Category Archives: baking

Chocolate Chip & Oatmeal Shortbread Cookies

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Chocolate chip cookies are delicious but some days you just need a slightly different type of cookie. And there are so many variations to the traditional chocolate chip cookie that are equally as good and worth discovering. I am also a huge fan of buttery shortbread cookies so this recipe Savory Simple immediately struck chord with me.

These cookies combine three of my favorite cookies into a single bite of baked deliciousness. Chocolate chips, buttery shortbread and chewy oatmeal combine for a simply yet tasty treat that is sure to be a hit and disappear in no time. Go ahead and double the recipe so you can be sure to have enough.

CHOCOLATE CHIP & OATMEAL SHORTBREAD COOKIES

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¾ cup old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  • Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the vanilla, followed by the flour mixture and then the oatmeal.
  • Once all of the ingredients are incorporated, tun the mixer to low speed ands slowly add the chocolate chips.
  • Use a wooden spoon to ensure that the chocolate chips are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, portion out the dough evenly onto the baking sheet. Using the bottom of a glass, slightly flatten the balls into discs.  Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden on top.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature.

Yields 3 dozen cookies

Chocolate Banana Streusel Muffins

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Maybe it is just me but in my kitchen bananas seem to go from inedible green to perfectly golden yellow then to brown in a matter of days. This leads to the never ending kitchen question is what to do with bananas that are beyond their eating prime. So what is a banana loving cook to do? Enter these tasty banana muffins from Food 52.

Now these aren’t your ordinary banana muffins. Using overly ripe bananas ensures that the muffins are sweet and filled with banana flavor. The batter is then spiced with both cinnamon and ginger but the best part of the muffin, in my opinion, is the streusel topping. Not only does it add a delicious crumbling topping to the muffin but it contains chocolate chips which add a sweetness all their own. So yes you can eat chocolate for breakfast. After all it is paired with bananas.

For the muffins:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

cup mashed very ripe banana (about 2 medium bananas)

cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 

 

For the streusel:
1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips 

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
  • Stir in the egg, vanilla, and banana and mix well to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and ginger.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until combined.
  • Divide the batter into the prepared muffin tins.
  • In a small bowl, combine all the streusel ingredients except for the chocolate, mixing with a fork or your fingers until combined.
  • Add the chocolate and mix well.
  • Crumble the streusel topping over the muffins.
  • Bake for 18 to 25 minutes. The tops should feel just set and the edges of the muffin should be starting to turn golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan until cool enough to remove.

Yields 9 muffins

South African Chocolate Pepper Cookies

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Who doesn’t love chocolate? I know I do and since moving to Belgium my love of it has only increased. After all, there are so many delicious quality chocolates to be had. And quality is the key word here. I would rather have a single bite of a great piece of chocolate than unlimited amounts of a mediocre one. And the same rule applies for cooking with chocolate as it does for eating it straight up. If I wouldn’t eat it plain I certainly won’t use it in my cooking.

And as these cookies from Food 52 demonstrate, chocolate can be paired with surprising ingredients to create delicious treats. In this case freshly ground black pepper, yes black pepper, enhances the chocolate providing these cookies with a surprising pop of spice. The cookies are soft, slightly chewy and filled with flavor in every bite. And to increase the flavor quotient in them I use two types of chocolate, a bittersweet and a semi-sweet. These cookies are so good that you might want to make a double recipe.

SOUTH AFRICAN CHOCOLATE PEPPER COOKIES

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped and divided

12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup brown sugar

large eggs

cups all-purpose flour

2/3 teaspoon baking soda

tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Melt 4 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate and 4 ounces of the semi-sweet chocolate and set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the butter until light and airy.
  • Add the sugar and beat until completely incorporated into butter.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.
  • With the mixer set on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to to butter mixture, beating until just incorporated.
  • Add the melted chocolate into the butter mixture and beat until just incorporated.
  • Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate and the ground pepper.
  • Cover and refrigerate until dough is cool and firm.
  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Drop the batter by the tablespoonful onto the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart on sheet.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until crisp on outside but still chewy inside.

Yields: 40 cookies

Strawberry Mint Muffins

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Muffins are the perfect breakfast item.  I will bake up a batch on a Sunday morning to be enjoyed over lazy cups of coffee all morning long.  Leftovers can be reheated and eaten on the go for busy weekday mornings.  Just about anything can be added to a basic muffin recipe.  Fruits, nuts, chocolate; the possibilities are endless.  I like to use buttermilk as the liquid in this recipe since I think it adds a slight tang to the muffin but you could easily substitute plain yogurt or even sour cream.  Depending upon the add-ins, I’ve also used good quality unsweetened flavored yogurt with fantastic results.

This time of year I like to use fresh fruit.  Fresh seasonal fruits are a perfect foil to the sweet, crumbly cake but if fresh fruits aren’t in season, frozen makes an absolutely acceptable substitution.  With fresh strawberries in abundance I had been thinking about baking up a batch of strawberry muffins all week.  When I discovered mint growing in my garden I decided to turn these muffins into the ultimate spring treat.  The mint adds a fresh contrast to the sweet berries and the combination is amazing. Do eat these muffins warm.  If you can’t eat them fresh from the oven reheat them in the microwave for a few seconds. You won’t be disappointed.

STRAWBERRY MINT MUFFINS

3 cups flour plus 1 Tablespoon

1 cup white sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries

1 heaping Tablespoon fresh minced mint

1 Teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Granulated sugar (if desired)

  • Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.  Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  • Combine 3 cups of flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the mint and lemon zest.  Set aside.
  • In a medium-sized bowl whisk the eggs until blended.  Add in the buttermilk and stir to combine.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg-buttermilk mixture.  Gently stir until just combined.
  • Add in the butter and mix until incorporated.
  • In a small bowl toss the strawberries with 1 tablespoon of flour.  Mix into the batter being careful not to crush the berries.
  • Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon divide the muffin batter evenly between twelve muffin cups.
  • Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with granulated sugar if desired.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until browned and a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tins.

Carrot Tahini Muffins

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I have a carrot fan in my house. Ever since his teeth came in, my son has been obsessed with carrots. We visited Rome, Italy when he was just over a year old and tried to introduce him to McDonald’s french fries. Much to my husband’s display the fry was discarded in favor of a carrot. A year later on an epic road trip he ate so many carrots that crunching became the soundtrack for our trip and I began to see an orange tinge on his skin. (Maybe it was my imagination but given the amount of carrots he consumed I’m not so sure). At school he is known as the kid who loves carrots and will opt for the crunchy orange vegetable over a sweet treat any day. And carrots have become a staple on my weekly trip to the market; not having them in the house can cause chaos to ensue. But really, I’m not complaining because what mom doesn’t want her children to like healthy foods.

So in my quest to keep things fresh on the carrot front I’m always on the lookout for new recipes that include this favored vegetable. So when I came across this SmittenKitchen recipe for carrot muffins, I knew I had to give them a shot. I loved the fact that they aren’t filled with a lot of sugar and butter, instead relying on olive oil, buttermilk and a tahini for their moistness and flavor. Yes, tahini; the sesame paste most often associated with hummus and other Middle Eastern treats. Plus the afore mentioned carrots.

And the results? Absolutely delicious. They were a hit in my house and will be making regular appearances on my breakfast menus.

CARROT TAHINI MUFFINS
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cup packed coarsely grated carrots

Sesame seeds, for garnish

  • Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Whisk the olive oil, tahini and brown sugar together in the bottom of a large bowl.
  • Whisk in the eggs, then the buttermilk and vanilla.
  • Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt, then switch to a spoon or flexible spatula and stir in flour, then carrots, mixing just until combined.
  • Coat a standard sized 12-cup muffin tin  with a nonstick spray.
  • Fill each about 3/4 of the way with batter then sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds.
  • Bake muffins for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out batter-free.
  • Let them cool in pan for 5 minutes on a rack before transferring them to the cooling rack to cool completely.

