon of preserves, or you run the risk of your hamantaschen opening and the preserves spilling out during baking. Cover unused circles with a lightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out while you are filling.

Assemble the hamantaschen in three steps. First, grasp the left side of the circle and fold it towards the center to make a flap that covers the left third of the circle.Grasp the right side of the circle and fold it towards the center, overlapping the upper part of the left side flap to create a triangular tip at the top of the circle. A small triangle of filling should still be visible in the center.

Grasp the bottom part of the circle and fold it upward to create a third flap and complete the triangle. When you fold this flap up, be sure to tuck the left side of this new flap underneath the left side of the triangle, while letting the right side of this new flap overlap the right side of the triangle. This way, each side of your triangle has a corner that folds over and a corner that folds under– it creates a “pinwheel” effect.

Pinch each corner of the triangle gently but firmly to secure the shape. If any cracks have formed at the places where the dough is creased, use the warmth of your fingers to smooth them out.Repeat this process for the remaining circles.

When all of your hamantaschen have been filled, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet, evenly spaced.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-25 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through and lightly golden. Start checking them at 10 minutes; because the dough thickness tends to vary on these cookies they can cook quite fast if rolled thin. In most ovens it will take around 15-20 minutes, but best to keep a close watch over them as they cook to avoid overcooking or burning.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Store them in a tightly sealed plastic bag or Tupperware.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #377, cohosted this week by Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons.

Cappuccino M&M Cookie Bars

When it comes to candy, I really only still rock with chocolate. Snicker bars are the perfect candy bar. Peanut M&Ms also remain a favorite of mine.

About two years ago, I discovered a flavor of Peanut M&Ms called Coffee Nut. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that coffee and I are bound at the hip. I love to drink with it, and I’ve also loved finding ways to incorporate it into my cooking and baking.

But y’all, let me tell you: Coffee Nut M&Ms are unparalleled when it comes to coffee flavored anything, let alone coffee flavored candy. They are SOOOOO good.

And apparently I’m not the only one that feels that way, because whether I’m on the West or East coast, Coffee Nut M&Ms are always a hot commodity in grocery stores. It’s a toss up whether or not they have any in stock, and if they do, I always buy 2-3 bags just to stock up in case there aren’t any later. While they’re perfectly delicious on they’re own, the baker in me is always thinking about a way to repurpose my favorite ingredients into a recipe, and this was no exception.

Cookie bars are an easy and pretty foolproof way of baking cookies when you don’t have the time or energy to let the dough chill or roll out individual portions. They taste the same, they just have a tendency to be a bit more chewy and fudgy in texture–which I prefer with my cookies anyway.

When it came to these, I adapted a chocolate chip cookie bar recipe and made some modifications; first, I obviously swapped out the chocolate chips for the Coffee Peanut M&Ms, and then I added some instant espresso powder to the dough. After they were finished, I topped them off with a cappuccino flavored glaze.

If you’re a coffee lover, these are a must try.

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Cappuccino M&M Bars

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

For Cookie Bars

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Cup Coffee Nut Peanut M&Ms

For Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons hot cappuccino
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with foil or parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides; coat the foil or parchment paper with cooking spray.

Beat the 2 sticks softened butter, 1 cup each granulated and light brown sugar and espresso powder with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy.

Add the 3 eggs, one at a time and the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low. Add 3 cups flour and 3/4 teaspoon each baking soda and salt; beat until combined. Stir in the M&Ms.

 Spread the cookie dough in the prepared pan or press in using damp or oiled fingers. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Allow to cool completely. To make the glaze, combine all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until it has reached desired consistency. Use a fork to drizzle over the cooled bars.  Allow glaze to set, then cut into squares.

Fiesta Friday #373, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats & Greens.

Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies really should be a separate ‘genre’ of baking all on their own.

I know that they’re a classic and with classics people tend to search for that One and Only Holy Grail of a recipe, but in my experience I’ve found that there are so many ways to make a perfect one.

My mom always used to tell me that in both cooking and baking, getting ‘good’ was a matter of getting comfortable with a base recipe and/or technique, then once I grew comfortable with it, experimenting with other flavors and seeing what worked and what didn’t. It’s advice that’s never steered me wrong in the kitchen.

The older I get, the more that I notice that my taste buds tend to prefer a counterbalance to the sweetness with either salt or bitter flavors. Salt and sweet is a combination that I’m growing increasingly interested in using in baking, and today’s recipe was eye-opening in showing me just how well it could work.

