Patriotic Meringue Puffs

Well, these are addictive little devils! Sweet little sugar puffs that melt in your mouth, all dressed up for the Fourth of July. Trust me, you won’t be able to stop at one.

I did something out of character and took the easy route with these treats. I’ve made meringues many times using egg whites, but I tried using Wilton’s meringue powder and it worked beautifully.

If you’re fresh out of meringue powder, I’d advise a trip to the store – pronto. And get some superfine sugar while you’re there. You don’t HAVE to use it, but it dissolves into the liquid a lot faster and I highly recommend it. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Meringue Powder
  • Superfine sugar (aka: Baker’s sugar)
  • large pastry bag
  • large star tip
  • red and blue paste food coloring (or gel, if it’s thick)
  • Two paintbrushes
  • Parchment

I tried using my gel coloring but it didn’t stick to the bag at all. Maybe because it’s “squeezable” gel, so it’s thinner. Paste coloring worked fine.

This is seriously so easy. The hardest thing you’ll have to do is get the stripes of color inside the pastry bag. I’ll give you some pointers, but the important thing to remember is that even if your stripes are wonky, the meringues will still look great.

Patriotic Meringue Puffs
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Makes about 30 meringues (1½ inch) or hundreds of little bitty ones.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder (I use Wiltons)
  • ½ cup superfine sugar
  • a few drops of flavoring if desired (use clear colors: lemon, peppermint, cinnamon are all good.)
  • red and blue paste food coloring
Instructions
  1. PREPARATION: Drop large star tip into the pastry bag. Fold down the top third of the bag (making a cuff) and paint alternating stripes of red and blue up the inside of the bag, starting at the base of the star tip and working up. Don't make them too thick or too close together, or you'll end up with purple! (I used 3 stripes of each color.) Set bag aside.
  2. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment.
  3. MERINGUES: For best results, use a stand mixer (or a sturdy hand mixer and medium-sized bowl.) Heat oven to 250 F.
  4. Beat together the water and meringue powder until foamy.
  5. Add sugar very gradually, sprinkling it in a little at a time, scraping bowl occasionally.
  6. Beat until thick and shiny, about 5-7 minutes. Add flavoring if using and beat until incorporated.
  7. Place the prepared pastry bag inside a tall water glass. Carefully drop meringue into bag. Don't try to spread it, just drop it in there. Unfold the cuff of the bag and twist to close.
  8. Pipe meringues on prepared pan. Squeeze near the pan and pull up slowly, releasing pressure as you go. Aim for about 1½ inches at the base. The first few won't be very colorful, but they're still pretty. They won't spread and can be fairly close together. Small stars can be piped for decorations, but pipe them on a separate sheet; they'll take less time to bake.
  9. Bake large puffs for 25 minutes, (10 minutes for the tiny stars), then turn off oven (don't open the door!) and leave them for a couple of hours. If you have an oven that vents heat out when it's turned off, at the end of the bake time turn the heat down as low as it will go and let them bake for another 10 minutes before turning oven off.
  10. Store the meringues in an airtight container.

Slooooowly add sugar to water and meringue powder. Beat until very thick and shiny.

I place the cuff over my hand and very (very) carefully paint the lines. I was pretty generous here and had some vibrant colors. I used less on the second batch and they were still bright and pretty.

Here’s what it looks like before the meringue is added.

Place bag in glass for support. Carefully drop the meringue into the bag.

Piping the puffs

Tips:

  • Take your time when adding the sugar. Give it time to dissolve.
  • If you want to make the tiny stars (great for decorating cupcakes) hold the tip a little bit above the parchment and start squeezing as you push down and touch the sheet. Stop squeezing and pull up. You’ll get the hang of it!
  • To make both sizes, put the large puffs in the oven first. Let them bake for 15 minutes, then put the other sheet in too. Continue to bake for the remaining 10 minutes then turn off the oven without opening the door. Don’t peek – leave them to dry out for a couple of hours (or overnight). If you have an oven that vents the heat once it’s turned off, see the recipe for instructions.
  • Put a dot of meringue batter on the baking sheet under the parchment to hold it in place while piping.
  • If you want a little more white and a little less color in your meringues, just make 4 stripes instead of 6 inside the pastry bag.
  • Keep them dry, cool, and dark. In theory, they’ll last 2 weeks. I don’t think they’ll have that opportunity!

Here is the mini version:

Piped and ready for the oven.

Jazz up strawberry shortcake, cookies, cupcakes, or a bowl of ice cream. Or just pop them—one after another—in your mouth.

Have a sweet and safe 4th!

