Sunday, December 19, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking: Day 7 Pretzel Bark

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love baked for me.....

Pretzel Bark

Amid all of the richness of Holiday desserts it's nice to see some white chocolate. 

This recipe calls for three ingredients, it's quick and the results are amazing.

I've tried making this recipe with chocolate bark and found the result was not quite as good. I think with a little vanilla bark mixed in the taste would be just right. 

Vanilla Bark

1 pkg vanilla bark
2 cups salted peanuts
3 cups skinny pretzels broken into pieces

Microwave vanilla bark in large bowl for 1 minute intervals until it stirs smooth.

Add in peanuts and pretzels and evenly coat with vanilla bark.

Spoon onto cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Spread evenly and allow to cool. Once cool break into pieces.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking: Day 8 Chocolate Mint Cookies

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love baked for me..... 

Chocolate Mint Cookies

I actually baked these cookies for the first time over the summer. I was visiting one of my friends and she suggested we bake chocolate mint cookies. The thought had never crossed my mind and I admit I was a little wary... but I was pleasantly surprised. They tasted the best straight out of the oven. They were so good i've decided to add them to my annual Christmas baking list. 

 I also modified this recipe for chocolate chocolate chip cookies which I have been trying to master since I was 9 years old. 12 years later and i've finally found the recipe i've been wanting all these years. Most chocolate cookie recipes are either too dry or too cakey. This one was just perfect.

This recipe can be found here.
 Instead of placing an andes mint on top of each cookie I mixed half a bag of andes mint baking pieces into the batter. 

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking: Day 6 Chocolate Eclairs

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love baked for me.....

Chocolate Eclairs

These are super simple to throw together and again you only need a few ingredients. I created this little dessert at the last minute when I had some guests coming over for dinner.

These can also be baked in circular form by using a small round cookie cutter but I feel that it is a waste of pastry dough. Perhaps i'll try squares on day to make them more bite sized.

Chocolate Eclairs

1 pkg cream cheese, softened
1 pkg puff pastry thawed
1/2c sugar
1 ounce bakers chocolate
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Cut thawed sheet of puff pastry into rectangles on cookie sheet. Bake as directed and allow to cool.

Whip cream cheese and sugar together until well blended.

Cut puff pastry in half and fill with cream cheese mixture.

Melt chocolate square in microwave for 30 second intervals until it stirs smooth. Drizzle chocolate over eclairs and sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking: Day 9 Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love baked for me.... 

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

This is my go to recipe. I bake these cookies all the time. They're a crowd pleaser and my friends often request them.

And also my favorite cookie of all time.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from a Nestle recipe)
                        1 ¼ C flour
                        ½ tsp baking soda
                        ½ teaspoon salt
                        1 ½ stick of butter softened (¾ C)
                        ½ C sugar
                        ½ cup brown sugar
                        ½ C chunky peanut butter
                        1 large egg
                        1 tsp vanilla extract
                        12 oz pkg. milk chocolate chips
1.     Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.     Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and peanut butter with mixer until creamy.
3.     Beat in egg and vanilla extract.
4.     Gradually beat in flour, baking soda and salt.
5.     Stir in morsels.
6.     Spoon batter onto baking sheets.
7.     Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The 12 days of Christmas Baking: Day 10 Chocolate Peanut Candy

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love baked for me...

Chocolate Peanut Candy

This chocolate candy is one of my favorite things to make. The chocolate is actually three different chocolate varieties which keeps it smooth and sweet.

Chocolate Peanut Candy

2C unsalted dry roasted peanuts
2C salted dry roasted peanuts
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 bag milk chocolate chips
1 pkg almond bark

Layer ingredients in crockpot in order of list of ingredients. Turn crockpot on low and stir after two hours. Drop onto parchment paper and allow to cool.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking: Day 11 Blossom Cookies

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love baked for me.....

Blossom Cookies

Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favorite flavor pairings. Simple to make and wonderfully delicious.