Yields: 12 muffins

Snickerdoodles

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Snickerdoodles are simple cookies with a funny sounding name.  There is really nothing fancy or exotic about this dessert but whether I make them for bake sales, cookie swaps, or dessert tables, they are snapped up in just a few minutes.  Snickerdoodles are a New England staple and I can always spot the New Englader in the crowd since they are the first ones to pounce on the cookie tray.  This recipe is courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen (another New England tradition) and comes together almost as fast as the cookies get eaten.

SNICKERDOODLES

1 3/4 cups white sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tarter

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

2 eggs

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375.
  • Place 1/4 cup of the sugar and all of the cinnamon in a small shallow dish.  (A pie plate works well).  Combine with a whisk and set aside.
  • In a large bowl combine the flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.
  • Place the remaining sugar in a separate large bowl.  Add the butter and vegetable shortening.
  • Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the ingredients together until they are combined and the entire mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time and beat until combined.
  • Reduce the speed to low and add the flour.  Beat until just combined and no flour streaks remain.
  • Place two tablespoons (use 1 for smaller, bite sized cookies) dough in your hands and roll into a small ball.
  • Roll each ball in the sugar and cinnamon mixture then place on a cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes (8-10 for smaller cookies).  The cookies will be soft and puffy when done.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven and allow the cookie sheet to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the cookies and allowing to cool completely.

Popovers

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I love big, fluffy, and eggy popovers.  There is something innately elegant about this oh so simple treats.  Served in their simplest form with a dab of butter and a dollop of jam they are the perfect breakfast treat.  Or you can follow an old Maine tradition and eat popovers and chowder on the lawn of the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park.  In college I discovered Judie’s Restaurant in Amherst, Massachusetts where oversized popovers were served as the foundation for hearty sandwiches, as an accompaniment for soup or salad or all on their own.  (When I was back in Amherst this past summer I went to Judie’s with the sole purpose of eating a popover).

I tend to forget how easy popovers are to make. This recipe from America’s Test Kitchen only has six ingredients. Instead of using a blender I use a stick mixer which makes cleanup a breeze.  With a little prior planning (the batter needs to rest before baking) they are a snap to make.  If you want to serve them for breakfast you can even make the batter the night before and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.  If you do this there isn’t any excuse for not serving them for breakfast.

POPOVERS

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • Blend the eggs and milk in a blender until smooth.  Add the flour, melted butter, and salt and continue to blend on high speed until the batter is bubbly and smooth, about 1 minute. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • While the batter is resting, measure 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil into each cup of a popover pan.  Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, place the pan in the oven, and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • After the batter has rested, pour it into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup.  Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and divide the batter evenly among the 6 cups in the pan.  Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes without opening the oven door.
  • Lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake until golden brown all over, 15 to 18 minutes more.  Gently tip the popovers out onto a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving, about 2 minutes.

Coconut Milk Nutella Swirl Bread

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I love Nutella. There is just something about that creamy chocolate – hazelnut spread that is simply delicious. I’ve been known to slather it on toast or even eat it by the spoonful right from the jar. But it is also a wonderful ingredient to cook with, taking baked goods from ordinary to extraordinary. I’m also a huge fan of coconut and cooking with coconut milk. It is rich and flavorful, providing dishes with a subtle sweetness and baked goods with a moist and slightly tropical consistency that you simply can’t get from other types of milk.