A chocolate chip cookie with pecans is already a winner so far as I’m concerned, but this recipe takes things a step further. First, butterscotch, butternut or butter-rum flavor is added to the dough, which I would best describe as a rich browned butter extract that pairs VERY well with chocolate. If you can’t find it in stores, it’s definitely available on Amazon. And if you can’t find it at all, that’s fine too. The cookies will still come out amazing because of the second element.

After the dough is made, chilled and portioned out into balls, it then gets rolled in a mixture of sugar and salt. As it bakes, that sugar and salt creates a sort of crackly, salty-sweet crust on the outside of the cookie.

And y’all: that crust is where the magic happens.

In the first place, it creates amazing texture to contrast with the fudgy, chewy interior of the cookie itself. And second, the flavor of the salt in that sugar crust is INSANE. Taken together with the sweetness of the sugar, the nuttiness of the pecans, and the slight bitterness of the chocolate, it literally hit every note.

I tried these on a whim and I can honestly say they’re my new favorite way to make chocolate chip cookies, and are definitely in my top three of cookies I’ve ever made. They’re well worth trying out.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

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Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups pecan halves
  • 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup  granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons  butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon butterscotch, vanilla-butternut, or butter-rum flavor, optional
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, mixed with 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, for topping* (The amount of salt depends upon how much of a salty-sweet combination you prefer. I went for the full 1 teaspoon, and it was perfect, to ME.)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Place the pecans in a single layer in a pan, and toast until they’ve darkened a bit and smell toasty, about 8 to 9 minutes. Set them aside to cool, then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl, combine the sugars, butter, shortening, salt, espresso powder, baking soda, and extracts, beating until smooth and creamy.

Beat in the egg, again beating until smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is thoroughly combined.

Mix in the flour, then the chips and toasted nuts.

If you’re going to refrigerate the dough, cover the bowl, and refrigerate for about 4 to 5 hours; or overnight. Cookie dough refrigerated for 4 to 5 hours will spread moderately; chilled overnight, it will spread much less.

Mix the 1/3 cup sugar and salt for the coating, and put it in a bowl. Use a spoon (or a tablespoon cookie scoop) to scoop 1 1/2″ balls of dough into the sugar/salt mixture, rolling to coat. Then transfer to the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2″ between them on all sides; they’ll spread quite a bit. Or use a teaspoon cookie scoop to scoop 1 1/4″ balls of dough.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes — 10 minutes for smaller cookies made from unrefrigerated dough, 12 for larger cookies whose dough has been refrigerated (and something in between for other iterations of size and refrigeration). Their edges will be chestnut brown and their tops a lighter golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pan until they’ve set enough to move without breaking. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #370.

Browned Butter Sandwich Cookies

I love when something happens that’s unexpected but really awesome.

The weekend I made today’s recipe, I had several surprises happen that were really unexpected, but still great. I was in a great mood, I had more time to experiment in the kitchen than I normally do, and so I decided on a random whim to try out something new.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I am a staunch browned butter advocate. Regardless of the food, it will improve literally anything that you’re cooking, whether it’s sweet or savory.

Slice and bake cookies are another of those baking recipes that I put in my “You Can’t Mess this Up” category. The dough is very quick and forgiving in putting it together, and after you’ve let it rest in the fridge, all that’s left to do is literally slice, throw the cookies on a sheet and bake them up.

Best of all, it’s also a recipe where you don’t have to bake the batch all at once if you prefer not to. You can leave the log in the fridge or freezer, slice off as many cookies as you want (or don’t want), and save the rest for later.

Having said that, I will throw out a disclaimer in that, you’re going to want to make the whole batch of these because they’re just that good and if you have other people living with you in your house, they’re going to gobble them up and you won’t have enough ready-made for yourself to enjoy.

I can predict this, because it’s pretty much what happened to me.

If I had to describe what they taste like, I’d say they are the best pecan sandie you’ve ever had and didn’t know that you needed in your life. The cookie is delicious enough by itself; it’s crisp and full of nutty, pecan flavor. The filling is what sends them over the top: it’s rich, and full of that delicious, golden flavor that can only come from browned butter.

These disappeared in our house quick. Try ’em out.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Be kind.

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Browned Butter Sandwich Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Land O’ Lakes

Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (yolks only)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For Filling

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of Half & Half, cream, or milk

Directions

For Cookies:

Combine 1 cup butter and brown sugar in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg yolks and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; continue beating until well mixed. Add flour, pecans and salt; beat at low speed until dough forms a ball.