Lorinda

Faux Taco Cookies

Taco ’bout sweet! If you’re looking for something different for Cinco de Mayo, I’ve got you covered, because these “tacos” aren’t what they seem to be. A wafer cookie is filled with crushed chocolate sandwich cookies and frosting, then topped with fake cheese, lettuce, and sour cream. (And yes, I used canned frosting. Even I am not nutty enough to make a batch of homemade frosting for just two-thirds of a cup.)

I used orange candy melts for the cheese, spreading it very thinly on a Silpat, then scraping it up with a knife. I used green melts for the lettuce, though green coconut would have been an easy alternative.

If I hadn’t chosen peanut butter-filled Oreos for the filling, I’d have added some maraschino cherries or even chopped red licorice for “tomatoes”, but neither sounded like a good match with peanut butter. Meh. Maybe next time I’ll use the cookies with the plain white filling.

A dollop of marshmallow fluff was perfect for sour cream.

The taco shells were easy but took a while since I could only bake two at a time without making a mess of things. But the recipe only makes 14 or so, and they bake for 6 minutes, so it’s not that crazy. Right? Right? Oh, c’mon, humor me.

Making cookie taco shells

I tried a couple of different methods and the easiest way to make the taco shells was with a stencil. I cut a four-inch circle out of cardstock, placed the stencil on a Silpat sheet (you can use parchment if you prefer) and spread the batter on with a metal spatula. They came out very uniform this way. They’re soft when they first come out of the oven and must be shaped right away. You’ll have to move quickly and drape them over a dowel or spoon handle.

Shaping the shells. They harden quickly!

Tip: if the shells get hard before you manage to drape them over the spoon handle, pop them back in the oven for a few seconds. As long as they weren’t overbaked, this should soften them up. Now move FAST!

Faux Taco Cookies
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Make approximately 14 faux tacos.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup superfine sugar (Baker's sugar)
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (or thick Bulgarian style buttermilk)
  • yellow/orange food coloring (optional)
  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips
  • 15 sandwich cookies (I used peanut butter-filled), crushed
  • ⅔ cup chocolate frosting
  • Toppings: orange candy melts, green candy melts (or green coconut), marshmallow fluff
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F. and cover two baking sheets with Silpats (or parchment, if preferred).
  2. Melt butter. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a medium bowl beat egg whites and sugar together until foamy.
  4. Add flour and cream (or buttermilk) and beat until smooth.
  5. Add butter. Beat on low until mixed.
  6. Add yellow and orange food coloring, if desired, to make the shells the color of a corn tortilla.
  7. Spread batter in 4-inch circles on Silpat sheets, leaving at least 1 inch between circles. The easiest way to do this is to make a simple stencil. Cut a 4-inch circle in the middle of a piece of cardstock. Lay the stencil on Silpat and spread 1 tablespoon of batter with a flat spatula. Lift stencil carefully and repeat.
  8. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove pan, carefully flip over with a flat spatula. Bake 1 additional minute, or until the cookies are beginning to brown. Immediately drape over a dowel or spoon handle (suspended between two cups or bowls) while you are baking the next sheet of cookies. Repeat.
  9. Melt the chocolate chips and brush a thin coat on the inside of each shell, coming half-way up the sides.
  10. Combine crushed cookies and frosting. Divide between each taco, crumbling to resemble meat filling.
  11. "Cheese" can be made by melting ½ cup of orange candy melts and spreading very thinly on Silpat. Once it's firm, run the tip of a table knife along the candy to create shreds.
  12. "Lettuce" can be made by melting ½ cup of green candy melts and spreading very thinly on Silpat. Once it's firm, run a fork along the candy to create thin shreds. (Or use green shredded coconut if desired.)
  13. Sprinkle orange and green toppings on tacos and top with a dollop of marshmallow fluff to resemble sour cream.
  14. Keep lightly covered until ready to serve.

Add the cream and flour to the egg/sugar mixture.

Brush a thin layer of chocolate on the inside of each shell, halfway up the sides. This will keep the “meat” mixture from making the shell soggy.

Crumble the cookie mix into the shells.

Why yes, I AM using a putty knife to spread the candy melts. A bench scraper works well too!

Scrape the candy with a knife tip to create “grated cheese”.

Or, for smaller shreds, use a large serrated blade.

Use a fork to make finely shredded “lettuce”.

Transfer the candy to the taco with the fork. Your fingers would melt it immediately!

See? Not too hard! And how fun would it be to serve these at your Cinco de Mayo celebration?

They’re messy to eat—there’s no denying that. They remind me of those nasty dry shells that come in a box (except, these taste good and melt in your mouth) because filling tends to fall out as you’re eating. Serve these cookies with napkins or plates and have your camera handy. People will just love being tagged in photos while they’re eating these!

Have a great Cinco de Mayo.