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies 

1 C butter*
1C sugar*
1C brown sugar*
2 eggs beaten
1C peanut butter*
3C flour**
2 tsp soda**
¼ tsp salt**
1 tsp vanilla*
1 pkg hershey kisses unwrapped

add eggs and vanilla. Mix with flour mixture.
Roll into small balls and place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 10 mins. Press 1 hershey kiss into each cookie before cooled. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 12 days of Christmas Baking: Day 12 Sugar Cut Out Cookies

On the 12th day of Christmas my True Love Baked for Me.....

Sugar cut out cookies. One of my favorite parts of Christmas and also the bane of my existence. Two Christmases ago I make some cut out sugar cookies but they turned out kinda puffy and my icing wasn't quite right. Last Christmas I struggled so much with them that I eventually gave up and threw away my batch of dough. It's very unlike me, but in my defense I was in a huge baking rut at the time. This Christmas I was determined to make some killer sugar cut out cookies.

 I decided that part of my problem with cut out sugar cookies is that I'm always determined to use all 30 of my cookie cutters and use every color of frosting under the sun. I decided to streamline my baking so I wouldn't stress myself out. I chose three shapes and used sprinkles instead of different colored icings. I also chilled the cookies on the cookie sheets in between batches to prevent them from puffing up in the oven.

Christmas trees, snowflakes and candy canes!

My favorite was the snowflake although I think they would have looked better with some blue sprinkles.

I had a little bit of extra dough leftover so I had to make some miniature sugar cookies for my dog. 

Sugar Cookie Cutouts (from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking)

2/3c butter softened
3/4c granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 Tb milk
1 tsp vanilla
2c all-purpose flour

Beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined.

Add egg, milk and vanilla and beat until combined.

Gradually beat in flour with mixer.

Divide dough in half, cover and chill 30mins or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

On a floured surface roll out cookie dough to 1/4in thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place 1in apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 7 to 10 mins or until edges are firm or very light brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Powdered Sugar Icing

Combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4tsp vanilla and 1 Tb milk. Add more milk 1 tsp at a time if necessary.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mini-Pepperoni Pizza

Homemade pizza brings back childhood memories when my mother would make us homemade pizzas on the weekend or for when we had friends spend the night. Homemade pizzas are the best because you get to make it exactly as you'd like it, baked to just the right gooey goodness. I've been meaning to make a homemade pizza for awhile and when I saw these mini pepperonis at the grocery store I couldn't resist. They were adorable. They were marketed to be used in pasta but I thought they'd be just fine on top of a pizza.

I found a recipe for pizza dough i've been wanting to try but I was crunched for time so I just bought the pillsbury refrigerated pizza dough and reworked it into a round shape. Instead of using pizza sauce I used canned fire roasted garlic tomatoes. I also used a block of mozzarella that I shredded myself. It's cheaper than buying the packaged shredded cheese and I also read that additives are added into the packaged shredded cheese that hinders it from melting as well.  

They were right! The block of cheese melted much better than the shredded cheese. Before I put the pizza in the oven I did toss some shredded parmesan cheese on top for a little zip.

The mini-pepperonis were very cute. My dog loved them as well. The garlic fire roasted tomatoes were a little much for me. I think  next time I will see if I can find some plain roasted tomatoes. I also can't wait to try the mini pepperonis on some homemade mini pizzas. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! 

This little paper turkey was hand crafted with love. 
Unfortunately this year there were many friends that I missed on Thanksgiving. But I am always thankful for my family and my friends and especially thankful that they have stuck by me this last year. 

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful. I can't remember the last time our whole family was in the house for more than 10 minutes at the same time, let alone sit down for a family dinner together.

Yum Yum YUM! Every family has traditions on Thanksgiving. Here are ours.

New potatoes. Wonderfully delicious with minimal ingredients. Red potatoes, garlic, salt and olive oil. 

These rolls are delicious. We ONLY have them at Thanksgiving and Christmas and for good reason. They're stuffed with cheese.