Divide dough in half; shape each half into 10-inch-long log (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter). Wrap each log tightly in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut each log into 1/8-inch slices with sharp knife; place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 7-9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely.

For Filling: Melt 1/4 cup butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes or until butter just starts to brown. (Butter will bubble and foam. Watch closely.) Immediately remove from heat. Cool 5 minutes. Stir in powdered sugar,1/2 teaspoon vanilla and enough half & half for desired spreading consistency.Spread 1 level teaspoon filling on bottom-side of 1 cookie; top with second cookie, bottom-side down. Squeeze together gently. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #369.

Coffee Blondies

I have a love-hate relationship with coffee. And by love-hate I mean, I love drinking the stuff, but I also hate that I’m semi-addicted to it.

I go through these periods (I’ve gone as long as a few years at a time) where I can completely kick the habit and not even miss it. But then, out of nowhere the craving for it will settle in and suddenly I’ve got to have it and I fall off the wagon and go back to my dependency on it like nothing ever happened. It’s odd.

I’m regrettably back in my dependency stage at the moment. Every night before bed I ensure that I place the grounds and the water in my coffee maker and set the timer to make sure it’s ready for me in the morning. First thing in the morning after I wake up and brush my teeth, I go into the kitchen, pour out two in two mugs, then put them both in the fridge to chill for about an hour. I add a coffee ice cube to the mug (yes, I keep coffee ice cubes in my freezer) a little bit of milk, then a splash of vanilla syrup, and bam. That’s how I take it. Every day.

There’s usually at least a little bit of coffee left in the pot at the end of the day, and I try not to end up throwing it out–especially if it’s good coffee. As I said, my most common use for the ‘leftover’ coffee is to freeze it into ice cubes. The other is to try and bake something with it.

Coffee is an ingredient that can really enhance the flavor of chocolate, which is why sometimes you’ll see it included in brownie or chocolate cake recipes. But for coffee fanatics like me, sometimes you want a dessert that makes it the central flavor. I’ve experimented with coffee in desserts before on the blog, including this pound cake (one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted for what it’s worth), as well as with cookies and scones. Today, I’m trying something new.

I’m in a phase where I really want texture from my desserts. I like chewy richness, like the kind you can only get in a pie, or brownies, or thick cookies…or blondies.

The blondie itself is like a really rich, chewy cookie. Take a look at that shiny, crackly crust, would you? The nuts add another textural element to that chewiness. Best of all, because it’s a blondie and not a brownie, the coffee flavor stands out on its own. These are everything that my tastebuds want. They come together in minutes and bake in less than an hour, so it’s also a pretty fool-proof recipe too. Even if you don’t like coffee, I think you’d still like these.

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Coffee Blondies

Recipe Adapted from Canadian Living

Ingredients

1½ cups (213 g) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks; 170 g) unsalted butter, cold
1½ cups (297 g) packed brown sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons strong coffee, room temperature
1 egg
1½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup (86 g) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
¾ cup (128 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder with a fork and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Remove from the heat and stir in the coffee until well combined. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the pecans and chocolate chips and stir gently.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake 18 to 24 minutes, until the blondies are set on the edges and the top is golden brown and just beginning to form cracks. A wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the blondies should come out with just a couple of crumbs.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Use the parchment sling to gently lift the blondies from the pan. Cut them into squares.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #364, hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

As the saying goes, you learn something new every day; hopefully, the something new that you learn is useful and pleasant. Today’s recipe came as a result of me recently learning something new that was useful, pleasant, and delicious. It’s always nice when that happens.

It wasn’t until the month of November in the year 2020 that I learned about a nifty little invention called cookie brittle for the first time. Maybe some of you will be learning about it for the first time in reading this blog post. To you, I say: welcome. Your lives will never be the same.

Cookie brittle is a cookie dough made without any leavening agents (no egg, no baking powder, no baking soda). Ingredient wise, it resembles shortbread. But the method in making it departs from shortbread in that no air whatsoever is whipped into it. Instead, the butter is melted, combined with sugar, then spread thin into a sheet pan. With no air or leavening, the baked dough creates a very close textured crumb that after it cools becomes extremely, well…brittle.

