Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gingerbread Men

Making your own gingerbread is rewarding and simple to do. It's most likely better than anything you could buy at your local coffee shop or grocery. You can bake to your desired doneness - softer for dunking but firm enough to hold whatever shape you make. Yummy!

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Holiday Season!

Gingerbread Men
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening, melted
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger

In a large bowl, mix together the egg, molasses, sugar, melted shortening and baking soda. Beat well.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon and ginger. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture, blending well. Chill the dough for several hours or overnight.

When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease two cookie sheets, or line them with parchment.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Form each portion into a nice compact ball, flouring it well. Roll out each piece on a well-floured surface to about 1/8-inch (3mm) thickness.

Using cookie cutters, cut out gingerbread people (or animals, or dumptrucks etc.). Carefully transfer people to the cookie sheets and bake for 5 to 7 minutes - until very lightly browned around the edges. Watch them closely - small shapes will bake more quickly than large ones.

Let your cookies cool for a minute or two before removing them to a rack to cool completely. Decorate with icing. Let icing set before eating (if you can wait).

Icing Paint
4 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup water
paste food colouring

In bowl, whisk sugar with water, adding up to 2 tbsp more water if necessary to make spreadable. Tint with food coluring as desired.

Recipe Sources: The Clueless Baker, 2001 &
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Mini Panettone Cookies

The Holiday Season is here and with it comes all the smells and flavours we associate with this time of the year.  I don't think you can go into a grocery store without seeing boxes of Panettone stacked like a mountain.  If you like this seasonal bread then you'll enjoy these cookies flavoured with fennel, almond and orange.

The cookies are very petite and the batter is thin-ish so when you make them try to put even amounts of the cherries, nuts and raisins in each so they end up being roughly the same size.

Mini Panettone Cookies

1/4 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp grated orange rind
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp anise extract (or 1/2 tsp fennel seeds or anise seeds, crushed)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda, baking powder and salt
1/4 cup chopped candied red cherries
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted slivered almonds


1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp salted butter, softened
4 tsp milk

In large bowl, beat butter, sugar and egg until fluffy; beat in orange rind, and almond and anise extracts.  In separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; stir into butter mixture.  Stir in cherries, raisins and nuts.

Drop by rounded 1 tsp about 2 inches apart, onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake in 350F oven until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to racks, let cool.

Icing: In small bowl, beat icing sugar, butter and milk until smooth.  Using piping bag fitted with plain tip or resealable plastic bag with corner tip cut off, pipe icing decoratively over cookies. (Or spread with knife.)  Makes about 60 cookies.

Recipe Source: Canadian Living Holiday Celebrations, 2009

Monday, December 12, 2011

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies are one of my favourite cookies.  They're easy, fast and always taste delicious.  Add some chocolate chips and they become out of this world.

This recipe completely uses whole wheat flour.  Sometimes too much whole wheat can make baked goods heavy and loose its light texture.  In these cookies there is no fear of that - no one will know!  The texture is chewy and I baked mine a little longer so the edges were crispy and the centre soft.  If you want, the recipe can be made with all-purpose flour or a mixture of both.

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 375F.

In large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter, granulated and brown sugars and the egg until creamy ans thoroughly mixed.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and blend  very well.

Now make the cookies: by hand, roll the dough into 1-inch (2 cm) balls, place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches (5 cm) between them to allow for spreading.  For the classic peanut butter cookie look, flatten each ball of dough with a fork, pressing lightly to make a criss-cross pattern.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until cookies have puffed slightly and are lightly browned on the bottom.  Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

Recipe Source: The Clueless Baker, 2001

Monday, December 05, 2011

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've made chocolate chip cookies countless times and am always interested in new versions of this classic.  I haven't really had a go-to recipe until I came across this one from Bite Me by sisters Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat.

For starters, these cookies are larger than most cookies and do not flatten out to become thin discs.  They are solid, dunkable and chewy - just how I like my cookies.  I've made them a lot and they've never disappointed.  Impress your family and friends and whip up a batch today!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/2 milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.

