Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Roll Cookies for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap


For me, participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is an event I look forward to each year. Swapping cookies with fellow bloggers is a lot of fun, but more importantly the event raises money for pediatric cancer research. Raising money to find a cure for cancer is a cause that's near and dear to my heart. Both of my in-laws recently lost their battle with cancer and this is my way of honoring their memory.


 
 
First and foremost, I have to give a big, heart-felt shout out to Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil and Julie from The Little Kitchen for all of the time and dedication they put into organizing this event each year. I'm sure managing a project involving over 500 bloggers is a huge undertaking. Much love to you both!
 
Now, I have to admit that swapping homemade cookies with fellow bloggers can be intimidating because you're essentially baking for other experienced bakers, some of whom you admire and follow their blogs. Deciding what to make is usually an agonizing decision for me, but one look at these Cinnamon Roll Cookies from Wanna Come With and it was love at first sight! Everything about these cookies made me want to reach through the screen and take a bite.
 


I put my own "holiday" spin on them by adding pumpkin spice to the filling. I love the combination of pumpkin, cinnamon and orange zest.

You may have already read about my aversion to rolled cookie dough from last year's swap when I made these delicious Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies with Salted Dulce de Leche Filling, but the annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is definitely one occasion where I am willing to bite the bullet.



These babies (yes, I call my cookies babies) were sent to Kathy at Panini Happy, Preeti at The Big Fat Indian Wedding and Natasha at The Cake Merchant! Each of these women have amazing blogs and I hope they enjoyed the cookies!
 
In exchange, I received the most amazing Brown Butter Molasses Cookies from Lynsey Lou's (seriously I was obsessed with those things and I ate 3 of them within 5 minutes of receiving the package!), the softest Double Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from Blahnik Baker and who wouldn't love Almond Joy Cookies from A Day in the life on the Farm. Thanks so much for the delicious cookies!!


   If you want to participate in this worthy cause, have fun and receive lots of cookies in the mail (and who doesn't!), sign up here to be notified about next year's swap. I promise you won't regret it!

 
Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Makes 3 dozen
Recipe adapted from Wanna Come With

Ingredients

Cookie:
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice mix
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temp


Filling:
5 tablespoons + 2 tsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp heavy cream or milk
dash of cinnamon


Directions:

Make the filling:

Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix at medium speed using an electric hand mixer until well combined, light and fluffy. Set aside.

Make the cookie dough:

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and pumpkin spice. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using your electric hand mixer), beat the sugars, salt and orange zest at medium speed until light and fluffy (approx. 3 minutes).

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the egg and vanilla and mix on low speed until well combined.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until combined.

Roll and assemble the cookies:

Place dough on a sheet of waxed paper and roll into a 12" square. The dough should be easy to handle, if for some reason your dough is slightly sticky, stick in the fridge for a few minutes.

When ready to roll, spread the filling onto the dough in an even layer. Roll the dough into a log, making sure you roll tightly. Wrap in plastic and roll a few times back and forth to help shape the log.

Place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes or until firm.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375f and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a sharp knife, cut the log 48 slices that are 1/4" wide. Tip: It helps to rotate the log a quarter turn after each slice to retain the shape.

Place the slices on prepared baking sheets and bake approx. 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool a few minutes on the baking sheet then remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before glazing.

To make glaze - combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and mix to combine. Adjust to your desired consistency (glaze should be thin and easy to spread but should not be too runny). Lightly brush on each cookie with a pastry brush or place in a pastry bag (or plastic storage bag with corner cut off ) and drizzle on each cookie. Allow glaze to dry.



Store leftovers in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 2 days.






Friday, December 5, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Fritter Bread

Holy moly you guys...this bread. It's so good it's wrong. Imagine all of the flavor of the most delicious Apple Cinnamon Fritter, but in an easy to make quick bread. Seriously, it is that good...

Make some today, you will not regret it! 

P.S. This bread would make great holiday gifts. Just sayin'...







Apple Cinnamon Fritter Bread
Makes one 9"x5" loaf (serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

Steusel:
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup diced apples (I used granny smith)

Bread:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
a splash of vanilla extract
a few tablespoons of milk or cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan (or grease and line with parchment paper)

In a small bowl combine the streusel ingredients (brown sugar and cinnamon only). Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Mix in the vanilla extract.

Mix in the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Add milk and mix just until combined.

Dollop half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread into an even layer. Top with half of the brown sugar cinnamon mixture and half of the diced apples. Lightly press the mixture into the batter.

Dollop the remaining half of the batter into the pan and spread into an even layer. Top with the remaining apples. Lightly press into the batter. Lightly swirl the streusel into the batter with a skewer or handle of a spoon.

Place on a baking sheet and bake 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool on a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and place on cooling rack. Top with glaze.

Store leftovers at room temperature tightly wrapped for up to 2 days.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dark Chocolate Almond Florentines with Orange Zest and Fleur de Sel

Florentines have to be one of my favorite holiday cookies. They're thin, crispy and delicious! This version gets dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with a light dusting of Fleur de Sel direct from Paris thanks to my friend, Teresa. 


The orange zest is a delicious complement to the dark chocolate & almonds and really brightens up the flavor. Added bonus is there's no flour in this recipe so they're gluten free (just make sure your powdered sugar doesn't have any hidden gluten)! 

If you're looking for an easy and delicious cookie to make this holiday, this one is it!




I hope my partner for this month's Leftover's Club, Johanna, enjoys them! Johanna has a great blog, Notes from a Messy Kitchen, with lots of yummy recipes. She sent me the most delicious Blueberry Quinoa Cornbread! Be sure to stop by her blog and check out the recipe...






Dark Chocolate Almond Florentines with Orange Zest and Fleur de Sel
Makes approx 18-20 cookies depending upon size


Ingredients:
2 cups sliced almonds
Zest of 1 medium orange
2 egg whites, room temp
2/3 cup powdered sugar
7 ounces Dark Chocolate Chips (I used my favorite, Ghiradelli!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300f

Line baking sheets with silpat or silicone baking mat and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Place the almonds, powdered sugar, orange zest in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Add the egg whites and fold gently with a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined being careful not to break the nuts.

Wet your hands with cold water and place 1/4 cup sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets about 5 inches apart. Use your fingertips to carefully "spread" each ball into a thin layer. The cookies should be about 3" wide and there should be no gaps/spaces between the almonds - try to make sure the almonds are touching so they adhere together while baking. Continue to wet your fingertips during the spreading process as needed to prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands.

Bake at 300f for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a wire cooling rack to cool. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet when cool.

To decorate - 

Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and melt in the microwave. Spread chocolate on the bottom of each cookie and sprinkle lightly with a little Fleur de Sel (flaked sea salt would also work). Place the cookies chocolate side up on a cooling rack and allow chocolate to set.





Since I was shipping these cookies, I was concerned about the chocolate melting and getting messy during transit so I just drizzled chocolate on half of the cookies to cut down on the mess. Either way you decorate them, they're delicious!

Store leftovers in an air tight container for up to 2 days.

Adapted from Blue Eyed Baker & Ottolenghi

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cinnamon Cake with Fresh Peach Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting



Cake is my favorite dessert, any type any flavor. I love bready things (is bready a even word? If not, it should be!). 

September was my sister Wendy's birthday.  All bakers will understand this, sometimes you are not in the mood to bake. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen every once in a while...especially when its 90 degrees outside and you have no air conditioning!

Anyways, my sisters asked me to bake a cake for Wendy's birthday.  I asked them, “ why don’t you buy a nice ice cream cake? Doesn’t that sounds gooood! “ Their response, “WHAT! LIVEBAKELOVE doesn’t bake for their own families?”This comment still makes me laugh when I think about it…so that is how this delicious peach filled birthday cake came to be...

Since I still had a few peaches left from the cobbler (you need to try that recipe too, it was so good), I decided to take the basic cake recipe I love, add some cinnamon and make a nice peach filling to go with it.  The results were a success!  

The cake was delicious! The hint of cinnamon was just right, not overpowering, the filling was naturally sweet and the whipped cream frosting was fluffy and light.Definitely the perfect way to end a birthday dinner.  In fact, I'm still craving that damn cake. I guess someone will have to have a birthday again real soon! 

I hope you give this delicious cake a try. It's great for any occasion or just because....

Happy Cooking everyone!


Cinnamon Cake with Fresh Peach Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting
Makes one 8" - 9" Cake, serves 10-12 people

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 3/4 cup Cake Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (if you can find Vietnamese Cinnamon that is the best)
5 tablespoons Butter (unsalted, softened to room temp & cut into small pieces)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream (use full fat, not the light)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pure Vanilla extract (not imitation)

Peach Filling
2 fresh large peaches, peeled & chopped into 1/2 inch squares
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon Flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Frosting
3 cups heaving whipping cream
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla extract



Prep work:
a. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
b. Grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans.

Directions for the cake: 
1. In the bowl of your Kitchen-aid (or mixing bowl and a hand mixer) combine sugar, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Mix at low speed until combined. Set aside.

2. Add butter and mix on low speed until it resembles a crumble (about 2-3 minutes).



3. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil and vanilla. Mix until all ingredients are combined. 



4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Mix until  combined.



5. Slowly add the milk into batter mixing just until combined. The batter will be liquid when done. but that is ok.

5.  Divide batter equally between both of the prepared cake pans.



6.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  
7. Remove from oven and cool on a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes. Remove cakes from pan and continue to cool on the wire cooling rack until completely cooled (approx 1-2 hours).