I have a very special relationship to chocolate chip cookies. I have a go-to recipe that I very seldom deviate from, as I believe it’s as close to perfection as one can get. But in this instance I was just too curious not to give this cookie brittle thing a try. Boy. I learned something that day, that’s for sure. Texturally speaking, cookie brittle goes far beyond the texture of crispy chocolate chip cookies like Chips Ahoy or Tate’s Bake Shop. It’s called brittle for a reason; if I had to describe it, I would say that it’s like…a chocolate chip cookie crunchy toffee. Chocolate chip cookie candy. Now, doesn’t that sound absolutely delicious?

The recipe is actually very easy to follow, you just have to make sure that you follow it to a T. The dough has to be cool before you mix in the chocolate and nuts, and you have to be careful not to leave it in the oven too long. Because it’s baked directly in an ungreased pan, it can go from perfectly golden brown to burned in seconds. Don’t ask me how I found out both of those tips, just follow them.

Did I mention that this also makes great gifts? Cause it does. That’s if you’re still feeling in the giving Christmas spirit after trying this for yourself. You may not be. It’s that good.  

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Recipe Courtesy of Cookies & Cups

Ingredients

  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup Turbinado sugar (Sugar in the raw)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Set aside a large rimmed baking sheet.

In a medium saucepan on medium heat combine the butter and sugar, stirring constantly. Once butter is melted, cook for one more minute and remove it immediately from the heat, being careful not to bring the mixture to a boil. Alternatively place butter and sugar in a large heat-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 90-120 seconds until the butter is melted and sugar has dissolved slightly.

Whisk mixture until it is combined.Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes (this part is VERY important, it needs to be cool before you continue) and then whisk mixture again for 1 minute.

Whisk in the vanilla and the salt. Stir in the flour until the dough forms and then stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.

Press the dough onto the ungreased pan spreading it out all the way to the edges, you want the brittle to be thin.

Bake for 22-25 minutes, rotating the pan every 7-8 minutes until it’s lightly golden and firm to the touch in the center.

Let the brittle cool in the pan for 3 minutes and then line a counter or second baking sheet with parchment paper and invert the first pan onto the second, and allow it to cool completely.

Break the brittle into pieces and enjoy!

 

Gingerbread Blondies

Only seven days left until Christmas! Is everyone excited? It’s 50/50 for me. On one hand, I absolutely love the holiday season, but on the other hand it’s the season that I love more than the actual holiDAY itself. Christmas itself is bittersweet for me because once it comes, the holiday season is almost over.

But on the flip side, there’s still six more days until it’s over, so let’s just celebrate that with some more recipes in the five days that we have left of the 12 Days of Christmas, shall we? In all the years I’ve been doing the series, there are always certain categories of recipes that I try to make sure make an appearance, just for variety’s sake. I always try to do a savory recipe option. I always try to do a yeast bread recipe. I always try to do a snack. Then, I always try to a recipe that fits squarely into my “You Can’t Mess This Up, No Seriously You Can’t” category.

The “You Can’t Mess This Up, No Seriously You Can’t” category is for people who don’t like to cook or bake, or those who think that they can’t. I say “think” because I’m of hte opinion that if you can read, measure and follow a set of instructions, you can cook SOMETHING. Doesn’t have to be complicated. Doesn’t even have to be that delicious. But if you can read, count and do what you’re told, there’s something out there that you can cook and bake.

  Today I’m pleased to be able to share my “You Can’t Screw this Up” recipe of the 12 Days of Christmas: gingerbread blondies. While they’re the furthest thing from complicated that you can get, don’t let their simplicity fool you: they come together in minutes, and are absolutely delicious.

The base of the blondie itself is rich with warm, sugary, winter spices. It tastes like a dense and rather chewy cake. I modified the original recipe and decided to try and cut through the sweetness of the molasses and brown sugar by adding fresh cranberries to the batter. The cranberries burst as they bake creating lovely pockets of juicy, tart flavor.

I wasn’t kidding when I said you can’t screw these up. I’m also not kidding when I say they’re absolutely delicious.  The only way they could possibly be improved is with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Then they’re beyond perfection; they’re holiday nirvana.

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Gingerbread Blondies

Recipe Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries

Directions

Line an 8-9 inch square baking dish wish parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set aside and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, combine the four, spices, and salt. Stir together with a fork, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter or margarine, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla and egg. Stir together with a fork or a wire whisk unto; thoroughly combined.

Add the flour mixture in 2 increments, stirring just until the streaks disappear. Fold in the cranberries.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 26-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely in pan on cooling rack, about 1 hour before cutting into squares.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #359, cohosted this week by Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook.