Sour Cream Drops

How can you look at these cookies and not smile?  Rainbow nonpareils and sprinkles tend to have that effect on me.  These Sour Cream Drop cookies are fluffy, airy, soft, and chewy sugar cookie that are easy to eat by the handful because they’re so light and mild.  They don’t taste as rich or vanilla-y as traditional sugar cookies, but judging from the speed that they disappeared, they’re just as (or maybe even more) popular.

Sour Cream Drops- All the Good cookies - 2

Sour Cream Drops

(from All the Good Cookies by Gretchen Holt-Witt)
Makes 5 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
Rainbow sprinkles or nonpareils

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Beat butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with sour cream.  Beat until combined.   Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, and beat to combine.
  6. Using a small (2-teaspoon size) cookie scoop, drop the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  Sprinkle sprinkles over the top.  The dough will be quite soft and wet, so the sprinkles should stick well.
  7. Bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned, 11 to 14 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets on the oven racks halfway through the baking time.
  8. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough on cool cookie sheets.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Chocolate Mint Brownies

“With great power comes great responsibility.”  And the person who makes these outrageously decadent Chocolate Mint Brownies will have great power bestowed upon them as the keeper of rich, fudgy brownies, layered with a cool, creamy peppermint frosting, and topped with a smooth chocolate ganache.  So, distribute these brownies with great care and responsibility for they are so delicious that people will go to great lengths devour them.  You’ve been warned.

Like most superheros, on the outside these Chocolate Mint Brownies look quiet and unassuming.
Chocolate Mint Brownies- Sally's 3

Yet, when you delve deeper, you’ll find that the brownies are composed of rich, complex layers, resembling an Andes mint.
Chocolate Mint Brownies- Sally's 4

Chocolate Mint Brownies

(From Sally’s Baking Addiction)
Makes 1 9×13 pan of brownies

Ingredients

BROWNIES
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (85g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (21g) unsweetened cocoa powder

MINT FROSTING LAYER
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons (30ml) milk
1 1/4 teaspoons peppermint extract
liquid or gel green food coloring (optional)

CHOCOLATE LAYER
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter
1 heaping cup (around 200g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

BROWNIES

  1. Melt the butter and chopped chocolate together.  You can do this in a medium saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, or you can do this in a microwave by heating in 20 second intervals and stirring after each interval of heating. Remove the melted chocolate and butter mixture from the heat, pour into a large mixing bowl, and allow to slightly cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Position the oven rack to the lower third of the oven, and preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper (or aluminum foil), leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  4. Whisk the granulated and brown sugars into the cooled chocolate/butter mixture.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition.
  6. Whisk in the vanilla.
  7. Mix the salt, flour, and cocoa powder in a separate medium size bowl.  Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg and butter mixture (do not overmix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients).
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 35-36 minutes or until the brownies begin to pull away from the edges of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with only a few moist crumbs when the brownies are done. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, lift the parchment (or foil) out of the pan using the overhang on the sides, and place on a baking sheet as you make the frosting. Do not cut into squares yet.

MINT FROSTING

  1. In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and milk. Beat for 2 minutes on low speed, then increase to high speed and beat for an additional minute.
  3. Add the peppermint extract and food coloring (if using), and beat on high for one minute. Taste and add additional peppermint extract if desired.
  4. Frost cooled brownies, that you placed on the baking sheet, and place the baking sheet in the refrigerator. This allows the frosting to “set” on top of the brownies which makes spreading the chocolate layer easy. Keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE

  1. Melt the butter and chocolate chips in a medium saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Or melt in a medium microwave safe bowl in 20 second increments, stirring after each, in the microwave.
  2. Once melted and smooth, pour over the mint layer. Gently spread with a knife or offset spatula.
  3. Place the brownies, that are still on the baking sheet, in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour (and up to 4 hours or overnight) to set the chocolate.

FINISHING THE BROWNIES

  1. Once chilled, remove from the refrigerator and cut into squares. For neat cutting, wipe the knife off with a paper towel between each cut. Brownies can remain at room temperature for a few hours. Cover tightly and keep leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with M&M Minis

I’m just passing along a quick public service announcement about the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever.   I blogged about this recipe a while ago but recently made a batch with M&M minis (sometimes called baking M&Ms) instead of chocolate chips.  If you need a little reminder about the brilliance of these cookies, just know that the oatmeal provides a hearty, chewy texture, but the cookies are also balanced out by crispy edges. The recipe is really easy to make (without using any “fancy” equipment), and the cookies bake up quickly (and make a big batch).  Using mini M&Ms (instead of chocolate chips) added the perfect amount of crunch and pop of fun color to these cookies.  You should bake these…now… Here’s the link.  No excuses… Don’t tell me that you can’t find the link to the recipe.