Lorinda

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry Nut Fudge

This easy fudge is full of sweet dark cherries and walnuts . . . and a little bit of Baileys Chocolate Cherry Liqueur. You don’t have to add the liqueur, of course (a dash of cherry flavoring is a good substitute) but it sure adds a festive touch for Valentine’s Day.

I used silicone heart molds to create perfect little fudge hearts. You could also pour the fudge into a large heart-shaped pan, or into a regular sheet pan and cut hearts out with cookie cutters. (I’m sure you can think of something to do with the leftover scraps.) This makes a lot of little hearts, so unless you have several silicone pans, have a small pan lined with parchment to put excess fudge into.

When I say the fudge is easy, I mean it’s not a complicated recipe. It does require your undivided attention at the stove for ten minutes or so, though. You can do that, right? For simplicity, leave the fudge plain. If you want to play with your food, you can “ice” it with a thin layer of melted chocolate and decorate with sprinkles, or roses made of royal icing or candy clay.

The heart on the left below is unadorned. The heart on the right was flipped over and the smooth side was coated with chocolate and gussied up with a few candy roses.

You’ll need a candy thermometer for this recipe. I started out with the recipe on the jar of marshmallow fluff, but because I added frozen sweet cherries to the mixture, it took a lot longer to reach the proper temperature – about ten minutes instead of the four minutes in the instructions on the jar. Not something you should guess at!

Speaking of temperatures, did you know that altitude really matters when making candy? My home is at an altitude of 2,500 feet, so I deduct five degrees from the target temperature. Subtract one degree for every 500 feet in elevation.

This recipe calls for 12 ounces of chopped chocolate. I use good dark chocolate and include 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate because I want my fudge to be really rich. I tend to have little chunks of different brands of chocolate in the cupboard, so I just throw them all together on my kitchen scale until I have 12 ounces. Mix and match! (And yes, to make it even simpler, you can use dark chocolate chips.)

Cherry Nut Fudge (with a little something extra)
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Ingredients
  • 1 cup (packed firmly) frozen dark sweet cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups sugar
  • ⅔ cup evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme (or fluff)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup Baileys Chocolate Cherry Liqueur (or substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla and ½ teaspoon cherry flavoring)
  • Optional for decorating: Melted chocolate, sprinkles, nuts, candy, royal icing flowers
  • Candy thermometer and silicone molds (or 9x13-inch cake pan)
Instructions
  1. If using a 9x13-inch pan or heart-shaped cake pans instead of silicone molds, butter lightly and place parchment in the bottom of the pan. Silicone molds do not need to be greased.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Stir frequently until mixture comes to a boil, then stir constantly until it reaches 234 F. on a candy thermometer. (Adjust for high altitude if necessary, lowering temperature by 1 degree for each 500 feet.)
  3. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and marshmallow creme.
  4. Add walnuts and liqueur (or flavorings) and stir until well mixed.
  5. Spoon or scoop into ungreased silicone molds (tap lightly to level the fudge) or spread into prepared pans.
  6. Allow mixture to cool completely, then cover and place in cool location. Refrigerate for firmer fudge (and easier cutting.)
  7. Decorate fudge by spreading with a small amount of melted chocolate and adding desired candy, nuts, or icing flowers.

 

Chop up the chocolate! (Yes, you can use dark chocolate chips if you prefer.)

Prepare and set aside everything that you will add at the end. Trust me, you don’t want to be trying to stir and chop at the same time!

Combine cherries, sugar, milk, and butter in large pan

Almost done! Love that purple color.

Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate and marshmallow.

Add nuts and Baileys (or vanilla and cherry flavorings if you’re substituting) and stir well

Fill silicone molds or prepared pans and chill until firm.

I use a knife to put a thin layer of chocolate on the smooth side of each heart because I love the little “snap” when I bite into one. Or two. It would be fun to write names or little conversation heart sayings on each one, too. So many possibilities!

More sweet treats coming soon,

Lorinda

 

Gingerbread Houses (and other edible abodes)

I’ve been holding a Rowdy Baker “Holiday House” contest for five years running now, and have seen some great houses made . . . mostly made by youngsters. I love seeing kids in the kitchen, and am thrilled to have them participate, but am convinced that adults are missing out on all the fun!

And it is fun. It’s also messy, frustrating, and persnickety, but mostly FUN!

I’m just beginning to get comfortable with creating my own templates for the structures. I (loosely) followed instructions from a great book: “The Gingerbread Architect” by Susan Matheson and Lauren Chattman, for some of my creations and still use the recipe in the book for my gingerbread base, though I add a little less leavening and a little more spice than the authors call for.

The collapse of my house in 2015 was not the fault of the plans in the book. I think I just wasn’t patient enough. It really helps to spread your efforts out over a few days and let that royal icing set hard as you go.

