Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies



Chocolate oatmeal raisin hearts vertical watermarkI tend to like making complicated creations, even though they aren’t very popular with people who work, have kids, or have a life. But today I made something easy.

Easy and unspeakably delicious, if I do say so myself!

I gave some to my guinea pig neighbor, Pam and she called them Chocolate Raisin Puffs because they were so light. I don’t know if they qualify as “puffs”, but it was a very nice compliment.

These chocolate oatmeal cookies are made with espresso powder and chocolate covered raisins, and when baked for precisely twelve minutes, have a slightly crispy outer layer (like the edge of a brownie) and are very tender inside. Seriously, I’d rather have these than brownies any day!

I made some in a silicone mini-heart pan, and they popped right out in a very cooperative manner. They may not be the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made, but in this case I truly believe it’s what’s inside that counts.chocolate oatmeal raisin hearts watermark

I really think that the combination of Special Dark cocoa and espresso powder took the flavor over the top. And unless you have a real aversion to raisins (in which case you could use chocolate chips) don’t skimp on the chocolate covered raisins. The cookie dough isn’t overly sweet, so the sweet, chewy raisins add important texture and sweetness. Here are what the drop cookies look like inside:


Chocolate oatmeal raisin cookies vertical watermark

Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
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Makes 36 average cookies, or 72 small heart-shaped cookies using a 24-cavity silicone heart mold. These cookies are SO addictive, you may want to double the batch.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • ¼ cup Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups quick-cook oats
  • 11 oz (about 1¾ cup) chocolate covered raisins
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F
  2. If you are making drop cookies, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy - at least 2 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and beat 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl often. It will lighten in color and look just a little curdled; that's fine!
  5. Add the vanilla, espresso powder, cocoa, flour, salt, and baking soda. On low speed (cover the bowl if possible, or stir by hand first to avoid a mess) mix together until well blended.
  6. Stir in the oatmeal and chocolate covered raisins.
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment. The cookies won't spread much, so an inch and a half between each is fine. If you are using a silicone heart mold, fill each cavity ¾ full. (No need to grease the mold.)
  8. Bake for 12 minutes. Move baking sheet or silicone mold to a cooling rack and allow the cookies to cool. Cookies may be moved to the rack when barely warm. If you are making hearts, let them cool completely in the pan before turning them out.

ingredients

Beat the butter and brown sugar well.

Beat the butter and brown sugar well.

After the eggs are beaten in. It looks a little curdled, but that's okay!

After the eggs are beaten in. It looks a little curdled, but that’s okay!

Making heart cookies.

Making heart cookies.

Scoop for regular drop cookies.

Scoop for regular drop cookies.

See? Easy peasy. Don’t expect that from me too often, but when a chocolate craving hits, I realize the wisdom of being able to make cookies quickly!

If I’ve lulled you into a false sense of security with this simple cookie recipe, you’d better be prepared; I have Valentine petits fours on my mind…coming soon!

Lorinda

 

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bombs



pretzel bombs watermark verticalLast week I told you my next post would be Valentine’s Day related, but that was before the Seattle Seahawks won the game that will send them to the Super Bowl. Again.

Valentine’s Day will just have to wait. I have footballs to make!

Beer is a must for the big game of course, and beer and pretzels just go together. Since filling these little football-shaped pretzels with cheese sounded good, I decided that filling them with ham and cheese sounded even better.The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s so flexible. Add hot sauce or onions, skip the ham, try different types of cheese. Make the filling your own!

Of course, the bombs can be made in nice little round shapes – but for the big game I wanted footballs. In my first batch there were about half that would be easily recognized as footballs, and half that were…well…deflated. (Dare I say that? Sorry, Patriots fans! The deflated ball jokes have been flying all week.) Cheese will ooze, and personally I love the crispy bits of baked cheese that stick to the bottom of the footballs. For the sake of appearance, however, I experimented. A lot.

I thought that maybe a longer boil would toughen the outside, keeping the cheese in as they baked. I seemed to have at least as many blow-outs, so my assumption was flawed. Because there was no “give” as the footballs baked, the cheese simply found a weak spot and broke through.Footballs boiling

I tried a very short boil, with the theory that the footballs would remain more flexible, and give when pressured by the cheese.  The cheese still blew out. Stiffer dough, softer dough, hotter bake temperature, lower bake temperature. Vent holes. I found that mozzarella is a little more explosive than cheddar, and using half of each helped a bit. I think I tried it all – at least everything I could think of.

The bottom line is this: CHEESE OOZE HAPPENS. Embrace it. Leave the crispy bits attached to the bombs…people will still love them.

They ain't purty, but they taste just fine!

They ain’t purty, but they taste just fine!

Beer and brown sugar add a little extra flavor to the pretzel dough, and an egg wash adds a pretty sheen. This recipe makes about 64 small bombs. Remember, that’s going to be about 30 attractive footballs. The rest should be immediately eaten for quality control purposes (wink wink). The bombs can be wrapped in foil and popped in the freezer after they’ve baked and cooled; they reheat beautifully. Or make 32 larger two-bite-size bombs.

It would be ideal if you had a helper, because two people would make this process a lot easier. One can be forming footballs while the other is boiling and baking. I did it by myself, so it’s do-able, but if you can bribe or enlist someone, I recommend it!

The dough is so easy to make. It’s a nice, sturdy dough that can be manhandled without causing any problems. Here’s the recipe:

Football Pretzel Bombs
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Delicious little pretzel bites filled with ham and cheese. Don't expect them all to be pretty; they will ooze cheese, and some will take on interesting shapes! Embrace the crispy escaped cheese - that's the best part! Makes 60-64.
Ingredients
  • 1 can (12 oz) beer
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 6 ounces grated cheddar cheese (about 1½ cups)
  • 6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 ounce cream cheese, softened
  • 1 5-ounce can cooked ham chunks, drained, OR ½ cup (or more to taste) finely chopped cooked ham
  • ½- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
  • 8 cups water
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 egg whisked together with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
Instructions
  1. Pour beer into a small pan and heat until very warm - about 110 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl (a standing mixer with a bread hook is best) combine the warm beer, white sugar, and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly.
  3. Add softened butter, brown sugar, salt, and 3 cups of the bread flour. Mix well.
  4. Slowly add remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl and is not sticky to the touch. You are looking for a fairly stiff dough, but not dry. Dry dough is very hard to seal when you're making the footballs.
  5. Knead for 6 minutes by machine, or 8 minutes by hand on lightly floured surface.
  6. Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl, turning several times to coat the dough. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled - about 1 hour. WHILE THE DOUGH IS RISING:
  7. Cover two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  8. Combine the cheese, ham, and hot sauce. Mix together very well. Go ahead and use your hands to knead it into a solid mass. Since your hands are already messy, save time later by rolling 64 balls of cheese mixture, about 1 teaspoon each. You may have a little left over. Save it for topping a casserole or for a grilled cheese sandwich!
  9. When dough has doubled heat oven to 400 F.
  10. Work with half of the dough at a time, leaving the other half covered. Separate dough into ½ ounce pieces (approximately 1 tablespoon). Roll into balls and flatten into rounds with the bottom of a heavy glass or a rolling pin.
  11. Place one cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough and bring the edges up over the cheese. Pinch the dough firmly. Really....pinch the heck out of it! Roll briskly but gently between your hands. If you see a crack, pinch it and roll again. Roll either side of the ball firmly to create pointed ends if you are making football shapes.
  12. Bring water and baking soda to a boil in a large tall saucepan and then lower the heat a little to get a gentle boil
  13. Drop 8-10 footballs into the boiling water at a time. Allow them to boil for 30-40 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon or spider, and place onto prepared cookie sheets.
  14. Using a razor blade (I used an X-Acto knife) or a very sharp paring knife, cut two short parallel lines in the top of each football, with a line in between. (Imagine a capital letter "I", laying on its side.) This will represent the laces. (If you want to get fancy, you can cut little laces too.) Be careful not to cut all the way through the dough or you are certain to have the cheese blow out the top! Note: If you are making round shapes instead of footballs, Cut a shallow "X" in each ball.
  15. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
  16. Bake approximately 10-12 minutes, or until a rich brown.
  17. Repeat with the remaining dough.