Directions for Filling:  (can be made the day before)
1. Peel and chop two large peaches and place them in a medium size saucepan.
2. Add sugar, water, cinnamon and vanilla. Cook at medium heat.



3. Sprinkle in the flour.  Stir as you add so it doesn't bubble up.
4. Cook for about 3-5 minute until it boils and thickens up. Do not over cook, otherwise the fruit will start breaking down.

5. Cool about 1-2 hour (I put mine in the refrigerator to speed up the process)

Directions for Frosting:
1. Prepwork: Chill your bowl, either the kitchen-air bowl or a plain mixing bowl. 15-30 minutes is fine
2. Add 3 cups of heavy whipping cream in the bowl with , 6 table spoons of white sugar (not powder) and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.
3. Mix at a high speed for about 2-3 minutes with kitchen-aid, about 5 minutes with the hand mixer.  The Cream will appear firm. 

Assemble:
1. Put one layer of cake on a large platter.
2. Add about 1 cup of whipped cream to top of layer.
3. Add all the peach filling on top of whipped cream

4. Add second cake layer
5. Frost with remaking whipped cream frosting. 



6. Decorate as you wish.





ENJOY!!!!!





















Saturday, September 27, 2014

Everything but the Kitchen "Curtain" Cookies & The Lost Art of Gift Giving

It seems with the all of the advancements made in technology these days, we've lost some of the personal touches that make us human. 

I was discussing with a friend this past week how the younger generation prefers texting and gift cards over handwritten letters, cards and taking the time to actually hand select a gift for someone. 

Personally, I prefer to give something I've made from the heart and for me that usually involves baking! 




Friday was my friend Colleen's birthday and these "Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies" are one of her favorite cookies. I can easily see why! They are chock full of goodness - rolled oats, dark chocolate chunks, toasted walnuts, coconut, Special K cereal and dried cherries (which are my own personal touch to the original recipe). 



Colleen loves these cookies so much she even offered to make curtains for my kitchen in exchange for a batch. So I've renamed the cookies "Everything but the Kitchen Curtain" Cookies in her honor.

Happy birthday Colleen! I wish you many more! I promise one of these days I'll pick out the fabric for those curtains...




Kitchen "Curtain" Cookies
Adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'connor
Makes approx 2 dozen large size cookies

Ingredients 

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar (be sure to use dark brown)
2 large eggs room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups walnut halves, toasted & cooled (be sure to use halves, not chopped or pieces)
2 cups Special K Cereal
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups ghiradelli dark chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups good quality dried cherries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350f and line baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, combine the coconut, toasted walnut halves, Special K Cereal, oa ts,dark chocolate chips and cherries, Toss to combine. Set aside.




In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using your hand mixer), mix the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy (approx 2 minutes).

Beat in the eggs one at a time at low speed mixing well after each addition.

Mix in the vanilla extract at low speed until combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed just until combined.

Pour in the chocolate/oatmeal/coconut mixture and fold in the ingredients using a rubber spatula or large spoon until combined.




Using a large cookie scoop, place balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Since these are big cookies, I only put 6 balls of dough onto each sheet to prevent overcrowding. Flatten slightly with your fingertips.

Bake approximately 12-15 minutes until the edges are browned and the centers look just set (rotate the baking sheets halfway through the baking time). Don't overbake. Remember, the cookies will continue to bake on the baking sheet while they are cooling.

Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet on a wire cooling rack for approx 3 minutes. Remove from the baking sheet and place on wire cooling rack to cool completely. Or enjoy warm!




Store leftovers at room temperature in an air tight container for up to 2 days.

Tips:
There are several ingredients in the recipe that are essential to the flavor and texture of these cookies. Please don't skip them!
1. Be sure to use walnut halves and to toast them before baking. The large chunks of walnuts add a lot of crunch to these cookies and toasting them beforehand really enhances the flavor. You will notice the difference!
2. The coconut and Special K cereal are essential to the chewy texture of these cookies. Even if you're not a fan of coconut, you don't even notice it's in there.
3. Definitely use Dark Brown sugar. Again, important to the flavor and texture of the cookie.

Of course, you're welcome to make your own changes, but the outcome of your cookies will be different. Just sayin....

One last tip - I always bake my cookies on insulated baking sheets. I highly recommend them! They ensure your cookies bake evenly and help to prevent over baking. No more burnt cookie bottoms!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fresh Peach and Dried Cherry Cobbler-Crisp



Ahhhh...the perfect dessert for a family dinner. Peaches are sooo sweet this year which makes it the perfect time to transform them into a tasty dessert especially since they are usually on sale at most grocery stores.   