 These rolls are actually canned biscuits. You place 2 cubes of cheddar cheese on the biscuit and roll it into a ball nice and tight so they don't open up and toss some Mrs. Dash on top then bake per package directions. Even if they do open up like this one did they are still simply amazing.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with a roasted pecan praline topping and whipped cream. Again something we have ONLY during the holidays. 

And lastly, our Christmas tree always goes up on Thanksgiving. This tradition started because it was the earliest I could convince my mom to let me put up the Christmas tree when I was a kid. This year I put up a tree of my very own in my room the first week of November.

Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe can be found here
 I substituted 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice for the cloves and nutmeg.
Praline Topping Recipe can be found here.
 I used 1 cup of pecans.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Irish Birthday Cake

This is the cake version of the orange cupcakes for my friend's 22nd birthday. Not my greatest masterpiece but after surviving an initial icing crisis, it was a modest success. Both he and his family loved the cake. They're irish so they loved that the cake was in the shape of a shamrock.

I added green food coloring to the orange cream cheese frosting. I like to use the Wilton gel icing colors. They offer more pigment without altering taste or consistency. 

I tripled the original recipe and split it between two 9x13 pans. Then I drew out a shamrock on a piece of paper and cut it out. Once both cakes were cooled I placed the stencil on top and cut out my shamrock with a knife.

I had a lot of cake left over so I used it to make cake balls. I crumbled up the leftover cake, mixed it with my leftover frosting and used a cookie scoop to roll the cake mixture into balls. I used green candy melts to coat the cake and melted vanilla bark to add some fun drizzle. The cake balls were an afterthought and were kinda messy but still kind of pretty and definitely edible. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Halloween was a whirlwind week for me in a very unspectacular way. I had a lot of family issues come up unexpectedly and I had a cake order due on Halloween.

Halloween Cupcakes
Naturally I found time to bake a few extra things on top of the cake order. These cupcakes were pretty straight forward. Vanilla batter with chocolate icing. I just added some orange food coloring to the batter.

I almost forgot to say these are mini cupcakes! And they have super cute halloween cupcake liners with bats on the bottom which I failed to get a shot of.

Cake Order
A friend of a friend put me in contact for this cake order. This is a red velvet cake with chocolate icing. The request was fairly simple. A black cake with webbing and spiders on top. The spiders are sculpted from fondant and the webs on top of the cake are made from vanilla bark. 

I was fairly pleased with the out turn of the cake considering the time constraint I was under. They said the cake was wonderful and that they loved it but you never really know what people are thinking...

Chocolate Dipped Apples

I also made candied apples. I'm not really into caramel so I made chocolate dipped apples instead.

Lucky me, the apples were on sale so I bought a variety. Red apples, granny smith and gala apples. I inserted short bamboo skewers instead of using lollipop or popsicle sticks. They were much easier to insert but may want to be careful with kids. The ends are very sharp. I dipped the apples in chocolate bark and let them cool. Chocolate bark hardens much quicker than using chocolate chips and in my experience is much easier to work with. 

I then poured the white chocolate into a zip lock bag and cut off the corner. The bigger the cut the bigger the drizzle. This is the fun part as the messier it is the better! After you drizzle each apple immediately sprinkle on your nuts or they chocolate will be too dry or the nuts to stick. I meant to drizzle on caramel as well to keep true to tradition but I completely forgot! Whoops. You could also reverse this and do milk chocolate on top of white.


1 pkg vanilla bark
1 pkg chocolate bark
1 pkg chopped nuts 
10 - 12 small apples

short bamboo skewers
parchment paper
cookie sheet
heavy duty ziploc bag, sandwich size


Wash and remove stems from apples then place on large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The parchment paper will prevent the chocolate from sticking to anything.

Make sure your apples are totally dry or your chocolate will slip off. Insert skewers into center of each apple.

Melt chocolate bark in microwave safe bowl (deep enough to dip 3/4 of apple in) for thirty second intervals. Do not over warm or your chocolate will scald and harden. 

Dip each apple into melted chocolate and place back onto cookie sheet to cool.