IMG_4015

Financiers with Nutella

After several weeks of Nutella-themed baking activities, I thought that my Nutella baking obsession had gone into hibernation for a while.  But all it took was a Facebook friend’s post about Nutella ice cream to pull me back in to the dark (chocolately hazelnut) side.  Armed with a new (impulse buy) Nutella cookbook, I decided to make financiers stuffed with Nutella.   Financiers are typically small rectangular almond cakes with a plain look to them, and as with many French cakes, they’re light and moist in the inside.  Even though I’ve come across financiers in the many pastry displays I’ve oogled, I had never eaten one before because all the other surrounding pastries just looked so much more appealing.  But as I learned after making these financiers, looks can be deceiving.  And when you stuff them with Nutella and bake them up just right (i.e., not overbaked), people start eating them like potato chips (just can’t eat one!).  My only complaint with these is that the silicone pans I used to bake them in were really difficult to clean afterwards.  So, this recipe will be relegated to my “special occasions” dessert list.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have financier pans.  I baked mine in a variety of shaped pans.

Financiers with Nutella- Nutella book 1

My goal was to have as close to an equal ratio of Nutella to cake as possible without causing the cake to explode.

Financiers with Nutella- Nutella book 3

Financiers with Nutella

(from Nutella: The 30 best recipes by Larousse)
Makes:  It depends… I used several different pans/mold including round, square, and rectangular silicone molds.
Note: The recipe I used was kind of vague in its instruction.  So I had to do a little bit of trial and error to determine the best amount of baking time.

Ingredients

5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (50 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (130 grams) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup (70 grams) ground almonds (I used almond flour from Trader Joe’s)
4 egg whites (from large eggs)
3 tablespoons of Nutella (I used more as I like to include as much Nutella as possible)

Directions

  1. Prepare pans by greasing them well or spraying them with baking spray.  These cakes will stick to the pan, so make sure you don’t skip this step.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or microwave it for about 20-30 seconds.  Set aside to cool a little.
  4. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, and ground almonds.
  5. Add the egg whites, one at a time, to the flour mixture and beat well after each addition.
  6. Add the melted butter (make sure the butter is not too warm so that it won’t curdle the egg whites) to the flour and egg mixture, and mix well.
  7. Fill your greased pans about 1/3 with the cake mixture.  Using a small cookie scoop (if you have one), drop Nutella on top of the cake mixture (make sure to leave room for the top layer of the cake mixture to cover the Nutella).  Then cover the Nutella with a layer of cake mixture.  Leave about 1/3 to 1/4 of the top of the pan empty as these cakes will rise a little as they bake.  Also, make sure that the top layer of the cake mixture completely covers the Nutella.
  8. Baking times are a bit tricky, and I found that the key to determining when the financiers are done is based how they look and feel.  The tops should be only slightly shiny and not all wet (although if they’re dry to the touch, then you’ve overbaked them) and a bit spongey to the touch.  Also, keep in mind that the tops won’t brown very much but the bottoms will.  The financiers will keep baking as they cool in their molds, so it’s better to err on the side of underbaking.  Just to give you a few loose guidelines on baking times, the original recipe used financier pans and recommended a 10-12 minute baking time.  Since I didn’t have financier pans, I used silicone pans with a) round cavities (about 1 1/2 inch diameter for each cavity)

IMG_4218[1]

b) square cavities (1 1/2in x 1 1/2in cavity)

IMG_4217[1]

and c) rectangular cavities (2×3 inch cavity)

IMG_4216[1]

The round and square cavity pans took about 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 minutes to bake.  The rectangular cavity pans took about 10 1/2 minutes to bake.

9.  Remove the pan from the oven, and let the financiers cool in the pan.  After they’ve cooled, you might need to use a butter knife to loosen the edges from the pan.

Chipping Away at the Baking Backlog

Hello, I’m still here!  And I’ve been baking up a storm, but it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  It’s been an uncharacteristically busy May for me with a big ballroom competition to start out the month, and then a week later I went on a long awaited Alaskan cruise.  But despite all the flurry of activities, I was still churning out treats from my oven in my spare moments.  Now that I’m settling back into my usual daily routine, I’m facing down a huge backlog of baking posts, but I’m motivated to get the posts up because the baked goods have been pretty ridiculously delicious.

Usually when I come back from vacation, I bring back food stuff and baking inspiration from my trip.  This time, my trip was less about food and more about the mindblowingly amazing Alaskan landscape, but I’m not complaining.  My boots were too heavy for me to do a handstand, so I had to settle for doing the splits while hiking the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska .

IMG_4102[1]

Caramels as Currency

I’ve always enjoyed the notion of bartering and the inherent belief that everyone has something that they do, make, etc. that is of value to someone else.  However, it seems like in my daily life, I’ve had less practice with engaging in bartering.  Maybe it’s because I live in a big city where if you want something, you most likely buy it rather than trade for it.  So, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in the LA Food Swap where a group of people across Los Angeles get together to barter foods that’s they’ve made, grown, or foraged.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I made four batches of caramels for the swap (apple cider caramels, root beer float caramels, maple syrup caramels, and salted honey caramels) and crossed my fingers that they would translate into high value for other people.  I left home with four pounds of homemade caramels  to swap and returned with a 19 pound bag full of jams, marmalades, kimchi, nut butter, BBQ rubs, muffins, avocados, lemons, kumquats, spiced nuts, and a cookbook.  I guess caramels are hard to resist.  I’ll be posting some of the recipes for the caramels I made for the food swap in a future blog post.  Now I’m wondering what else I can swap caramels for…

LA food swap haul

Apple Pecan Quick Bread

Whenever I have friends visiting from out of town, I always want to send them home with some type of baked good to help extend their feeling of being on vacation.  This delicious Apple Pecan Quick Bread is perfect because it stays moist and fresh for 5 to 7 days, and it travels well.  It’s not too sweet (perfect for a quick snack at the airport while waiting for a flight) and crammed full of apples, pecans, and all sorts of spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and ginger (to bring back memories of a homey visit).

This Apple Pecan Quick Bread looks good from the outside…
IMG_3899

And looks even better in the inside…
IMG_3903

Apple Pecan Quick Bread

(Adapted from Fine Cooking)
Makes one 8-inch loaf

Ingredients

Baking spray with flour
6-1/2 oz. (1-1/2 cups plus 2 Tbs.) all-purpose flour; more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch ground cloves
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
3/8 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoon molasses
2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and grated (1 to 1-1/4 cups or about 7 oz.)
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray with baking spray with flour (or butter and flour) an 8×4-inch loaf pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, baking soda, and cloves.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and salt until the mixture is pale yellow and the sugar has dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the oil and molasses to the wet ingredients, and whisk until smooth.
  6. Using a silicone spatula, stir in the apple and pecans.
  7. Fold the dry mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined.
  8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and level the mixture by tapping the pan on the counter.
  9. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out almost clean with few moist crumbs clinging to it, 40 to 45 minutes. (If the top of the bread begins to darken too much, lay a piece of foil over the top.)
  10. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely. Invert the bread and remove the pan. The bread will keep, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for 5 to 7 days.

Salted Honey Caramels

Last week I had a full day of dancing at a big ballroom competition in Los Angeles.  I was so amped after the competition that the next morning, I woke up at 5am (very uncharacteristic of me as I’m not a morning person) and made salted honey caramels.

2015 Emerald Ball

I have quite a bit of caramel making experience under my belt, but this was the first caramel recipe in which I melted and caramelized the sugar on its own before adding in the other ingredients (other recipes I’ve tried have instructed to melt the sugar with water or light corn syrup).

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that the flavor is well balanced and slightly mellow with the honey really shining through.  These salted honey caramels were such a hit that I’ve made them twice in the past week.  Even though the recipe makes a small batch (barely covers an 8×8 inch pan), once you get the hang of cooking the sugar without burning it, you’ll be whipping up multiple batches in no time.

Salted Caramels- Sugar Rush 2

Salted Honey Caramels

(Adapted from Sugar Rush by Johnny Iuzzini)
Makes 40 caramels

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream (240g)
1/3 cup light corn syrup (95g)
1/4 cup honey (74g)
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
Heaping 1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt (3g)
3/4 cup sugar (175g)

Directions

  1. Line an 8-inch square cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the cream, corn syrup, honey, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt to a simmer over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to very low and keep warm.
  3. In a large saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat until completely melted.  If there are any sugar crystals on the edges of the pan, wash the sides down with a brush dipped in cold water.  Continue cooking the sugar, swirling the pan as necessary for even cooking, until the sugar is deep mahogany brown.  The pan will give off white smoke- if the smoke gets darker, it means the sugar is burning and has gone too far.
  4. Reduce the heat to low.  Slowly pour the cream mixture into the sugar (the sugar will bubble up).  Whisk to mixture well, and return to medium heat.
  5. Continue cooking until the temperature reaches 250°F.
  6. Immediately pour the mixture into the parchment lined pan.  Let it settle briefly, and then tap the pan on the counter to release any bubbles.
  7. Let the pan stand until the candy is completely cool, preferably overnight, or refrigerate to firm up the caramel.  Using the parchment, lift the caramel out of the pan, and set it on a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, cut the caramel into 1/2 x 1 1/2-inch pieces, and wrap them in wax paper or caramel wrappers.

Store the caramels in a cool spot or in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Loki and His Favorite Recipes

I’ve been baking and making quite a bit in the past few weeks but am ridiculously behind on posting.  I was also consumed by prepping for a big ballroom competition, but now that that’s behind me, I’m looking forward to catching up on some posts. Until then, check out how Loki lets me know which recipe he thinks is especially tasty.  Note, he also may have been licking some caramel that dripped on the recipe.

IMG_3965