I have made two cobblers this summer.  Once when my boyfriend's family was visiting and now tonight by special request from my mother since she had friends visiting from Virginia and wanted me to bring the dessert.  

Both times this dessert has been a hit, but this time I think I came up with the perfect combination of flavors . The cake bakes up with a nice golden brown, buttery crust while the cherries add tanginess to the sweet peaches. The contrast in flavors leaves you wanting seconds.  

I received the thumbs up from my dad, which has always been a tough one to get! My boyfriend also asked for a piece the following day.

I hope you give this quick and easy recipe a try for your next family dinner. I guarantee the chef will get a nice round of applause.



Fresh Peach and Dried Cherry Cobbler-Crisp
Makes one 9-10" pan (serves 6-8)

Ingredients

4 large peaches (peeled and cut into to 1/4" slices )

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup self-rising flour

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar 

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 1/4  cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup old fashioned oats

2-3 tablespoons of Turbinado sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium size pot, add peeled peaches, 1/4 cup sugar , 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 cup water. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes till peaches are softened. Remove from heat and add dried cherries. Allow to cool.


While the peach/cherry mixture is cooling, microwave 1/2 cup butter until melted. Pour into an ovenproof baking dish 9 to 10 inches in size. Set aside


In a  bowl, mix the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut. Whisk together.  Stir in the milk and vanilla. Add 1/2 cup of old fashioned oats and mix together.


Pour the batter over the top of  the melted butter. Dollop the peaches/cherry mixture over the batter.

Bake for about 50 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2-3 tablespoons of turbinado sugar, return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the edges of the cobbler are nice and brown.


Enjoy with a scoop of your favorite ice cream

 


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Treats for the Troops

The military will always hold a special place in my heart. My Dad served in the Navy for 30 years and my husband for 24, so I guess you can say I've "been" in the military all my life. 

While being the daughter and wife of a service-member often comes at great personal sacrifice, I can honestly say I wouldn't have traded the experience for the world! There were countless times when my Dad wasn't there for birthdays, holidays and school functions. He missed a lot of our major milestones, but in spite of having an absentee Dad, through him I learned the meaning of courage. 

The same can be said for my husband. He wasn't there for the birth of our first child and deployments somehow seemed to fall around the holidays. There were many Christmas mornings spent watching the kids open their presents alone. I can't say you get used to those times, but you do learn ways to cope. Having a husband in the military taught me the meaning of strength.




Now that my husband is retired, I still try to find ways to honor both his and my Dad's service and to show support to our Armed Forces out there serving our country, often in harm's way. My heart goes out to the spouses and children of those families.

Recently a friend asked me to sponsor a unit stationed in Afghanistan by sending them some homemade baked goods. Of course, I was more than happy to help!

I knew I wanted to send something healthy, that could withstand shipping and hopefully still arrive fresh! 




The healthy option I chose was Peanut Butter and Honey Roasted Almond Granola Bars. Peanut Butter is a great source of protein, the oats a great source of fiber and honey is a healthier sweetener than corn syrup. 

I also wanted to include something a bit more fun like this Mini M&M Cookie Brittle. 




The fact that this was a brittle instead of a cookie is what sold me.  I figured if cookies were going to be hard by the time they were delivered, why not send something that was already intended to be crunchy, like brittle.

Here's the link to the recipe I used for the M&M Cookie Brittle. It was really easy to make and delicious! 

Remember, whether you're a baker or not, you can still show your support for the troops in numerous ways. Military.com is a great resource with lots of information. 




Here's the recipe for the granola bars I made. They're inexpensive, easy to make & don't require any baking! Why not whip up a batch, try them for yourself or send some to the troops?


Peanut Butter & Honey Roasted Almond Granola Bars
Makes approx 16 thick, large-size bars


Ingredients:
4 cups quick oats
3 cups rice krispy cereal
1 1/2 cups sliced honey roasted almonds (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 cup honey
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Prepare a 13"x9" baking pan (mine was actually 15" so my bars were a little thinner) by spraying with non-stick spray, lining with non-stick foil or lining with regular foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, cereal and almonds. Set aside.

Place the peanut butter, brown sugar, honey and salt in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat on high for 1 minute, remove and stir, then heat on high for another minute, stir and heat for another 30 seconds. 

Remove, add vanilla extract and whisk for 30 seconds or until well combined making sure there are no lumps of brown sugar.

Pour the mixture over the oat-cereal-nut mixture, then fold well with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is well coated.




Dump the mixture into the prepared pan and press down into an even layer, pressing firmly to compact the mixture. 

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for a few hours. When well set and firmed up, remove from the fridge and cut into bars.




Store tightly covered in the refrigerator or wrap individually and store at room temp for about a week.

For shipping, I wrapped the bars individually and stacked them in an air tight container from the Dollar Store.