Melt white chocolate bark in a microwave safe bowl. You should only need about 4 pieces of chocolate depending on how much or little you would like to drizzle onto your apples. Once melted pour your white chocolate into a heavy duty sandwich size ziploc bag. Cut the tip, again according to how much or little chocolate you would like to drizzle. 

After drizzling each apple immediately sprinkle on nuts, or sprinkles or any other topping you would like to so that they will stick. Then again place on the cookie sheet to cool. 

Orange Cupcakes

My dear friend Scott has a birthday coming up and naturally I am in charge of the birthday cake. When I asked Scott what his favorite flavor is he informs me that his grandmother used to always make him an orange cake and that he would ask his mom if it would be okay for me to take over. Now that is a lot of responsibility taking over a family tradition and i've NEVER even made an orange cake before. Being the perfectionist that I am I had to do a test run with cupcakes. I used two slightly modified recipes I found online.

The cake recipe kind of had me worried, lemon pudding and lemon extract were added into the mix. I thought we were making an orange cake here? I tend to think I know best so I started sorting through the comments to hear others suggestions. Vanilla pudding was suggested in place of the lemon pudding and while I was at the store about to buy the lemon extract, the orange extract was right next to it and I thought why not? We're making an orange cake we should be using orange extract. I was worried that I may have gotten too overzealous and maybe my cake would be too over bearing but the result was incredible.

The cupcakes came out great and the orange cream cheese icing even better. The icing was from a Paula Dean recipe and was supposed to go on top of her orange brownies. Since I was worried about the orange flavor being too intense I omitted the orange zest from her recipe. The two together were even better than I could have wished and tasted even more amazing out of the fridge.

I also used my circle tip for the first time on these cupcakes to give them that fun swirl. I had been on the hunt for the decorating tip for a few weeks and finally found it at a restaurant supply store.

I didn't add too much flair to these as the goal was just to test the recipe. Honestly I was so relieved the recipe turned out so well I didn't even think twice about dressing these cupcakes up. I'll save my creativity for the actual cake.

The recipe for the orange cake can be found here.
I subbed in vanilla pudding for the lemon pudding.
I also subbed orange extract for the lemon extract.
I opted out from the included glaze recipe and used a Paula Dean icing recipe.
The recipe for the orange cream cheese icing can be found here.
I omitted the orange zest in my recipe.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Very First Post

Baking is somewhat of a hobby of mine. It's what gets me through the day.

As a child I watched my mother bake and was amazed by the creative birthday cakes she made for my brother and me. She made bunny shaped cakes, teddy bear shaped cakes, football fields and magic carpets. She would bake cookies and pies and all sorts of baked bliss. My mother is where I got my inspiration to bake. As I got older my mother baked less and less and I began to take over. She is now my honorary sous-chef always there with a solution to my baking problems.

I was always, first and foremost an artist. After high school I really stepped away from art and I missed it. It used to be a huge part of my life I just feel as if I don't quite have the time for it anymore. The creative side of baking, the experimenting along with the flair and the details are just as satisfying. What makes it even more wonderful is how much other people can enjoy it.

Bakerella is the queen of cake pops. If you've never checked out her blog you definitely should. She recently published her first book on cake pops. Her attention to detail is incredible.

These are a variation of cake pops I made over the summer. 

A 9x13 baked cake of your choice is crumbled into a bowl. Then a can of frosting is added and the two are mixed together.

Then the cake mixture is rolled into 1" balls. Then you should chill them until firm about 30 minutes. 
You could use waffles cones and cut them down to size but I found these kid sized cake cones that stand on their own to be perfect.

After the cake balls are chilled press them into the cones. Then I chilled them again for about 15 minutes.

I used vanilla bark to dip the cake cones in. 

The recipe claimed that dipping the milk chocolate on top was the easiest part because it was supposed to look messy but the recipe lied!! When I dipped the cake cones the milk chocolate came out too perfect looking so I had to put it into a ziploc bag and drizzle it on. 

Add sprinkles and a red peanut M&M and voila!  Absolutely adorable.
The full recipe can be found here.