I don’t enter my own contest, of course, but I do play along. I can’t ask people to do something I wouldn’t do, right? Besides, I love making huge messes and staying up until the wee hours creating all the little details. Sometimes it’s challenging, but I try to make every single item on my houses edible.

I’ll show you the five I’ve made so far, and just add to this post every year.

2017 A mountain of fudge with a gingerbread cabin and gingerbread critters.

2016 (my personal favorite) a barn with gum paste and/or chocolate clay reindeer and farm animals inside. This thing was huge. And heavy!

2015 I actually made two. One was a monster of a house (which collapsed the next day in a very dramatic fashion.) and the other was an igloo made of sugar.

2014 was a more traditional house. I put a glow stick inside and the light shone through the windows.

2013 was the year that started it all. A blogging friend and I put out a challenge to make a pretzel house. The two of us were the only ones who actually entered, but we sure had a blast. 

So there you have it: five years of planning, swearing, and creating. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The holidays are so busy, it’s hard to cut out time for a project like this, but so much of it can be simplified. And when it’s done (which is never, because you’ll keep thinking of just one more thing to add to your house) you’ll be pretty proud of your accomplishment.

Let that flour fly!

Lorinda

Orange Cranberry Cupcakes

Chopped fresh cranberries and orange zest add little bursts of flavor to these sweet vanilla cupcakes. The fluffy orange icing is made with a generous amount of whipping cream, which keeps it from being too sweet.

Make sure to freeze lots of cranberries this season, because these cupcakes aren’t just for the holidays – you’ll want to make them all year long.

You know how many sweets I bake (my sweet tooth is legendary), so you might be surprised to know that I really prefer my cake unadorned, or at least minimally so, and sometimes even (gasp) scrape off some of the icing. Peer pressure often has me piling the icing on cupcakes just like everyone else, and I have to admit it makes for beautiful photos.  But how on earth are you supposed to eat a cupcake with mountain-high icing without having it go right up your nose?

Eeeuw. Not attractive.

So I’ll give you two options. A half-batch of icing is enough for a sweet little rosette on each cupcake, like this:

Or, if you love your icing, make a full batch and pile it higher, like this:

Yes, you could make even more and go for the mountain effect, but I didn’t go there. This time.

For an artsy effect, you might want to gently heat and drizzle orange marmalade or cranberry sauce over the icing, which would be lovely. But for the love of all that’s holy, do NOT use fresh cranberries to decorate the cupcakes unless you want to watch everyone pucker.  Sour, sour, sour. The berries that are baked into the cake itself are delicious, though.

Orange Cranberry Cupcakes
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Sweet orange cupcakes studded with bits of chopped fresh cranberries, topped with whipped orange icing. Makes 24 tall cupcakes, or approximately 28-30 standard cupcakes.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 3½ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • grated zest from 1 large orange
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons concentrated frozen orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • grated zest from 1 large orange
  • pinch salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • orange food coloring if desired
  • Candy orange slice or sprinkles for decorating
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Place extra large baking cups in two 12-cavity cupcake pans. (If you are using regular baking cups, this recipe will make approximately 28-30.)
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla and orange extracts and mix until combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating and scraping the bowl between each addition.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
  6. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, beginning with the flour and ending with the buttermilk, approximately ⅓ of each at a time. Stir each addition well before adding the next.
  7. Beat mixture just until well blended.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon flour to the cranberries and toss to coat. Fold cranberries and orange zest into batter.
  9. Scoop into cupcake liners. For extra large (or tulip-type) liners fill a little over half full - about level with the pan. If you're using regular liners, fill approximately ⅔ full.
  10. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until cupcake springs back up when pressed on the top.
  11. Cool on a rack.
  12. ICING:
  13. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, shortening, orange juice, and vanilla together well.
  14. Add powdered sugar and orange zest, beat until combined. If too stiff to mix, add a little of the whipping cream.
  15. Add whipping cream and beat until light and fluffy. This will take several minutes.
  16. Place half of the icing in a bowl and add a small amount of orange food coloring.
  17. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip with both colors to get a swirled look. For a rosette, start in the center of your cupcake and work in circles outward. For a mounded "mountain" effect, start on the outside and work your way in, increasing pressure at the center. Top with a candy orange slice or sprinkles.

My next-door neighbor, Pam, gave me some wonderful parchment supplies and I’m in love with these extra-large liners. They come up high so you can use a little more batter. (They fit nicely into two of my standard cupcake pans but were a little too big for the other.) If you can’t find them, you can use tulip-type liners or just make more regular-sized cupcakes.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add vanilla, orange extract, and eggs. Beat well.

Add one-third of the flour. Stir.

Add one-third of the buttermilk. Stir.

….and repeat. Again!

Dust the cranberries with flour. Fold into batter along with orange zest

Fill tall cups a little over half full.

Beat butter, shortening, orange juice, and vanilla together. Add powdered sugar and orange zest.

Whip in the cream. So fluffy!

Put both colors together in a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip and make ’em pretty! Top with an orange candy slice.

These would make a perfect holiday dessert . . . not too rich, not too heavy, and so festive!

Time’s flying and Christmas is just around the corner. I’m so not ready. The next time you hear from me I’ll probably be pushing chocolate hearts, so let me say it right now:

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Lorinda

Chocolate Cupcakes with Grand Marnier Icing

I gussied these chocolate cupcakes up for Halloween, creating pumpkins with little spiders lurking on them, but without the spiders they would be perfect for Thanksgiving – a real crowd-pleaser. Grand Marnier makes these an adult indulgence, of course, but you can always replace the liqueur with orange juice if you are feeding them to littles.

I’ll go with the booze, thank you very much.

I love Grand Marnier and usually splurge on a bottle every year. Mostly for baking, though a little occasionally makes its way into a small brandy snifter. Who can resist that? What amazing flavor it imparts to buttercream icing! It doesn’t take much, so you could just buy one or two of those mini bottles at the liquor store if your budget is tight, or go with a knock-off version.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Grand Marnier Icing
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Makes about 30 cupcakes Decorating them like pumpkins uses a lot of icing! If you choose to simply frost the cupcakes, you can cut the icing recipe in half.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (I use a mixture of regular and extra dark)
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup oil (I use peanut oil, but canola would be good too)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup hot coffee
  • Grand Marnier for drizzling over cupcakes before icing (optional)
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons shortening
  • 9 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Orange food coloring (optional)
  • Chocolate slivers, green icing for decorating.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
  3. Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat well, scraping the bowl often.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition.
  5. Stir in the coffee until mixture is smooth.
  6. Fill cupcake liners a little more than half full, but no more than ⅔ full.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a rack.
  9. Once cool, you may want to poke inch-deep holes in the cupcake tops and drizzle each cupcake with ½ teaspoon Grand Marnier, letting it soak in through the holes.
  10. ICING: beat together the butter, shortening, and 2 cups of the powdered sugar until creamy.
  11. Add Grand Marnier, frozen orange juice, and cream. Beat until well combined.
  12. Add the remaining powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl often. Beat on high until fluffy, adjusting if necessary by adding more powdered sugar or cream to achieve a thick icing that will hold shape when piped.
  13. Add orange food coloring, if desired.
  14. With a pastry bag fitted with large round tip, pipe a mound in the middle of each cupcake. Starting at the base of the mound and working your way around the icing mound, pipe from bottom to top, releasing pressure on the pastry bag as you reach the top. Put a small sliver of chocolate in the center of the top for a stem and, if desired, use a small amount of green icing to add leaves.

Fill a little over halfway.

Poke holes with a skewer and drizzle with Grand Marnier.

Use large round tip to make a flat circle then center mound (like a witch’s hat). Or . . . just make a mound.

Pull icing up from the base of the circle to create a pumpkin.

Now just stick a little sliver of chocolate (or get creative: a pretzel stick, piece of Tootsie Roll, cacao nib, whatever) on top and, if you want, add a few leaves and curlicues with green icing and a tiny writing tip. I piped small spiders on mine with melted chocolate (because the crow requested them) but if you don’t want to get all crazy, you could just do this: 

Added bonus to taking this shortcut: you would only need half of the icing recipe for the pretty little floret. A drizzle of chocolate or a few sprinkles, and it’s a thing of beauty.
Enjoy!

Lorinda

Peanut Butter Pie Crust – and Chocolate Pie!

 

A peanut butter and banana sandwich is one of my very favorite comfort foods. And, of course, the combination of peanut butter and chocolate makes me very, very happy; my favorite candy bars fall in this category. So when The Man suggested I try adding peanut butter to my pie crust, it only took me seconds to get on board with that. Banana pie. Chocolate pie. A match made in heaven!

I had qualms about how the peanut butter would affect my crust, but my concerns about texture were unfounded. The pie crust, though slightly less flaky than my favorite recipe, didn’t turn out heavy or tough as I’d feared. It was actually, well, perfect. I don’t use that word lightly because I tend to tinker with things until I’m satisfied, but I wouldn’t change one thing about this crust – and was tickled with it on my very first attempt.