So given my love of both Nutella and coconut, when I found this recipe from NoblePig.com there was no question about my not trying it out. And I’m so glad I did. This quick bread is everything its name promises to be and was such a hit the first time I made it that I immediately got requests for another loaf. I’ve even baked this in the form of muffins following the same method for filling the cups as for making the bread but reducing the baking time to 15-18 minutes. Essentially any way you bake this, it is delicious.
COCONUT MILK-NUTELLA SWIRL BREAD
For the bread:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 cup coconut milk

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup Nutella, slightly warmed until easily spreadable

For the glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Up to 4 tablespoons coconut milk

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 x 5 x 2.75 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • In a separate bowl beat egg with a fork and stir in melted butter and coconut milk.
  • Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just enough to combine. Fold in flaked coconut.
  • Spoon one third of the batter into the bottom of the loaf pan. Add half the Nutella, covering the batter as best you can without mixing the two together.
  • Add another 1/3 of the batter and cover Nutella completely. Finish with the other half of the Nutella and then more batter to top it off.
  • Use a table knife and stick it down, all the way through the batter at one end of the loaf pan. Work your way from one side of the pan to the other in a zigzag motion. Make just one pass for the swirl effect.
  • Bake 55-65 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  •  Let cool 20 minutes in pan before flipping over and letting cool completely.
  • For the glaze, add confectioners’ sugar to a medium sized bowl and start with 2 tablespoons of milk poured into the sugar. Mix until it is a thick, pourable glaze, adding more milk as necessary in order to achieve the right consistency.
  • Pour over bread and allow to sit.
  • Slice when the glaze is completely dry.

Yields 12 slices

Lemon Milano Cookies

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I grew up in a home where pretty much everything was homemade. Cereal was granola and shredded wheat was a special store bought treat; cakes were baked from scratch and a cookie was fresh baked from the oven. With one exception. Every once in a while Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies would appear in the house and no matter how well the paper bag was hidden, the cookies disappeared in a matter of minutes. Perhaps it was the novelty of a store bought cookie that enticed me but to this day there is something about those soft and tender cookies sandwiched together with a bit of dark chocolate that simply excites me. So naturally it was just a matter of time before I decided to make my own Milano treats.
My cookies combine zesty lemon with rich dark chocolate. The cookie recipe comes from  Dessertnowdinnerlater.com. The cookies are tender and thanks to the use of lemon in three forms–zest, juice and extract–filled with tangy flavor in every bite. It pairs perfectly with the complexity rich dark chocolate. If you prefer you can substitute milk chocolate but the results will be creamy and slightly sweeter.
LEMON MILANO COOKIES

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1½ teaspoons pure lemon extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup powdered sugar

8 ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest using an electric mixer set on medium speed.
  • Add the egg, egg yolk, lemon juice and lemon extract mixing thoroughly to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients mixing until just incorporated and scraping the bowl as necessary.
  • Place the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl.
  • Scoop 1½ tablespoon sized cookie dough balls and roll them in the powdered sugar.
  • Place the cookies on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake  for 9 to 10 minutes until the cookies are just golden.
  • Move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Place the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water. Stir gently until the chocolate is melted and liquid.
  • Using a narrow spatula or a knife, spread the melted chocolate over the bottom half of a cookie then top with another cookie. Set aside until the chocolate is firm.

Yields: 20 sandwich cookies

 

 

Irish Soda Bread

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Nothing personifies Irish food and St. Patrick’s Day like Irish soda bread. Neither savory nor sweet this raisin studded bread is incredibly simple yet unforgettably good. I would describe both the taste and texture as being similar to a scone. And best of all it is incredibly easy to make.

There are many recipes out there for this classic bread but my favorite is this one from Simply Recipes. So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day go ahead and bake up a loaf, or two. Eat it as is or my preferred way, toasted until warm then slathered with butter. Yum!

IRISH SODA BREAD

4 to 4 1/2 cups flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 Tbsp butter

1 cup raisins

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  • Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then add in the raisins.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir.
  • Dust your hands with a little flour and then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add in a little more flour. Be careful not over-knead the dough.
  • Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. Note that the dough will be a little sticky, and quite shaggy (a little like a shortcake biscuit dough).
  •  Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a baking sheet (it will flatten out a bit in the pan or on the baking sheet).
  • Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about an inch and a half deep in an “X” shape.
  • Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
  • Remove the pan  from the oven and let the bread sit for 10 minutes before moving it to a rack to cool briefly.
  • Serve the bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted.

Yields 12-16 slices

 

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