 

Let the beer and yeast get nice and foamy.

Let the beer and yeast get nice and foamy.

Risen and ready to roll!

Risen and ready to roll!

Combining ham, cheeses, hot sauce.

Combining ham, cheeses, hot sauce.

Wrap and pinch! Did you have a sibling? Were you mean? Pinch like that!

Wrap and pinch! Did you have a sibling? Were you mean? Pinch like that!

Lifting them out of their hot tub using a handy "spider".

Lifting them out of their hot tub using a handy “spider”.

If you feel like fussing, cut shallow laces.

If you feel like fussing, cut shallow laces.



pretzel bombs seahawks watermark horiz

Serve them with a honey mustard sauce or just eat them plain. You will be amazed at how fast these puppies disappear! And……GO HAWKS!

Lorinda

Banana Pound Cake



Banana pound cake vertical with nameI’m usually pretty fearless in the kitchen. If something doesn’t come out the way I’d hoped, I can almost always salvage it, even if it’s for another purpose. But after failing miserably at making pound cakes in the past, I’ve been hesitant to try again. There are so many other types of cake to enjoy, right?

But…a pound cake is just perfect for making petits fours, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner (now you know what my next post will be), so I girded my loins pulled up my big girl panties and tried again, learning a few things in the process. My goal was to make a banana pound cake. I came up with two versions, slightly different, both of which met the approval of my tasting crew.two cakes A pound cake shouldn’t be heavy, but it is supposed to be dense, with a velvety crumb. If you want something lighter, keep looking; this is NOT an angel food cake! Pound cake is good on the first day, but better on the second – and fantastic on the third. Covered well and left at room temperature, this cake just gets more flavorful as it ages.

I love making traditional recipes, so tried to stick with the basic measurements our great grandmothers probably used: one pound of flour, one pound of butter one pound of sugar, one pound of eggs. I did use some leavening for insurance, though theoretically the cake should rise because of all the air that is beaten into the batter.

Should be 8 eggs there, but you get the idea :)

Should be 8 eggs there, but you get the idea :)

My first cake seemed a little too dense – more like banana bread. While I pondered the situation, I peeked at other recipes on the internet and found that most people use only half a pound of butter. I stalled long enough to test the cake again on it’s third day on the counter. Amazingly, it seemed even more flavorful, and the texture had improved. I loved this cake!

Still, I wanted to tweak the recipe a little, aiming for a lighter texture and color.

A little richer, a little heavier...yum!

A little richer, a little heavier…yum!

I replaced one cube of butter with an extra half cup of sour cream, and even though I’m usually adamant about using real vanilla extract, this time I used Wiltons clear vanilla flavoring to keep the color from turning light brown. (Bananas and vanilla extract will do that!) I also reduced the leavening a little bit and paid more attention to beating the butter and eggs longer.

The result was a cake with a finer crumb, a beautiful yellow color, and a sweet, mild flavor. (Some of the credit for the yellow color should probably go to my hens, who lay eggs with vibrant yolks! If you use store bought eggs and want the cake to be banana-yellow, add a drop or two of yellow food coloring.)

Banana Pound Cake 2 vertical name

I’ll give you the recipe for the lighter cake, since I’m guessing that’s what most of you will be interested in, but under that recipe I’ll tell you how to make the first cake, in case it sounds better to you. Personally, I think I preferred the heavier cake with the little brown specks. And I think the extra butter made it a bit more flavorful. Your call!

Banana Pound Cake
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A sweet, dense cake with a fine crumb and subtle banana flavor.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups salted butter, room temperature (if using unsalted, add ¼ teaspoon salt to dry ingredients)
  • 1 pound sugar (about 2⅓ cups)
  • 1 pound eggs, room temperature (Weigh them in the shell! About 8 large eggs.)
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla flavoring
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 pound cake flour (about 3 cups) sifted
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Grease and flour (or spray with a flour/oil mixture like Baker's Joy) a large, 12-cup bundt pan.
  2. Heat oven to 325 F.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for at least 3 minutes.
  4. Slowly trickle in the sugar, beating continuously and scraping the sides of the bowl often. Beat until light and fluffy.
  5. With mixer on low, add eggs one at a time, beating between each egg for at least 30 seconds. Yes, this will take you 4 minutes, but don't cheat - it's really important!
  6. In a small bowl, mix together the vanilla, mashed bananas, and sour cream. Pour slowly into the mixture in the large bowl, mixing just until combined.
  7. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda (and ¼ teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter). Gradually add to batter, stirring just until combined.
  8. Spoon into bundt pan and smooth the top.
  9. Bake on middle rack of oven for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a bamboo skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Don't underbake or the texture of your cake will not be as smooth. If in doubt, give it 5 more minutes!
  10. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes, and then turn out to cool completely.
  11. Once the cake is cool, make icing:
  12. Combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and heavy cream in a small pan.
  13. Heat on low, stirring frequently, until completely melted. Mixture should be thick, but spoonable. If too thick, add a small amount of cream or peanut butter, heating until smooth.
  14. Drizzle (okay...glop) over the cake. Chill briefly to set the icing faster, if desired.
  15. Keep covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.

 

To make the more traditional cake, follow the instructions above, except:

  • Use 2 cups of butter (1 pound)
  • Use 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Use 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Increase baking powder to 1 teaspoon
Smoothing the batter in the pan.

Smoothing the batter in the pan.

Slowly melt ingredients for icing.

Slowly melt ingredients for icing.

The chocolate icing I used is really more of a ganache. You can use a regular chocolate glaze if you prefer; I wanted thick and fudgy on this cake. I pictured a chocolate covered banana, and almost added chopped peanuts, but figured that might be going too far. Gilding the lily, huh? I think melted white chocolate with the peanut butter would be good too. (Think peanut butter and banana sandwiches.)

A few hints, words of wisdom:

  1. This is one of those times when weighing your ingredients is very helpful. Hey, I’m pretty sloppy about measuring things, but I weighed my flour, eggs, and sugar on a digital scale for accuracy this time.
  2. It’s really, really important to have your eggs and butter at room temperature. Please don’t use a microwave to soften your butter – just let it sit out until it can be beaten. Not too soft, not too hard.
  3. This is pretty obvious, but the top of your cake will become the bottom, so if you want a smooth line at the bottom, take a sharp knife and cut off the top of the cake where it puffed up in the middle!

Now that I’ve found that I actually can produce a decent pound cake, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot more of them. If I have some failures, pffft…they’ll just be made into trifle.

I’m moving into Valentine’s Day mode now though, so first…heart shaped EVERYTHING!

Lorinda

Gingerbread Friends

Gingerbread Men Friends? I’m being politically correct; you can’t just call them gingerbread men when some of them are obviously…not men. Right? So these little boys and girls are my buddies, especially since some of them are bearing gifts of chocolate and booze – and who doesn’t love a friend who brings you presents like that?