So I’ll just amuse myself by considering all of the possibilities this crust offers. And believe me, I have a whole list of interesting recipes waiting for their turn in the limelight. For now, I’ll concentrate on pies. Specifically, chocolate cream pie. In this post, I’ll give you the recipe I used for my chocolate pie, and in a future post you’ll get this:

Coming soon: Banana Cream Pie with Peanut Butter Crust

The pie crust itself is very easy to work with. I had no problem at all fashioning some of it into roses, leaves, hearts, stars, and even holly. With a cookie cutter or press, you can easily customize for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day.

Peanut Butter Pie Crust - and Chocolate Pie!
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This pie crust recipe makes enough for two deep-dish crusts or 1 generous crust and enough left to use for designing pie decorations. The dough can be frozen for later use.
Ingredients
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter, chilled (not old-fashioned)
  • ½ cup shortening, chilled
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka or vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Finely chopped peanuts (optional)
  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered espresso
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup butter
  • Decorations (optional): whipped cream, chopped peanuts, shaved chocolate, pastry crust cutouts.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. Make crust: In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and brown sugar.
  3. With a pastry blender, work the peanut butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until well combined. There should be no large lumps.
  4. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and vodka (or vinegar). Pour into dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Dough should not be too crumbly. If it is, drizzle in a tiny bit of water and combine.
  5. Divide dough into two pieces. One will be for the pie crust and the other will be for cut-out decorations if desired. (Hint: for ease of rolling, make the piece you will use for crust a little larger than the one for decorating.) If you don’t want to make decorations, divide into two equal pieces and freeze the other half for another time.
  6. Dust one piece of dough lightly with flour, place between two pieces of parchment, and roll out evenly until larger than the diameter of your pie pan, all the way around. Remove the top piece of parchment, place the pie pan upside down on the dough, and cut a circle at least 1 inch bigger than the pan, all the way around Remove scraps.
  7. Slide a flat baking sheet or large piece of cardboard under the bottom parchment and flip the pan, dough, and parchment over in one movement. Remove baking sheet and carefully remove parchment. Ease the dough into the pie pan, roll edges under, and crimp the edges.
  8. Line with foil and fill half way with dry beans, pie weights, or sugar. Bake for 20 minutes.
  9. Take crust from oven and gently remove foil and weights. Poke crust all over with a fork and return to oven. Turn heat down to 350 F. and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  10. Remove crust from oven and place on cooling rack. Sprinkle with ¼ cup chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, melting the chocolate. Spread over bottom of the crust and sprinkle with nuts if desired.
  11. Remaining dough can be used to make cutout designs for the pie or can be wrapped well and frozen.
  12. Make filling: In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Set aside.
  13. In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, espresso powder, milk, and unsweetened chocolate.Cook at medium-high heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil.
  14. Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Adjust heat as necessary to keep the mixture at a low boil.
  15. Add about ½ cup of the mixture into egg yolks and whisk together. Pour egg mixture into the pan, stir well, and return to low boil. Continue to stir and cook for 2 additional minutes. Remove from heat.
  16. Stir in vanilla and butter until the filling is smooth. Pour into the pie shell and let the pie cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4-6 hours.
  17. Serve with whipped cream, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, and shaved chocolate if desired.

Of course, you could also make an easy chocolate pudding filling. It’s not quite as good, but in all honesty, this recipe is all about the crust!

Work peanut butter and shortening into dry ingredients with pastry blender

Add liquids and stir just until dough holds together.

Roll out between pieces of parchment

Place dough in pan and flute edges. (Or use a pan that does it for you!)

Bake 20 minutes. Remove pie weights and poke holes with fork. Back in the oven!

Bake 15 more minutes. Move to rack. Add chocolate (chopped or chips) and let it melt.

Spread.

Sprinkle with chopped peanuts if desired.

Whisk eggs, set aside. Cook filling.

Pour a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks. Whisk and return to the pan.

Stir in butter and vanilla, then pour into crust and cool. Refrigerate 4-6 hours

Jazz the pie up however you wish, right before serving.

I suggest you make extra crust and freeze it, because I have some fun ideas coming your way!

Lorinda

Candy Corn Brownies

Hoo-boy! This is over the top–even for me. I hesitated and dithered about adding this to my blog because I didn’t know if anyone would actually want to go to this much work for a candy-coated brownie, but my trusted friend Mary assured me that the description of my struggles would be interesting, at least. We’ll see about that.

You know the drill. First I tell you about all the steps I used, then I let you off the hook with easy alternatives. Yes, yes, I’m going to do that again. But first, I want to mention that maybe it just seemed like this was an insanely big production. It took me a couple of days, but that’s because I had to adjust my brownie recipe so that it would bake as evenly as possible. No big, tall, crunchy sides and sunken center for this baby. And then I decided (no wine was involved, I promise) that it would save time if I coated one side with orange candy melts, thinking I could then just cut and dip in yellow and white. Um. I have issues with spacial concepts – can’t imagine how something will work unless I actually try it.

