Sunday, December 21, 2014

Candy Cane Holiday Crunch Cookies

The holidays are one of my favorite times of year, because this whole season one does not need an excuse to bake.  Of course, I bake frequently all year long, but suddenly it becomes ok, or even expected, to bring desserts for every occasion. And there are so many fun holiday flavors and decorations!  These candy cane cookies are one of my favorite easy festive recipes. They are pretty fast to whip up, and they look so cute!  The crunchy minty candy canes complements the softer chocolates fudgey cookie below, held together with a touch of white chocolate.  This year I was excited to stumble upon already crushed bags of candy cane in our local grocery store in the US, making these even easier to make.

And if you are looking for quick homemade holiday presents, these cookies in a jar are a great option! Every time I bake these, they get lots of complements.... Something about the m&ms, oatmeal AND chocolate chips, combined with the great chewy texture make them a favorite for any occasion.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Caramel sauce

I really don't know why I didn't start making caramel dipping sauce earlier in my life.  It is delicious, rich, flavorful and very addictive.  This is delicious to dip apples (and dark chocolate!) into, and of course is great to pour over ice cream.  I've also started mixing it into my favorite vanilla buttercream recipe for one of the ultimate adult frostings - especially with a sprinkle of sea salt on top.  People take their first bite of this like a typical dessert, then as the rich caramel flavor develops and melts across the tongue, I've noticed faces light up, as they instantly reach for more.

As far as caramel sauce goes, this recipe is even easy to make - it doesn't require a candy thermometer, and you don't have to worry about the sugar crystallizing.  And it keeps in the fridge for a few months! I'm pretty much in love, and will probably always have a jar of caramel in the fridge from now on.  It would also make  great holiday gifts, packaged in cute little glass jars.  So I think you all should probably go make some caramel right now.  You won't regret it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Millionaire's shortbread

I've been trying to branch out a little in the world of British baking, and I settled on millionaire's shortbread as my first target.  It is one of those classics, sold near the check out line of almost every grocery store in the UK, and something I had never really thought to try in the states.  I chose a Mary Berry recipe for my first attempt at it (she is as British as it gets right?), and while I found her shortbread lovely, I really struggled with the caramel.  Most of the recipes I found used condensed milk for the caramel base, and I tried it at least 3 times and could not get it right.  It seems to take longer to cook then expected, and then burns very easily.  I'm not the biggest fan of the flavor of condensed milk anyways, so I went back to one of my classic caramel recipes, and got a great result.  For both the shortbread and caramel I replaced some of the white sugar with brown sugar, and was very happy with the resulting taste.

Millionaire's shortbread is all about the textures and flavors - a crumbly crunchy short bread, topped with a chewy caramel, and a thin layer of crisp chocolate on top to fill it out.  While its hard to go wrong with chewy caramel and chocolate, I have to say, this is pretty delicious.  And the simple shortbread base, with just 3 ingredients is great on its own too!

This caramel does require a candy thermometer to make from scratch.  However, a few times I made it and cooked it a little too long, and while the it came out firmer than ideal, it was still devoured and heavily complemented (and delicious).  So I'd say don't be scared of candy making!  Give it a go, and if you are nervous, keep the temperature lower so it comes to temperature slower.  As in my previous caramel recipes, if you are in the US you could melt down kraft caramels with heavy cream for this layer, follow this link for those instructions.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer Blackberry Lemon Buttermilk Cake

The current weather has made this a confusing time of year to be in London.  Many of the days (even the sunny ones) seem to have dark grey storm clouds always looming nearby and surprise wind and/or rain storms might appear at any moment.  And most of us have basically accepted that summer is sadly over, even though its still August... However, there is still one small part of summer holding on, and that is the ripe beautiful blackberries around every corner.  The last few weeks I have found myself stopping multiple times mid run, as I've stumbled upon yet another patch of missed, forgotten, delicious, plump, black berries.

If you find yourself with a spare cup of berries, this summery cake is a brilliant use of them.  I've adapted the recipe by kicking up the lemon flavor with a sugary glaze on top, making a delicious tart, yet sweet, light cake, that leaves you wanting "just one more slice."  This cake is fast to whip up, and a great addition to summer pot lucks or barbeques.  I usually use blackberries in this recipe, but it does great with any type of berry you have lying around the house, and the original recipe calls for raspberry.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Oreo Chocolate Fudge

I've been travelling a lot for rotations the last two months, away from my kitchen, so I've been behind in posting new recipes, however I've still been somehow baking 2-3 times.  I'm enjoying making simple old classic recipes recently, and have been asking around for inspiration of forgotten desserts.  This current recipe came up due to complaints in the difficulty of making reliable fudge, along with annoyance at using candy thermometers.

So I set out for a simple reliable fudge recipe that isn't picky enough to require a candy thermometer (thus ruling out most the really classic recipes).  I've stumbled upon this fudge base recipe, and look forward to building on it with all sorts of flavor combinations (next is dark chocolate and raspberry!).  I believe the fluff gives it more stability, leaving you with less risk of a grainy fudge, or one that doesn't set up.  I'm not the biggest fan of white chocolate, so I altered the original recipe to use half dark chocolate and half white chocolate, and really liked the resulting flavor, it tastes a bit like milk chocolate.

The texture of this is part way to being mousse-like, melting in your mouth with chocolaty goodness, and the cookies add a great crunch. After trying this I realized I hadn't eaten fudge since I was a kid, so while I can't attest to how classic this tastes, I can say it was hard to stop snacking on.  Remember when buying white chocolate for baking to make sure it has cocoa butter as one of the first few ingredients!

Monday, July 7, 2014


Snickerdoodles are another "American" classic that I think everyone should have in their book (although there is some debate on whether they have a German or American origin).  When I've shared them here in the UK, most brits have never heard of them, but enjoyed them enough to request another batch that same week.

To me, an ideal Snickerdoodle is a relatively flat cookie with a cracked surface, that has a slightly crunchy edge and a soft melt in your mouth buttery center, and of course coated in cinnamon and sugar.  When cooked just right, they puff up in the oven, then once out of the oven they collapse on themselves just a little in the center.  It took me a few tries to conjure up the cookie of my childhood, as most of the recipes I found either made a fluffy thick cookie, or one that was a bit too flat or thin, but I finally figured out just the right ratio of flour to butter.  These cookies are pretty easy to make, and make a great alternative/complement to my usual chocolate recipes.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Brownie Bites

These are some of the most addictive chocolaty treats I have made. The first time I made them, I found myself eating way too many, and just couldn't stop myself (it starts with just one for breakfast... then a snack... then its the end of the day and you've eaten 8). So I packed them up and gave them out at school. But then two days later, all I wanted was more brownie bites, so of course I made them again. DANGEROUS.

 I'd had the original recipe bookmarked for a while to try, it was actually meant to make cookies. I usually intend to make recipes exactly as written the first time, but I couldn't stop myself and made a few changes... The first few came out, in cookie form, and were ok, but sort of a confusing texture and flavor for a cookie. I then baked the rest in the mini muffin tins, and a masterpiece was made. These are soft and chocolatey and melt in your mouth, with just a hint of espresso. If you have enjoyed brownie bites from places like Trader Joes, these are better. I recommend you make some soon. And of course try some of the delicious batter in the process. And they try to give them away rapidly, before you eat 2 dozen yourself.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Caramel oatmeal bars

A month or so ago I was craving a simple dessert, but lacking inspiration.  I started flipping through my old binder full of hand written recipes that I started over a decade ago (does anyone else feel nostalgia for hand written recipes? or am I the only one to do that still...), looking for some old forgotten recipes I used to love.  I came across a bunch of simple classics that I had forgotten about, that made a great distraction from my macaron obsession.

There are a great number of classic, simple, reliable recipes - the kind that used to be a standard on the side of brand name candy and cereal bags.  For some reason these recipes seem to have been forgotten by the road side as everyone strives for new creative or fancy desserts, and I'm excited to start cooking through these again.  I love the reliability and consistency from these recipes, and they often bring back fond childhood memories, like making a mess in the kitchen.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Almond Joy Cookies

 These cookies are inspired by "Almond Joys", the American candy bar made of a coconut filling, a layer of almonds on top, and then covered in chocolate.  The use of almond butter (like peanut butter, but made with almonds) was a great idea - I hadn't baked much with this in the past.  These are a dense chewy hearty cookie full of delicious flavors that make you want to reach in for just one more.  I find them a little less sweet then the average american cookie, which is one of the reasons why I think they were so popular with my british friends (who had never heard of Almond Joys).

