Thursday, August 28, 2008

Snickerdoodle Heaven

There's just something about a soft, chewy snickerdoodle that brings a smile to my face. My husband told me the other night that snickerdoodles are his favorite cookie - and I've been baking him chocolate chip cookies all this time!

I made a batch the other night after my mom asked about the cinnamon we bought from Penzey's Spices. I was trying to think of other ways to use my cinnamon and snickerdoodles came to mind. What I've found is that the trick to a snickerdoodle is to underbake them. These cookies turned out fabulous and if you're looking for a quick cookie, try these out!


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.

Mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The best cake I've ever had

I hosted a dinner party last night and at the end of the evening announced that I had made Chocolate Zucchini Cake for dessert. I asked if anybody wanted some, and the responses were varied. "Oooh, yeah, I love zucchini," and "not if it tastes like it sounds."

The cake went over very well, even with one dinner guest announcing that it was the best cake he'd ever had. The zucchini makes the cake very moist, and you can even justify eating it because there are vegetables in it (wink, wink).

Try it out and enjoy! Oh, and I'd recommend serving it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream - it's the perfect complement to this chocolatey treat!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 2 1/2 medium)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter and oil in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each. Mix in grated zucchini. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan.

Top each piece of cake with a spoonful of chocolate ganache. To make the ganache, heat 1 cup of heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Poor the cream over 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips and stir until melted completely.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baking up a storm

I started the day with the goal of making three different things - chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, and zucchini bread. 9:00 pm rolled around and I went to start on the last of my three baked goods when I realized I didn't have enough brown sugar to make zucchini bread. I guess it will have to wait until another day.

I was on the quest today to make bakery quality chocolate chip cookies - the thick, chewy kind. I used a recipe from Cook's Illustrated, but sadly my cookies did not turn out as I wanted them to and they definitely did not look like the picture on the recipe. The taste was good, with somewhat of a toffee flavor, and they were chewy. But they were pretty flat. I think the search is still on.

After I made my cookies, I found an article in the New York Times entitled, "Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie." Huh, go figure. It gave some great tips, particularly that you should let your dough rest for 36 hours before baking. This allows the dough to fully soak up the liquid, resulting in a drier firmer dough, which bakes to a better consistency. Translation - no more flat cookies! This article even gives a recipe (found here), so I'm excited to try it out!

I also made blueberry muffins. This recipe is by far the best I've tried - they always turn out moist and delicious. Try them out and enjoy!

Blueberry Muffins

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for preparing the muffin tin
2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for the top of the muffins
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup frozen blueberries (or you can use 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly brush a 12-muffin tin with butter and set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and 2/3 cup of sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour in 3 parts into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk in 2 parts, until just combined. Fold in the blueberries. Take care not to over mix the batter. Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chocolatey goodness!

I decided to try out a recipe from Picky Palate. I was scrolling through the dessert recipes and when I saw the Crispy Caramel Brownie Treats, I just had to have them! They were a cinch to make and are a brownie lovers/rice crispy treat lovers/chocolate lovers delight! I must warn you - they are VERY rich!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer bliss

There is nothing I love more than the variety of fresh produce available during the summer. Even better is when you've grown it in your own backyard. I'm lucky because my husband is the gardener in the family. He does all of the hard work and I get to enjoy the results!

This year we have two zucchini plants and as you can imagine we are eating zucchini just about every meal. Something I can't resist making is yummy zucchini bread. I decided to try out Paula Deen's recipe, as found here. It calls for about a cup more sugar than my other recipes making it sweet, but producing a wonderful crunchy crust. It's also probably the moistest zucchini bread I've had. I followed the recipe as directed but I made one large loaf and three small loaves. Next time I make it I'll substitute half whole wheat flour and add a little more zucchini. Bon appetite!