Nope. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t try to create a shortcut. Resign yourself to a lot of messy dipping!

It didn’t. There were still sides that would need orange coating, and I just used up all of my orange melts. Pffft. Luckily I had an extra bag of white melts, so naturally, I added red food coloring to my bag of yellow melts to make orange, and then colored the extra bag of white melts yellow. Why didn’t I just color the white melts orange? There was a reason, but I can’t remember. I’m old.

I also played with the icing, trying to incorporate melted candy corn. It.Did.Not.Work. That stuff is like taffy. (And as an aside, if you see the recipe that insists you can make homemade Butterfingers with candy corn, don’t believe it for a minute. You will get yummy chewy peanut butter taffy. I know.) So I finally gave up and used buttercream.

Maybe, maybe if I made them again, knowing what I know now, it wouldn’t seem overwhelming. But that ship has sailed, and I’m moving on. Give this a try if you’re bored and want a challenge . . . and if you enjoy washing lots of dishes.

If I were to make them again, I might make them smaller, too. They’d be easier to dip.

And if you decide to:

  • use a boxed brownie mix
  • use canned frosting
  • dip only half of them and eat the rest plain

. . . I will completely understand. And bravo for trying! Please send me photos, okay?

Candy Corn Brownies
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Author:
Brownies, decorated to look like candy corn. They're iced and dipped in three colors of candy melts. Add chopped candy corn to the brownie batter if that isn't enough sugar for you! Makes about 27.
Ingredients
  • BROWNIES:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup cocoa (I combine regular and extra dark for a richer color)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped candy corn (optional)
  • ICING:
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • COATING:
  • You will need approximately 18 ounces orange candy melts, 12 ounces yellow candy melts, and 8 ounces white candy melts. This may vary, depending on your dipping style!
  • Shortening or coconut oil to thin chocolate for dipping.
Instructions
  1. BROWNIES: Heat oven to 325 F. Generously grease and flour (or spray with an oil/flour baking spray) a 13x9-inch baking pan. Hint: you may want to lay a piece of foil or parchment across the bottom, extending up the sides to make it easier to lift brownies out.
  2. In a large pot on low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat and add sugar, stirring well. Allow mixture to cool until lukewarm.
  3. Stir in eggs, one at a time, mixing well.
  4. Combine cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture, along with candy corn (if using). Stir gently, just until blended. Do not over stir! Spread evenly in pan, smoothing the top as much as possible. An offset spatula or dough scraper works well for this.
  5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.
  6. Cool completely in pan on rack. Once cool, remove from pan.
  7. ICING: In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and powdered sugar. Add milk and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  8. ASSEMBLE: Cut off any rough edges. Flip the brownies over and spread icing over the bottom side of the brownies (it's the smoothest) as evenly as possible. With long edge towards you, divide the brownies into three long strips, approximately 3 inches tall. (If you had to cut off much of the edges, they may be a little shorter than that.) Mark the bottom of each strip every two inches, then mark the top of the strip beginning with 1 inch and then every two inches. Cut from the bottom left corner to the 1-inch mark, then from the 1-inch mark down to the 2-inch mark on the bottom, creating a candy corn shape. You can be precise, or you can wing it from there.
  9. Set each candy corn shape on a large baking sheet and place in freezer for at least 2 hours. As you work with the brownies, dipping them in candy melts, keep them frozen, only removing part of them from the freezer at a time.
  10. Place orange candy melts in a small microwave-safe bowls or mug, adding about 1½ teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Microwave, stirring every 15 seconds. Stop before completely melted; the hot bowl will finish melting the candy. Stir until smooth. As you're working with the candy, heat it for a few seconds if the mixture thickens. Thin candy is much easier to work with. Alternatively, you can keep the bowl of melted candy in a pan of hot water as you work - just be careful not to get any water into the candy.
  11. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment.
  12. Holding onto the wide end of each brownie, dip the pointed end about ⅔ of the way into orange candy. Place on parchment to harden. When all of the brownies have been dipped in orange, return to the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  13. Heat yellow candy melts, adding 1 teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Holding pointed end, dip wide end of each brownie into yellow candy, bringing it up to meet the orange candy. Don't leave any brownie showing! Once all have been dipped in yellow, return to the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  14. Heat white candy melts, using ½ teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Dip the tip of each brownie in the white. Allow coating to harden. These can be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days, or refrigerated if you prefer. They freeze very well too!

Combine melted butter and sugar well. Allow it to cool a bit.

Stir in eggs, one at a time.

Add dry ingredients

. . . and the candy corn, if you’re using it.

Spread evenly in prepared pan and bake.

A 3×5 index card might help with cutting those triangles.

Ice the smooth bottom side of the brownies, cut into 3 strips and cut out triangles.