The desiccated coconut flakes we can buy in the UK are reported to be a little bit drier and less sweet than the sweetened coconut flakes available in the US - I found the only difference this makes is that the dough is a bit more crumbly, requiring more effort to form the balls before baking.  However they came out tasting great for me in both countries.  The only real change I made from the original recipe was to add in chocolate chunks instead of drizzling it on top, and I went for the thicker chewier size.  The original recipe has all the weights of the ingredients, if you prefer that to measuring cups.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Matzah crack

For most of my childhood, passover was always associated with mediocre desserts.  During this 8 day long jewish holiday, we are not supposed to consume leavened goods (no yeast, baking powder, baking soda etc).  When it comes to desserts, many people approach it by trying to modify existing recipes they like, to make them kosher for pesach – for example substituting flour for matzah meal, or alternatively just purchasing pre-made desserts (like these weird fruit slices that are at every seder). <link>.

However throughout my baking adventures I’ve started noticing a number of delicious recipes I make throughout the year that would be kosher for Passover  in their original state– for example macarons (how have Jewish bakeries not noticed this, it seems like a giant market waiting to happen!).  While I’ve built up a list of delicious kosher for passover recipes I might make all year (I’ll share these at some point), there is one Passover recipe that should be a must for every household. 

Matzah Crack.  I somehow was not introduced to this easy, amazing, addictive, delicious dessert until college..  I don’t know the origin of this recipe, as it appears all over the internet, but if there is anyone out there that has not tried this yet, then you are really missing out.  Seriously, you should just go make a tray now.  I’ve heard it is delicious with saltines too, if you are not a matzah house hold.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gingersnap sandwich cookies

This recipe is adapted from a cook book by Lisa Dupar, a favorite local Seattle chef.  In the book she describes them as "crack cookies" due to their terribly addictive nature.  The flavor of the cookie is similar to my previous ginger snap recipe, however these come out a bit thicker and spicier.  The genius addition of a cream cheese filling seems to soften the cookies and really bring the flavors all together (while also adding to their cuteness!).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Carrot cake macarons

Each year I try to come up with something new and creative to bake for my husbands birthday.  He loves carrot cake, but over the years I was running low on new ways to make carrot cake, I'd even tried cookie form!  But then I stumbled upon a blog post for carrot cake macarons, which went along perfectly with my recent macaron obsession.  I tried this recipe, wondering if a little dehydrated carrot can really create a carrot cake flavor, and the results were pretty surprising.  Each bite is so light and airy, but somehow really captures the essence of carrot cake.  These are delicious and amazing, a must for any carrot cake fanatic.

This recipe also opens the door to so many more flavor options for macarons!  I can't wait to try a strawberry macaron stuffed with chocolate ganache.  Looks like my macaron obsession will be carried on a few more months.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Homemade Thin Mints!

Browsing facebook this time of year makes me very aware that I am sadly missing yet another girl scout cookie season back in the states.  Last year I tacked homemade Samoas with great success - and found that they are very delicious home made (and not even that much of a hassle if you don't mind sacrificing the original shape).  I had also previously made a few attempts at thin mints, but they never tasted quite right.

So when someone sent me a link to yet another thin mint recipe this year, I decided to give it a try.  I was hesitant at first because the recipe was featured on a healthy blog, full of vegan and gluten free substitutes, and in my past experience they are often willing to substitute taste for healthiness (pretty much the opposite of my baking philosophy).  But it turned out this recipe makes a perfect cookie base for the thin mint - tender, crunchy, chocolaty.... and easy!  (And even better, it may make a perfect base for a home made oreo, but only time will tell...).  The husband even said these are better than real thin mints (though we haven't had those in a few years...) They are certainly just as addicting.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons

I must start this post with an apology for my recent lack of posting. While I don't really have a valid excuse, at least I am back with something delicious and impressive. Over the holidays I learned that some of my friends have never tried a french macaron and that Harrods sells them for a whopping £3 per cookie. There seems to be a general consensus that these are very hard to make and not something one does at home, but I figured it was worth a shot. After all, how hard can meringue cookies be?

My first batch of these turned out better than expected - they had the little feet and they tasted pretty good. They were by no means perfect: some were slightly overcooked, my white ones had browned a bit, some of the feet were uneven, etc. But I learned a big secret about homemade macarons - it turns out even the not perfect ones taste delicious... and with that I was hooked on making these. Not only are these super fun to watch in the oven, (with every batch I get excited watching them rise in the oven and grow their cute feet), but people seem very impressed when you bring in homemade macarons and the flavor and color combinations are limitless! I just can't stop making them. Plus its fun to perfect the recipe, changing and improving with each batch.

The Fudgy (chai/mocha optional) brownie

In my house chocolate is basically always an appropriate choice. Whether you are celebrating, mourning, or having a stressful or happy d...