In an electric mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar and sugar on medium speed until well blended.  Beat in vanilla, egg and egg yolk until light and fluffy.  On low speed, add flour mixture and chocolate chips, mixing just until flour disappears.

Drop dough by 1/4 cup at a time, 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack.

Yield: 20-24 large cookies.

Recipe Source: Bite Me, 2009 by Julie Albert & Lisa Gnat

Friday, December 02, 2011

Naughty Biscotti

I've been a fan of the Podleski sisters ever since they released Looneyspoons in 1996. I have all four of their cookbooks and their latest, The Looneyspoons Collection, was given to me a few weeks ago as a gift. It contains their greatest recipe hits updated and some brand new ones. It's a beautiful book to go through and I do think there is something for everyone in it.

If you're familiar with Janet and Greta then you know they give their recipes quirky and humorous names. Naughty Biscotti is their version of a lemon, cranberry and pistachio biscotti that does not disappoint. They are chock full of bright flavour and colour. They're a breeze to put together and, as they say in the recipe, the longer you bake them the crisipier they get. I followed the recipe as is and was very happy with the end result. The are delicious and nutritious. Can't argue with a cookie that has oat bran in it. :)

Naughty Biscotti

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 egg white
1 1/2 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Preheeat oven to 350F. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine flour, oat bran, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together both sugars and butter on medium speed of electric mixer for 1 minute. Add eggs, egg white, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat again until well blended. Using a wooden spoon, add flour mixture to sugar mixture and stir just until blended. Dough will be thick. Add cranberries and pistachios and mix well.

Divide dough in half. Using lightly floured or greased hands, shape each half into an 8 x 3 x 1/4-inch loaf and place on prepared cookie sheet, about 3 inches apart. Add a bit more flour if dough is too sticky.

Bake on middle oven rack for 20 minutes. Remove loaves from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 275F. Transfer loaves to a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife cut each loaf crosswise on a diagonal into 9 slices. (You'll have some scraps from the end pieces, so go ahead and eat them. Everyone knows scraps have zero calories.) Place slices, cut-side down, on same cookie sheet. Return to oven and bake for 8 minutes. Turn biscotti over and bake for 8 more minutes. Cool completely on wire rack. Biscotti will harden as they cool.

Note: If you prefer super-hard biscotti, increase baking time from 8 minutes to 10 minutes per side.

Recipe Source: The Looneyspoons Collection, Janet & Greta Podleski, 2011
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

I made cupcakes yesterday after a very long time. They were for a birthday and I decided to jazz them up by using origami paper for the liners which worked perfectly. The little bit of extra flair upped the oomph factor and made for a seriously pretty platter.

The cupcakes were moist and tasty on their own and the buttercream was deliciously creamy. The recipes are easy to follow and make. The cupcake recipe is actually for chocolate cake but I made 21 cupcakes with the batter and baked them for 20-22 minutes.

Good Old Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare two greased and parchment-lined 9-inch round cake pans or one 9 x 13-inch rectangular pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Add the milk, vegetable oil and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes until smooth, scraping down the sides several times. Add the eggs and beat for another 2 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared pans, them slam the pans on the counter once or twice to eliminate bubbles. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack, peel off the paper, and let cool completely before doing something delicious with it.

Makes two 9-inch round layers or one 9 x 13-inch rectangular cake.

Deluxe Buttercream Icing

1 cup unsalted butter
4 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup whipping cream

In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat until well blended. Add the vanilla and whipping cream and continue to beat on high speed until frosting is fluffy and creamy - about 5 minutes. (You can add up to 2 tbsp of additional whipping cream if you feel that the frosting is too stiff.)

Makes more than enough ultra-creamy frosting to generously fill and frost a two-layer, 8 or 9-inch round cake. Or more than enough to thickly frost the top of a 9 x 13-inch cake.

Recipe Source: The Clueless Baker, 2001

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I love baklava and have eaten a lot of it. I've tried it with all different types and nuts, shapes and flavours. They ones I have enjoyed the most have been made by friends - crispy and moist but certainly not dry.

Since this was my first attempt, I used the easiest recipe I could find. I didn't want to get fancy, I just wanted to get a feel for the technique and how it all came together.

I've concluded that putting baklava together is not hard. Once I had everything ready it came together without mishap but it did take a while to assemble. Covering the phyllo is essential because if the sheets get dry and break you'll have a hard time brushing with butter. Scoring the phyllo turned out to be fairly easy, though I did make one incorrect cut. A sharp knife = success. Once you're done, congratulate yourself. All you have to do now is bake it and pour hot honey all over the top. Easy.

Overall, a great recipe for all bakers. It turned out crispy on top and chewy-moist throughout. You can mix it up with different nut and flavourings but if you're looking for a 'classic'-tasting baklava, this is for you.

Recipe: Baklava


4 cups finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 lb phyllo pastry leaves (1 package), thawed
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups honey
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C)

In a large bowl, toss together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Unroll the package of phyllo pastry onto a sheet of waxed paper. Cover with a second sheet of waxed paper and a clean dish towel. (The waxed paper will keep the phyllo from drying out and the towel will keep the whole thing weighted down and covered.)

Brush a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) rectangular baking dish with some of the melted butter. Now, remove one full sheet of phyllo pastry from the stack and place in the baking dish, allowing it to extend up the sides of the dish. Brush with melted butter. Repeat until you have 6 layers of phyllo pastry in the baking dish, brushing each one with melted butter. Sprinkle with 1 cup (250 mL) of the walnut mixture.

Now, cut the remaining sheets of phyllo pastry crosswise in half. (A half sheet of phyllo should fit the baking dish almost exactly.) Place one of these half-sheets over the layer of walnuts in the baking dish. Brush with butter. Repeat until you have 6 layers of phyllo, each brushed with butter. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the walnut mixture.

OK, so far we've used half of the walnut mixture. Right? Repeat this procedure - 6 sheets of phyllo, 1 cup walnuts, 6 more sheets of phyllo, another cup of walnuts, blah, blah, blah - until all the walnuts are gone. The top layer should be 6 sheets of phyllo pastry.

Trim away the excess phyllo pastry (the stuff that's sticking up from the bottom layer overhang) and brush the top with melted butter. with a very sharp knife, cut through the top few layers of pastry in a diamond pattern (4 long rows, then diagonally across) and bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the top is golden and crisp.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the honey with the lemon juice until hot but not boiling. Spoon the hot honey evenly over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let cool completely before cutting into diamonds (along the pre-cut lines) and serving. Makes at least 24 pieces.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling

I've made Whoopie pies in the past and don't remember them striking me as a super-duper-I-have-to-make-these-again kind of treat. Recently, a friend sent me this recipe on two separate occasions so I gave them a go since she was visiting today.

From the picture you can see the cookies are of the dark and cakey variety. The rich-looking batter was simple to put together. Now what makes these cookies make you want to say "Whoopie" is the cream cheese filling. It adds a nice sweetened tang to the chocolate of the cookie. Be warned, it is a rich treat but they are big-ish so sharing isn't a problem. I guess you could fill it with icing or some other filler-type substance but the cream cheese is, to quote from Rachael Ray, yum-o!

Overall, a thumbs up treat. Everyone who tried one liked it so it's a keeper.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Breakfast Bread

I bought Bite Me ages ago at Indigo. I didn't set out to do this but as I flipped through it I was hooked by the recipes, humour and, most importantly, the bold graphics. If you own this book, you know what I mean. :)

I have made many a dinner from it (the Fiesta Bowl Salad is always a hit) so I made this bread one lazy Sunday. All I can say is that you won't be disappointed with the result.

This bread bakes at a lower temperature so the cinnamon sugar topping did not burn like others can. The loaf itself was moist and tangy - very eatable. The only modification I made was to put two layers of cinnamon swirl within the loaf. I always find that I don't put enough in one layer and end up dumping way too much on top. (Perhaps this is why it burns?? Hmmm)

This lovely loaf was a snap to throw together and quite satisfying. If you're looking to check out a new book, Bite Me is worth a peek.