Gingerbread couple bearing booze

The cookies are really easy to make, unless you are trying to make them hold their arms out straight. I could describe all of my failed attempts, but I’ll just cut to the chase. Two methods worked for me:  propping their little arms up with foil as they baked, or amputating their arms right from the get-go, and then gluing them back on with royal icing as they were decorated.

Little foil splints to hold his arms out.

Little foil splints to hold his arms in place.

Surgical option.

Surgical option.

Alternatively, you can cut cute little shapes out of dough (gifts, stars, drums, candy canes) and wrap the gingerbread friend’s arms around it before baking. Kids would get really creative with this!



Three amigos.

Three amigos.

Or…make them the traditional way, of course.

Here’s the recipe I used. For my second batch I used half shortening, which made the dough more stable. You can use all butter if you prefer, but it might spread a tiny bit.

Gingerbread Friends
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I can't tell you how many this will make - it depends on the size of your cutters. But it's a pretty generous recipe.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ROYAL ICING:
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder (found with cake decorating supplies)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (I use clear vanilla for the whitest possible icing.)
  • 6 tablespoons warm water
  • FOR DECORATING: melted chocolate, sprinkles, colored sugar, gold dust.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar.
  2. Add egg and molasses and beat well. The batter should lighten in color.
  3. Add baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Mix well.
  4. Stir in the flour, beating well. Make sure all of the flour is well incorporated.
  5. Place dough in an airtight container and refrigerate at least 4 hours (overnight is better).
  6. Heat oven to 375 F.
  7. Roll dough approximately ¼-inch thick between sheets of parchment.
  8. Cut out shapes and place on parchment covered baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes, depending on how soft or crunchy you want them.
  9. Slide parchment onto a cooling rack and cool cookies completely before decorating.
  10. To make royal icing, combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder in a large bowl. If you have a stand mixer, I recommend you use it, with the whisk attachment.
  11. Add the vanilla. Slowly add the water, beating continuously. Beat on medium high for 5 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary to achieve the right thickness for piping.
  12. Place in a pastry bag with a small writing tip and pipe directly onto the cookies. A small amount can be thinned if you want to brush it on with a paintbrush. (Pink cheeks, clothing, etc.)

 

Yes, yes, I forgot the baking powder. Pfffft.

Yes, yes, I forgot the baking powder. Pfffft.

Cutting out the shapes.

Cutting out the shapes.

Occasionally you'll get a butt-ugly one like this! Makes me laugh.

Occasionally you’ll get a butt-ugly one like this! Makes me laugh.



gingerbread friends in a row

Do you give out plates of cookies and candy at Christmas? If so, why don’t you customize a gingerbread cookie with the recipient’s name for that personal touch? Personalized cookies would also be the perfect place card at a holiday meal!

I hope you’ll use your imagination and find some other fun ways of decorating your cookies. Just…lock them up well at night so they don’t wander. (I was going to insert a picture here from “Gingerdead Man”, but it was just too creepy. And I don’t want the copyright police breathing down my back.)

Lorinda

Acorn Dinner Rolls

 



Acorn Rolls horiz with watermarkEvery Thanksgiving I have the same problem: there’s just never enough room for all of the platters and bowls on the dining room table. Usually, the centerpiece has to be removed to make way for a bowl of mashed potatoes. Instead of removing it, here’s a way to have your centerpiece and eat it too!

Cornucopia and acorns vertical 3 watermark

This post is actually about the acorn rolls, but I’ll also give you instructions below for the cornucopia, which can be made up to a week ahead of time and frozen.

The acorn rolls are decorative and delicious! The crushed graham crackers in the dough give them just a hint of sweetness and add a delicate flavor.



two acorns close watermark

 

Acorn Dinner Rolls
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Makes approximately 2 dozen acorn rolls, depending on the size you choose. If you are hoping to use the leftovers for sandwiches, skip the fancy-shmancy acorns and just roll the dough into small balls and bake them close together in a large, greased baking pan!
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 package graham crackers, (9 full cracker sheets) coarsely crushed
  • ⅓ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup powdered nondairy creamer (This is optional, but makes a super fluffy roll.)
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 5-6 cups bread flour
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa (egg wash)
  • Small stick pretzels or raw almonds cut into slivers
Instructions
  1. Place warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the crushed graham crackers, butter, creamer, salt, and 3 cups bread flour. Mix well.
  3. Stir in 2 additional cups of flour. If you are using a stand mixer, switch to your dough hook and knead for 5 minutes. If the dough is not coming cleanly away from the bowl, add additional flour a little at a time. Dough should be soft but not sticky. If you are kneading by hand, drop the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 6-7 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary to achieve a soft, elastic dough.
  4. Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning it several times to coat the dough.
  5. Cover and allow the dough to rise until doubled in a warm location - about 1 hour.
  6. Lightly grease (or spray with an oil/flour baking spray) 2 12-cavity cupcake pans.
  7. Remove ⅔ of the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Punch down the remaining dough, cover, and set aside.
  8. Divide the dough on the floured surface into 24 equal pieces. Shape into balls. Set in prepared cupcake pans and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
  9. Heat oven to 375 F.
  10. After the 45 minutes is up, roll out the dough in the bowl, keeping it very thin - ¼-inch or less. Using a small biscuit cutter or wine glass, cut out 24 circles. They should be a little wider than the balls of dough in the cupcake pan.
  11. Brush the top of each ball with a small amount of egg wash.
  12. Place one circle at a time into the palm of your hand and, using the flat side of a knife or an onion holder, press lines in 2 or 3 directions, similar to a peanut butter cookie.
  13. Brush with egg wash and set it on one of the balls of dough in the pan. Poke a small piece of slivered almond into the top for a stem. (If you are using pretzels, poke them into the top of each acorn after they are baked.) Repeat.
  14. Place in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the acorn tops are a rich brown.
  15. Cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes, then carefully lift each acorn out to cool.
  16. If you want to re-warm the rolls, place them in a large cake pan, cover them loosely with foil, and heat at 300 for 5-10 minutes.

Hints:

  • There’s no need to make a mess crushing the crackers. Just smash the package against the counter a few times. The chunks will dissolve in the yeast mixture.
  • Make sure the acorn tops are a little bigger across than the width of the balls in the pan. If they’re too small they’ll look like a hat perched on a head – not what you want.
  • If you want darker tops, instead of adding the cocoa to the egg wash, knead it into the smaller piece of dough before covering it and setting it aside. Don’t worry if the cocoa isn’t completely worked in – just do your best. Add a little extra cocoa if you’d like. Then just use the egg and water as an egg wash.
  • I had fairly good luck pressing the acorn top design into the rolled dough with a potato masher before cutting out the circles. This might be easier for you. But in the the end, I preferred the way they looked when I used an onion holder to press the design on each piece.
Add coarsely crushed graham crackers.

Add coarsely crushed graham crackers.

Separate into 24 pieces and roll into balls.

Separate into 24 pieces and roll into balls.

Place balls of dough into prepared cupcake pans.

Place balls of dough into prepared cupcake pans.

Add texture by using an onion holder. The flat side of a knife would work too.

Add texture by using an onion holder. The flat side of a knife would work too.

Acorn, ready to bake.

Acorn, ready to bake.

Cutting acorn caps. (Cocoa was added to dough here. See Hints.)

Cutting acorn caps. (Cocoa was added to dough here. See Hints.)

The finished acorns would look beautiful on a platter with little sprigs of rosemary, but if you have the time and inclination, here are instructions for the cornucopia. It’s actually fairly easy to make! You will need foil and parchment paper to create a sculpture for the bread to wrap around.

BREAD CORNUCOPIA

2½ cups warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
2 tablespoons softened butter
6 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, whisked together to make an egg wash.

  • In a large mixing bowl, stir sugar into warm water and then stir in the yeast. Let sit until bubbly (about 5 minutes).
  • Add butter, 3 cups flour and the salt and beat for 1 minute.
  • Add 2 cups flour and mix together well. Slowly add as much of the remaining flour as necessary until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl. If you are using a stand mixer with a dough hook, knead for 5 minutes. If you are kneading by hand, drop the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 7 minutes.
  • Place the dough into a large greased bowl. Turn to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled, approximately 1 hour.
  • While dough is rising, form a cornucopia shape out of foil, crumpling the foil together to make a solid mass. The one pictured in this blog was about 15 inches from end to end. It doesn’t have to be too dense – it just can’t be hollow because it has to hold up to the weight of the dough. When you have the correct shape, wrap it with a piece of parchment, securing it with a staple or piece of masking tape.
  • Heat oven to 375 F.
  • Punch down dough and roll out into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 18 inches. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut 3/4-inch strips lengthwise.
  • Very lightly grease the center of a baking sheet.
  • Working over the baking sheet, start at the bottom of the cornucopia, near the large end, and begin wrapping strips of dough around and around the cornucopia. The dough will be very soft, and will stretch when you pick it up, which is okay. Keep an even pressure; don’t pull the dough, but don’t wrap so loosely that it sags. When you add a piece of dough, pinch it together with the end of the previous piece to keep a continuous coil. You will have to hold the cornucopia up with one hand while you wind the dough with the other. Small spaces between strips is fine; the bread will rise while cooking and fill them in. Place cornucopia on baking sheet.
  • Twist two strips together and place the “braid” around the large opening. This will reinforce the cornucopia and add a decorative touch.
  • Cut small leaves, stems, vines, and even small acorns and place them artistically on the cornucopia, using a little egg wash to make them stick.
  • Brush the entire cornucopia (except the bottom) with egg wash.
  • Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, or until rich golden brown.
  • Allow the cornucopia to cool completely on a rack. When completely cool, gently pull the foil and parchment out. You might be able to pull it out in one piece, or you might have to start with the foil, pulling it out in pieces, and then pull the parchment out last. Be patient and take your time.
  • It will be sturdier if you let it dry on the counter for a day or two before using, but it may be used right away if you prefer. You can also wrap and freeze it until needed.
Dough coming cleanly away from sides of bowl.

Dough coming cleanly away from sides of bowl.

The dough is doubled (at least!)

The dough is doubled (at least!)

Go ahead - sculpt a cornucopia out of foil!

Go ahead – sculpt a cornucopia out of foil!

Cover the foil with parchment.

Cover the foil with parchment.

Cut rolled dough into strips.

Cut rolled dough into strips.

Wrap strips around cone.

Wrap strips around cone.

Twist two strips together and wrap around opening.

Twist two strips together and wrap around opening.

Add pretty details and brush with egg wash.

Add pretty details and brush with egg wash.

baked and cooled with foil removed


Cornucopia and acorns vertical shows horn watermarked
thanksgiving collage

This recipe was created for a series called “From Our Thanksgiving Table to Yours” – a collection of Thanksgiving recipes by a wild and crazy group of bloggers who live to eat. My post was the last of the group, so I’ll leave you with links to their recipes in case you’ve missed any of them. We’d like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!
Lorinda

 

From Tampa Cake Girl: Sweet Potato Soufflé.

From Hun, What’s For Dinner?: Orange Scented Double Layer Pecan Pie.

From Crumbs in My Mustachio: Bacon Cheese and Green Onion Cornbread.

From Cooking From a SAHM: Knock Your Socks Off Mashed Potatoes.

From Moore or Less Cooking Blog: Cheddar Pecan Dip.

Fly on the Wall – Novembrrrr

Fly on the Wall

If you’re a fly on the wall in my home this month, you’ve come to the right place. It might be 5 degrees outside, but as usual The Man is feeding the woodburning stove like it’s a starving whale, and it’s warm and cozy in here. Like…shorts and tank top warm. So hang out for a while and see what’s happening around here, and then check out the links below to see what’s going on in 14 other bloggers’ homes!

fly1gifcroppedMy older sisters came for a visit – a cause for much excitement since my oldest sister Khym hadn’t been here before and I was tickled they were both coming. They drove six hours to get here…which is a pretty big effort!

My 60th birthday is coming up in a couple of months, and since no one in their right mind would drive here in the winter, they brought lots of fun little treats to celebrate early. Fun gourmet goodies, crafty stuff, music. Loved it! They also brought SLIDES! You know (or maybe you’re young and don’t know) old-time photographs in little squares of cardboard that are projected on a screen. Or bumpy wall. I could probably write a complete blog on our attempts to make the slide projector work,  but in the end we got to see ourselves as children and teenagers. Good times!clark girls

The running joke was yelling “GET IN MAH BELLEH” in a deep voice every time I popped up on the screen, because I was SO fat. And my wonky eye and big tongue got a whole lot of laughs too. Damn, I was a mess.

We had fun with sister Jenny, who is officially known as the “Crazy Chicken Lady” now. We watched videos of her chickens, and laughed at her because she lets one sleep in her bed! Honest, it’s true!crazy chicken lady

And just because we couldn’t resist, while she was out in the dark on our front sidewalk, The Man went behind the house and blew on one of his predator calls. We heard her footsteps running for the porch, and she came skidding into the front door.

Now…if you came into the house after hearing something like that and saw your sisters laughing hysterically, wouldn’t you guess you’d been punked? Nope. She was insistent she’d heard something creepy. We laughed ’til we cried, and she finally figured it out. Snort.

Jenny also likes ice cream. A lot.

The Man: “The ice cream is on the counter”
Jenny: “Great. I will help myself immediately so there’s enough for me.”

Love those girls!

fly1gifcropped

Oh, and one more sister story…and this one’s a doozy! They called on their way home, very excited, to tell us they’d seen a moose. In fact, not just one moose, but several. Apparently they were very skinny, but I said that was normal – they weren’t big and fat like cows, more muscle than fat. It didn’t even occur to me to question it, even after they said there was a mama and babies. Kind of the wrong time of year for that.

When the picture was posted on Facebook my son took one look at it and started laughing. They’d driven by a place that creates metal sculptures. Skinny??? Um, yeah…like maybe 1/2-inch thick. We all got a kick out of that, even the sisters.moose

Two days later, my son saw a huge bull moose. He described it to me and added “and it wasn’t even cut out of sheet metal”.

fly1gifcroppedSpeaking of game…last month in my Fly on the Wall post I described the disgusting elk head that was putrifying and stinking to high heaven in our backyard. I complained so vociferously that The Man went out there to cut the remaining dead crud from the skull so he could bleach it to hang in the Man Cave.

Unfortunately, he nicked himself with the knife. Do you have any idea how quickly that kind of bacteria turns into blood poisoning? At the speed of light, my friends.

After a week of pain, suffering, whining, Urgent Care, and a follow up at our doctor’s office, (and some really impressive peeling of his skin) the red line is gone and The Man is back to normal. The $75 that he was saving by cleaning the skull himself instead of letting the taxidermist do it ended up costing us a hell of a lot more.

Shaking my head. Just…………..shaking my head.

fly1gifcroppedHe’s pretty pumped up this year, though. He got his elk and a deer. He didn’t manage to shoot a bear for the trifecta, but he has been pounding his chest pretty thoroughly. Every time he starts a sentence with “So, there I was…” we all run from the room. Example:

The Man: “So, there I was. It was icy cold when I saw the deer in the distance.”
Me: “Why don’t you write a book so you can have it published and no one will buy it.”

He wants us to call him “The Legend” now. I know his gloating is (sort of) in jest, but I still might have to have a special shirt made for him for Christmas. shirts for Russ

fly1gifcroppedWe all got our deer this year. I’ve decided this is the last time I’ll do it, but we have lots of meat in the freezer…a great feeling. I don’t have any objections to hunting per se; we use every bit of that meat. But I agonize over it when it is me who is doing the dastardly deed, so I’m leaving it up the guys from now on.  Still, he was a beauty!lori and deer 2014

fly1gifcropped

halloween 2014

My Sweet Grands

My daughter posted this status: “Drinking coffee and swearing at the sewing machine. More like my mama every day, and proud of it!!” Yep. She probably learned more cuss words watching me try to sew than she did from her brothers. And yet…we keep trying. :) Little Mack’s “Oompa Loompa” costume was worth the angst though!
halloween 2014 b

fly1gifcropped

I was feeling indulgent, and hit the kitchen on a mission. The resulting pastry was enough to put each of us into a sugar coma. I’m going to let the picture do the talking; the link is here for Pumpkin Cronuts.
Pumpkin cronuts with coffee watermarked

fly1gifcropped

The dogs are shedding. After pulling dog hair out of my mouth twice during the night, I mentioned that the sheets needed to be changed. Walking into the bedroom I see that the sheets have been pulled and left in a wad on the bed. A little later, this conversation occurred:

The Man:  “Did you see I stripped the sheets for you?”
Me: (After a pause to think about the “for you” part of his question) “Um. Thank you. Do you mean for US?”
The Man: “For us.”
I started pulling the pillow cases off the pillows.
The Man: “Oh, you want to wash the pillowcases too?”
Me, dumbfounded: “One usually does wash the pillowcases along with the sheets.”

I cannot die. Ever.  He wouldn’t survive.

fly1gifcroppedLord Voldemort: “Much like the female orgasm, the G-spot is a myth.”

No one can question why he’s still single.

fly1gifcroppedI spent 6 glorious days visiting “the coast”, which means Seattle. I bounced from house to house freeloading off of friends from my past, and had a blast with 4 bloggers whom I’d never met. Ate too much, drank too much, spent too much, drove too much, and slept too little. All in all, a perfect trip! I’d add some funny stories, but you know….what happens on the coast stays on the coast!

 

collage trip to seattleNow I think I’m ready to hunker down for the winter!

fly1gifcropped

Now buzz over to these great blogs – these ladies are seriously FUNNY!
Lorinda

Baking In a Tornado
Stacy Sews and Schools
Just a Little Nutty
Menopausal Mother
The Sadder But Wiser Girl
The Momisodes
Follow Me Home
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy
Spatulas on Parade
Someone Else’s Genius
Juicebox Confession
Go Mamma O
Battered Hope

Pumpkin Cronuts

With cold weather comes comfort foods, and doughnuts are right at the top of my list…as are croissants. Since I’m also in the middle of my annual pumpkin frenzy, it only made sense to combine the three items to create a batch of Pumpkin Cronuts.


Pumpkin cronuts with coffee watermarked
I don’t want to scare you away, but I have to admit that these are a lot of work. The good news is, it can all be spread out over a couple of days, so there won’t be any last-minute panic at all. The goal is to fry the cronuts on the same day you plan to serve them, and a little careful planning will make this a slam dunk.

On the day before you plan to serve them, begin making the dough. Don’t start this late in the evening – give yourself at least 4 hours. The dough is rolled and folded, then chilled. Rolled, folded, chilled. Repeat. It isn’t hard, honest. Every forty-five minutes you roll and fold…takes less than 5 minutes.

Croissants require dedication and patience, but there is truly nothing difficult about them.

I was worried about adding pumpkin to my dough, afraid it would ruin the flaky layers, but it worked very well. I made a few croissants out of the dough just out of curiosity, and though they weren’t quite as crispy as usual, there were no complaints from the menfolk, so I call that a win.

If you do nothing but make the cronuts and roll them in cinnamon sugar, you’ll probably still be thrilled with them. As far as I’m concerned, the filling and icing are optional. Personally, I prefer them without filling, but I get outvoted.

Don’t be afraid to customize these goodies. If you don’t like pastry cream, fill the cronuts with pudding – or even whipped cream, if they will be served promptly. For a lighter icing (my recipe is rich and buttery) try dipping the tops in melted white chocolate, or use a simple milk/powdered sugar glaze. Or…leave them plain!

Pumpkin Cronuts without filling or icing...just cinnamon sugar.

Pumpkin Cronuts without filling or icing…just cinnamon sugar.

The important part of this post is the cronut recipe itself, and since I can only create one printable recipe per post, I’ll add the filling and icing recipes below.

Pumpkin Cronuts
Print
Author:
Makes 12-15 pastries, depending on the size of your cutter. And lots of yummy "cronut holes".
Ingredients
  • 1 cup very warm milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter
  • Peanut oil for frying (at least ½ gallon)
  • ½ cup cinnamon sugar, placed in shallow bowl
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl (a stand mixer works best), combine the warm milk and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix in the pumpkin, 1 tablespoon butter, vanilla, sugar, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat well.
  3. Add 2 additional cups of flour and allow the machine to knead the dough for 4-5 minutes. The dough should be soft, but it should come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. If it is sticking, add as much of the remaining ½ cup flour as necessary. (If kneading by hand, after stirring in the 2 cups of flour, drop the dough onto a well-floured surface. Knead for 6 minutes.)
  4. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until double - about 1 hour.
  5. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times, pat it into a rectangular shape, and place the dough in a heavy plastic zipper bag (or wrap in plastic) and place in the refrigerator.
  6. Remove the 2 sticks of butter from the refrigerator. Working with one stick at a time, place it between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out to 6½ inches by 4 inches. To get straight edges you will need to trim the sides with a spatula or knife, spreading the excess back over the butter as you go. Don't worry - just trim it and smoosh it where it needs to go! Wrap each piece in parchment and put them back in the refrigerator to chill for ½ hour.
  7. When the butter has chilled, remove the dough (hang on to that bag...you'll need it again) and roll the dough out to 12 inches by 8 inches, with the long side facing you.
  8. Place one piece of chilled butter directly in the center, with the short side facing you.Fold the right side of the dough over the butter and press the dough around it gently.
  9. Place the other piece of chilled butter on the dough directly above the other piece of butter. Fold the left side of the dough over the top of the butter and press and pinch the dough all the way around to seal it.
  10. Gently roll the dough out to measure 12 inches by 8 inches with the long side facing you. Fold the right side over one third, and the left side over the right side. The open edge should be on the right, like a book. Put the dough back in the bag and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.
  11. After 45 minutes, remove the dough. Roll dough out to measure 12 inches by 8 inches, with the long side facing you. Fold the right side over one third, and the left side over the right side. Return to the bag and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.
  12. Repeat one more time. Refrigerate until ready to use. (You may use right away, but the dough will have better flavor if you let it rest overnight.)
  13. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll dough to measure 12 inches by 8 inches, with the long side facing you. Fold the right side over one third, and the left side over the right side. Roll dough out to measure about ½-inch thick. (3/4-inch if you want very tall cronuts.) Cut with a round biscuit cutter, being careful not to twist the cutter. Cut straight down and lift straight up. If you have a doughnut cutter, use that! Otherwise, cut the center out with a the cap from a soda bottle or a cannoli form. (The centers make delicious "cronut holes".) Keep the shapes as close together as possible, because any cronuts made with re-rolled dough will be a little lopsided and won't rise as well.
  14. Cover the cronuts with a light towel and allow them to rise for at least an hour. They won't double, but you should see a difference.
  15. In a large, tall saucepan, heat approximately 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 370 F. Drop a few cronuts in at a time, giving them plenty of room to move around. Cook for about 1 minute on each side, until a rich golden brown. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain.
  16. While the next batch is cooking, roll the warm cronuts in cinnamon sugar.
  17. Watch the temperature of your oil closely, as it can change quickly. You may have to adjust the heat or remove the pan from the burner briefly if it gets too hot. If your oil is too cool the cronuts will soak up the oil and be greasy. If it is too hot, the outside will cook and the inside will be doughy. 160-170 F works perfectly.
  18. Once all of the cronuts are cooled, poke two holes with a wooden skewer or chopstick on opposite sides of the pastry, half way up the side. Guide the skewer to the left and the right without poking through, and then pipe pastry cream into each hole with a pastry bag and bismark tip or medium round tube tip, pointing it left and then right and repeating on the opposite side.
  19. Once filled, dip the top in icing, glaze or melted white chocolate if desired.

See this dough? Too sticky! Add a little more flour.

See this dough? Too sticky! Add a little more flour.

Trim the butter to size.

Trim the butter to size.

Spread the trimmings evenly over the top.

Spread the trimmings evenly over the top.

Roll and measure the dough.

Roll and measure the dough.

Place one piece of butter in center of dough.

Place one piece of butter in center of dough.

Fold right side over and cover with 2nd piece of butter. Then fold left over butter and seal.

Fold right side over and cover with 2nd piece of butter. Then fold left over butter and seal.

Roll and cut.

Roll and cut.

Cutting the center holes.

Cutting the center holes.

Fry them for 1 minute on each side

Fry them for 1 minute on each side

Poking a channel for the filling to follow.

Poking a channel for the filling to follow.

Add filling.

Add filling.



Pumpkin cronuts horiz with watermark

PASTRY CREAM:
1/8 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup half & half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, water, and egg yolks. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the half & half to a simmer. It should be hot and bubbly, but not boiling.
  3. Pour half of the hot half & half into the bowl with the cornstarch mixture, whisking well.  Pour the mixture in the bowl back into the pan, whisking.
  4. Whisking continuously, continue to cook the pastry cream until it thickens – approximately 2 minutes. Whisk briskly to remove any lumps, and remove from the heat. Stir in vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Cover and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. If you are making the cream ahead, keep refrigerated until ready to use.
  5. If the cream is too thick to pipe into the cronuts, try whisking it briefly. If necessary, add a small amount of milk.
    Whisk half & half into cornstarch mixture

    Whisk half & half into cornstarch mixture

    ...then return it to the pan and whisk away!

    …then return it to the pan and whisk away!

 

ICING:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup white chocolate chips

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the brown sugar, white sugar, milk, and butter to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook at a low boil for 2 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and add vanilla, powdered sugar, and chocolate chips. Whisk vigorously until smooth.
  3. Adjust to dipping consistency by adding additional milk or powdered sugar, if necessary. May be reheated slowly.

So…have I scared you off? I know it may look overwhelming, but if you just take the directions one step at a time you can DO this!  I have the shortest attention span in the whole world and I can do it…and so can you. Don’t be shy! Please leave me a photo of your masterpieces; I’d love to see them!

Lorinda

Maple Nut Cupcakes



038
If you’ve been following my blog, you already know that I’m a maple addict. I fell in love with maple everything when I was very young, and my obsession hasn’t abated with age. Today I indulged myself in the kitchen, and used almost an entire bottle of my beloved Mapleine. May I just say it smelled like heaven in here?

Not only did I make Maple Nut Cupcakes, I made maple crumbles and hard candy maple leaves for decoration. The cupcakes delighted me, because they came out extremely light and fluffy. The crumble was just as I expected, too. The leaves – those were a bit of a challenge. I know what NOT to do now, and can steer you in the right direction if you want to try making them.

If you like to lick cake beaters, you are going to love this batter. Seriously. It tastes just like maple nut ice cream, and is irresistible.

I used cream cheese frosting for these cupcakes, adding Mapleine (my favorite maple flavoring) to about a half cup of it for painting stripes in my pastry bag…giving the frosting some pretty brown accents when piped.

This recipe makes at least 36 cupcakes – maybe a few more. I have a tendency to fill my cupcake liners too full, giving my cupcakes that dreaded “muffin top” look. If you are more restrained, you’ll probably get 40 much more attractive cupcakes. The folded in egg whites are what make the cakes so light and tender, but also a little more delicate, so I recommend that you walk gently and avoid slamming doors while they are baking, just as a preventive measure.

Maple Nut Cupcakes
Print
Author:
Makes 36-40
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon maple flavoring (more if you want a stronger maple flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3¼ cups cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and 2 cups of sugar together until very light.
  3. Separate eggs. Put whites in a small bowl and set aside. Add egg yolks to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl often.
  4. Add maple flavoring and vanilla and beat well.
  5. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together twice.
  6. Combine the sour cream and milk. Stir well, but don't worry about getting all of the lumps out.
  7. Add approximately ⅓ of the dry ingredients to the batter and stir until combined. Add ⅓ of the sour cream/milk mixture and stir until combined. Repeat until all has been added and mixed.
  8. Stir in the walnuts.
  9. Beat the egg whites until foamy and slightly thickened. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently but thoroughly fold the egg whites into the batter.
  10. Spoon into lined cupcake pans, approximately ⅔ full.
  11. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.
  12. Cool in the pans on a rack for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pans, letting the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

 
Ingredients

Ingredients

Cream butter and sugar together

Cream butter and sugar together

Add egg yolks and flavorings

Add egg yolks and flavorings

Stir in walnuts

Stir in walnuts

Fold in egg whites

Fold in egg whites

Fill liners 2/3 full

Fill liners 2/3 full


CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 pounds powdered sugar, divided (about 7 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until light and creamy.
Add salt, and gradually add 6 cups of powdered sugar, beating well.
Slowly add whipping cream, beating well for 1 minute.
Add additional powdered sugar if needed for desired piping texture.

 



maple nut cupcakes vertical

To make the Maple Crumble, all you need is a candy thermometer and pure maple syrup. I used Grade B organic syrup from Trader Joe’s for two reasons:

  1. Grade B maple syrup actually has a stronger maple flavor, which is a good thing in my book!
  2. My sister had just given me a bottle, so I didn’t have to go to town and buy some.

The recipe for making crumble is the same one you would use to make those lovely little Vermont maple candies that come out during the holidays. The pure-sugar-melt-in-your-mouth candies that many of us have overindulged in, making ourselves sick even after our parents warned us not to eat more than one or we’d be sorry. Whew. I feel better.

To make crumbles, you simply stir the mixture a little longer than you would if you were pouring it into molds. Spread out on a lightly buttered cookie sheet, it dries quickly and can be crumbled easily with your fingers. If you have any left over, it would be wonderful on hot cereal or mixed into a streusel topping for muffins!

MAPLE CRUMBLES:
1 cup pure Grade B maple syrup (don’t try using regular syrup – it won’t work!)

  • Lightly coat a baking sheet with butter.
  • Pour syrup into medium sauce pan (to give it room to foam) and turn heat between medium and medium-high.
  • Cook, stirring gently, until it reaches the soft ball stage – 235 F.
    Remove from heat immediately and allow the mixture to cool for 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir until the mixture begins to thicken. Spread onto the prepared pan. If it is too thick to spread evenly, cover with a piece of foil and press to flatten.
  • When dry and firm, crumble it with your fingers and keep in a airtight container until ready to use.

Syrup is at soft ball stage.

Syrup is at soft ball stage.

If too thick, cover with foil and press to flatten.

If too thick, cover with foil and press to flatten.

 



maple nut cupcakesHard candy leaves would have been easy if I’d had hard candy molds, but I had to improvise, using a small maple leaf cookie cutter. The recipe made a little more than I expected, so my candy was thicker than it should have been, making it hard to form the leaves. So…I learned how to get around that, and am passing it on to you.

You’ll need a small leaf-shaped cookie cutter, a large baking sheet with sides (think jelly roll pan) and a candy thermometer.

This recipe was slightly revised from a Taste of Home recipe.

HARD MAPLE CANDY
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
4 teaspoons Mapleine (or other maple flavoring)
a stick of butter for greasing the cookie cutter

  • Butter a large baking sheet with sides.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Turn your burner to a temperature between medium and medium-high. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the candy thermometer reads 300 F. Immediately remove from heat.
  • When the bubbles have settled a bit, add maple flavoring. Stir well and pour into pan. Lift and drop pan several times to spread the candy. You may have to help spread it with a metal spatula.
  • Watch the candy carefully. Once it is beginning to firm, but is not yet hard, press the cookie cutter lightly into butter and then into the candy. Butter the cutter for each leaf. Once all of the leaves have been cut, go back over them with the cutter to make sure they are still cut clear through.
  • Once the candy is hard, carefully punch out the leaves. The extra candy can be eaten in broken pieces or crushed as a decoration for cookies or pastries.
    Too thick! Pan was too small, but you get the idea, right?

    Too thick! Pan was too small, but you get the idea, right?

  • Hard candy maple leaves

    Hard candy maple leaves

The most important part of this post is the cake recipe. I loved eating mine without any frosting or decorations, which – with my sweet tooth – is saying a lot! Whether you use canned frosting, sprinkles from a jar, or jump through all the hoops above, what really matters is that cake. I think I’m in love!

Lorinda

 

Macadamia Nut Eyeballs

candy round upThere’s always something fun cooking with this crazy group of bloggers I hang out with. This month we’re challenging ourselves with Halloween candy. That could be taken two different directions – a recipe made with Halloween candy OR homemade Halloween candy. I opted for making my own, because…well…what’s creepier than eating eyeballs?

eyeballs on leaf watermark
These are so simple. A softened caramel is wrapped around a macadamia nut (you could use hazelnuts if you prefer) and then dipped in dark chocolate and white chocolate. A touch of red food coloring for blood vessels, and they’re ready to pile in a bowl for brave souls to grab.

Here’s what you’ll need:
ingredients

This recipe gives you more than enough chocolate for dipping, because the chocolate needs to be deep enough for smooth results. If it thickens as you work, simply microwave it for 10 seconds and stir.

Macadamia Nut Eyeballs
Print
Author:
12 chewy, crunchy, melty eyeballs...perfect to eat as-is or to decorate cupcakes or cookies.
Ingredients
  • 12 macadamia nuts
  • 12 caramels
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate (chips are okay)
  • 12 ounces white chocolate
  • 12 dark brown mini M&Ms, or chocolate chips
  • red food coloring for adding blood vessels to finished eyeballs
Instructions
  1. Place 4 unwrapped caramels at a time on a small plate and microwave for 10 seconds to soften.
  2. Wrap one softened caramel at a time around a macadamia nut and roll in your hands to smooth into a round ball. Repeat until all nuts are covered.
  3. In a small bowl or a coffee mug (make sure the container is completely dry), melt the dark chocolate. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir thoroughly. Repeat at 15 second intervals until chocolate is thoroughly melted. You may thin the chocolate by adding 1 teaspoon of shortening if desired.
  4. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
  5. Using a fork or a special chocolate dipping tool, dip each ball in the chocolate. Tap well on the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate and slide the ball onto the waxed paper. A toothpick can be useful to help slide the ball from the fork.
  6. Add a dark brown mini M&M or chocolate chip (pointy side down) to the top of each ball for a "pupil". For a really creepy look, use a red mini M&M.
  7. When all of the balls have been coated, move the baking sheet to the refrigerator for 20 minutes, or until the chocolate is firm.
  8. Melt the white chocolate in a clean, dry bowl or mug using the same method for melting the dark chocolate. Stir until just barely warm; if it is too warm it will melt the dark chocolate when dipping.
  9. Using a fork or chocolate dipper, dip each ball quickly in the white chocolate, almost to the top. This will leave a dark "iris" and the M&M "pupil" showing. Tap well and carefully slide the eyeball onto the baking sheet. Refrigerate until completely firm.
  10. With a toothpick dipped in red food coloring, make thin lines on the white part of the eyeball, creating blood vessels. Allow the food coloring to dry before serving.
  11. Enjoy!

 

 

Dip it in dark chocolate.

Dip it in dark chocolate.

Slide onto waxed paper.

Slide onto waxed paper.

Dipping in white chocolate, using my toothpick method.

Dipping in white chocolate, using my toothpick method. (See “Note” below.)

A variation on the theme. ..red pupils!

A variation on the theme. ..red pupils!



eyeballs watermark

NOTE: I have issues with dipping, lacking the coordination to do it without a great deal of sighing and swearing. So…instead of putting the M&M on the chocolate when it’s warm, I used a toothpick stuck where the “pupil” would eventually go to help guide the ball in and out of the white chocolate, a two-handed method. Then, once the completed eyeball was firm, I used a small paring knife to carve out a spot for the M&M. So…in case you don’t have the dipping knack either, that’s an alternate method. Just sayin’.

The alternate method, adding the pupil after the eyeball is firm.

My alternate method, adding the pupil after the eyeball is firm.

These little guys are awfully good. Certainly much better than they look! As long as you’re going to the trouble of making them, I’d make as many as you have the patience for. Trust me – they disappear quickly!

Here are the other fun Halloween candy recipes this group has created.

Tampa Cake Girl’s Snickers Overload Cheesecake.

Hun, What’s For Dinner’s No-Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pops.

Moore or Less Cooking Blog’s Chocolate Covered Caramel Popcorn Balls.

Cooking From a Stay at Home Mom’s Spider Crunch Bites.

Happy Halloween!
Lorinda

Fly on the Wall – Ahhhhhhctober Edition

Welcome to a Fly on the Wall group post. Today 13 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house.fly1gifcropped

Ahhhhhhhhhhh…finally! It’s October and I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I still have some odds and ends to finish up – chores to be done before the snow flies – but things are slowing down and I’m able to spend more time playing in the kitchen. (Happy dance!)

I’ve baked some fall treats, much to The Man’s great satisfaction (garden and harvest make for a disappointing lack of “goodies”) but here’s something I’ve never made before! The smell of cinnamon, molasses, and oats was heavenly. Here’s what it looked like before I added the eggs, coconut oil, and molasses:

Mixing it up by hand in the big blue roasting pan.

Mixing it up by hand in the big blue roasting pan.

Want a closer look??

Um....are those...worms?

Um….are those…worms?

Wait a minute. I think there might be a little extra protein in this mixture! Maybe it won’t be so obvious when it’s baked?

Eeeeuw, no, they're still there. Just a little toasty now.

Eeeeuw, no, they’re still there. Just a little toasty now.

That’s okay – the ladies have no objection to their homemade “Flock Block”

So spoiled.

So spoiled.

There are lots of recipes on the internet for Flock Blocks – a nice treat for the girls, especially in the winter when they’re stuck inside a lot and get bored. I pretty much winged my recipe, and it worked really well. They love it! If anyone’s interested, here’s how I did it.

Flock Block
Print
Author:
These flock blocks are a real treat for chickens. Don't be too generous with them though, or your girls won't eat their regular food. These aren't as hard as commercial flock blocks, and won't last as long, but you will feel good about the wholesome ingredients you use!
Ingredients
  • 4 cups scratch
  • 2 cups omega egg supplement
  • 4 cups 9 grain rolled cereal
  • 1 cup dried mealworms
  • 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ½ cup crushed oyster shells
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup wheat bran
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil (or lard if you wish)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a very large pan, mix all ingredients through the cayenne pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, molasses, peanut butter, and coconut oil together until thoroughly combined. Add to dry ingredients.
  4. Stir well, using your hands.
  5. If you are using disposable foil pans, there is no need to grease the pans first. Simply press the mixture firmly into the pan. If you are using regular pans (bread pans, cake pans, pie pans, etc.) I advise spraying or greasing the pan first. Really pack the mixture down in the pan!
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Without opening the oven door, turn the heat off and let the blocks sit in the oven overnight.
  7. This makes 6-8 large blocks. Wrap and freeze any that won't be used right away.

 

Realistically, I can justify the expense and effort by considering it a “last meal” for some of them. I refuse to feed 20 chickens through the cold winter when I’m only getting four eggs a day…mostly from the 7 young hens. I’m afraid it’s time to do something about this situation. I’m heading to the coast to visit a Facebook friend I’ve never met before (squeee!) the first week of November, and hopefully when I come back there will be chicken in the freezer. That’s all I’m going to say about that.fly1gifcropped

October is when I get the urge to stock up for winter. I don’t know why; we’ve never been snowed in more than a week or two, but I can’t fight the compulsion to stock the shelves!

My neighbor and I went to Costco (a 3 hour round trip) and I spent an obscene amount of money on baking supplies. Ninety pounds of flour. Brown sugar, white sugar, powdered sugar. Chocolate chips. Nuts. Vanilla. Yeast. Cinnamon. Yep – I’m ready for holiday baking! Oh yes, and I got coffee and some basic supplies. My husband almost peed himself when he looked in the back of her truck and realized that everything back there was OURS. Know the best part? I forgot some stuff and she and I are making another trip next week. My list grows daily.

That neighbor, Pam, is so much fun! We think a lot alike, which is possibly a little scary. She had Starz added to her TV just so that I could come over and watch Outlander. I’ve read the series of books a bazillion times, and was dying to see the TV series. Bless her heart! It is even worth risking a mauling by her attack turkey to get to go watch it with her…and believe me, that bad boy wants a piece of me!!! He paces back and forth in front of the screen door, giving me the evil eye while I’m inside her house, then “escorts” me to my car. I hide behind her and get pretty creative with my defensive moves. Next time I go over I’ll take my camera so you can see what I mean!fly1gifcropped

Where we live, “open range” means keeping our fences mended and our gates closed during late summer to keep unwanted cows out of the yard and garden. If you live in an open range area, it is your responsibility to keep ranging animals off of your property. If you are in a closed range area, it’s the animal’s owners who are responsible. Oddly, the road in front of the house is the dividing line. The people across the way are in open range. We are not. But…cows don’t know this, so we keep our fence closed when cows are on the move.

Most of the time.

I honestly don’t mind it when the cows visit. They look great grazing on our hill, and make me wish we owned a few. But cows leave a lot of runny piles of poop everywhere, and because I leave the orchard gate open so the chickens can free range, the temptation to gnaw on the apple trees is just too much for them. The Man left the gate open and the cows came in and helped themselves to apples. I’d already picked all I wanted, but went to shoo them out of the orchard anyhow. Out of six cows, five of them “shooed”. The other one stood his (yes, this one was a young steer) ground.

Being the tough (cough cough) gal that I am, I picked up the hose and swung it his way a few times. He looked bemused.
He was not impressed.
Daisy and Otis had no intention of herding this guy out, so I picked up Daisy’s ball and lobbed it at the steer. For the record, I throw like a girl.
He was still not impressed.
Daisy did chase the ball as it flew in his general direction, but that just made him kick up his heels a bit.
He was most definitely not impressed, nor was he amused.
So I went towards him, swinging my arms and yelling. I stomped my feet.
He stomped his back and came towards me…not quite what I had in mind.

He won. Pffft. Those apple trees needed pruning anyhow.
cow eating apple2

It was dark when The Man got home, and apparently he didn’t understand my predicament.

Him: “Did you lock up the chickens?”
Me: “NO! There were cows in there.”
Him: “Did you close the orchard gate?”
Me: Giving him the look. “NO! There were still cows in there.”
Him: “Did you close the chicken door?”
Me: “What part of “there were cows in there” don’t you understand?!”

This from a man who is afraid to put his hand in the nesting box to get an egg if there is a chicken in there. Pffft.fly1gifcropped

Even though I know better (I’m sure these sites are gathering critical information from me like what my favorite color is and what genre of music makes me want to dance) I can’t stop playing those stupid quizzes on Facebook. I can tell you that I know almost all of the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, my favorite decade is the ’80s, and my nickname is “Sunshine”. I suck at music trivia (unless it’s old country lyrics), identifying books by their last lines, and have forgotten a lot of the old “Friends” episodes. I’m terrible at anything that has to do with history. I’m warm, caring, and should have been a chef. There’s more…way too much more. I think I need an intervention!fly1gifcropped

In case you’re worried that I might run out of pumpkin for fall recipes, I can assure you…there are lots more where these came from!pumpkins

The funny striped pumpkins are called “Lady Godiva” because they have naked seeds. – no shells. They pop a little like popcorn in the oven and are delicious. The pumpkin itself isn’t really worth eating, but the chickens and deer love it, so it’s not wasted. I harvested about 20 of these babies…and I’m thrilled. Such a yummy, healthy snack!

Lady Godiva seeds.

Lady Godiva seeds.

fly1gifcropped

I’m very excited, because my sisters are coming to visit this weekend. One hasn’t been here in a couple of years, and the other has never seen the place. I warned them to leave their white gloves at home, but you know how that is, right? I have two days to get this place in shape. I’ve warned Lord Voldemort that if he comes this way he’ll be sleeping on a cot in the shop. We’re going to be looking at carousel after carousel of SLIDES. Slides from when we were young. And cute.  Sigh.  I should have lots of funny stories for you next month!fly1gifcropped

Buzz around, see what you think, then click on these links for a peek into some other homes:

Baking In a Tornado
Stacy Sews and Schools
Just a Little Nutty
Menopausal Mother
The Sadder But Wiser Girl
The Momisodes
Follow Me Home
Crumpets and Bollocks
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy
Spatulas on Parade
Someone Else’s Genius
Battered Hope