Place pieces on parchment covered pan and freeze

Dip frozen brownies in orange candy melts. Pop back in freezer briefly.

Dip the other end into yellow melts until it meets the orange.

Dip the tip in white

See, wasn’t that easy? Hello? Hello?

Wait! I actually have another idea that would be good for Halloween or Thanksgiving, and it’s easier, though it still involves dipping. It even (GASP!) uses store-bought cookies. If these Candy Corn Brownies make your eyes roll back in your head, just stay with me, because the next post might be right up your alley.

Lorinda

 

All-American Angel Food Cake

This may sound odd coming from a confirmed chocoholic, but if I could only have one type of cake for the rest of my life, it would be angel food. For the Fourth of July I made a red, white and blue angel food cake, giving this classic cake red and blue layers and topping it with strawberry whipped cream. Light, cool, and sweet—just perfect for a hot summer day.

I didn’t get to try it, however, because I’m on a super strict diet. But my wonderful group of taste-testers did, and they all were very enthused. Need a laugh? I take all of the goodies that I am not allowed to eat to my weekly Watching Our Weight group and divvy it up. Talk about sabotage. But the biggest loser each week wins the pot, so can you blame me? Bwa ha ha.

This cake isn’t as high and fluffy as a regular angel food cake because it requires some manhandling of the batter to get the colored layers. Usually the batter is very gently folded and then spooned carefully into a tube pan. For this cake I had to actually spread the batter, which deflates some of those precious air bubbles. But it was still light and tender.

See? Still plenty high. And in case you’re wondering, the colors really were that vibrant. I used a concentrated food color from Wilton, and whoooooeeeee!

For best results:

  • Line the bottom of the tube pan with parchment.
  • Stir the colored batters as little as possible. It’s okay if the colored batter is a little streaky.
  • Use concentrated or paste food coloring. It will take too much regular liquid color to get a nice red, and the liquid will destroy the air bubbles.
  • Bake for an hour without opening the door to peek (unless you have a wonky stove and can’t trust it).
  • I rarely use whipped topping in a tub, but it is more stable for this application. You can definitely use whipped cream, but the topping will be softer and won’t hold up as well in hot conditions.
  • Room temperature egg whites are used. I suggest you separate the eggs while they’re still cold and then leave the bowl of whites out for an hour to warm up (covered, of course). If you try to separate the eggs when they are room temperature, the yolks tend to break. Ask me how I know!

If you haven’t made an angel food cake from scratch before, don’t panic. It isn’t hard at all. Room temperature egg whites, well-sifted flour, and squeaky clean utensils are all you need to remember. Well, and to follow the recipe:

All-American Angel Food Cake
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Author:
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1½ cups superfine sugar (important to use superfine)
  • 1⅓ cups egg whites (about 11 eggs), room temperature
  • 1¼ teaspoons cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or ½ teaspoon almond or lemon) extract
  • Concentrated red and blue food coloring, to achieve desired shade
  • Powdered sugar, sprinkles if desired
  • STRAWBERRY CREAM:
  • 1 tub whipped topping OR 3 cups of sweetened whipped cream
  • ½ cup chopped fresh strawberries (more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry spreadable fruit - or jam.
  • small fresh strawberries for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Prepare a tube pan by cutting a circle of parchment the size of the bottom of the pan and cutting a round hole in the middle so that it will fit over the tube. Do not grease or flour the parchment or the pan.
  3. In a small bowl, sift flour 3 times with ½ cup of the sugar.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle the salt and cream of tartar over eggs and beat until they hold soft peaks.
  5. Add the rest of the sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in flavored extract.
  6. Add the flour and sugar mixture ½ cup at a time, folding gently after each addition.
  7. Remove 2 cups of batter, placing 1 cup of each into a separate small bowl. Add red food color to one bowl and blue to the other, and fold in gently. Only stir as much as necessary; it's okay if it's streaky.
  8. Drop ⅓ of the white batter into the bottom of the lined pan and use the back of a spoon or a small spatula to spread evenly. Again, don't overwork the batter!
  9. Add all of the red batter and spread gently to cover the white batter. Using a thin spatula or knife, run all the way around the circle halfway between the tube and the side of the pan. Only do this once.
  10. Add ⅓ of the white batter, level it out, and top with the blue, spreading carefully. This time when you run the knife through the batter, keep it shallow so you don't disturb the red layer.
  11. Cover with the remaining white batter, smooth gently, and bake 1 hour at 325. Top should be deep golden brown.
  12. Turn pan upside down on cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Slide a knife around the side of pan to release the cake. Dust with powdered sugar. Add a few sprinkles if you wish.
  13. STRAWBERRY TOPPING:
  14. In a small bowl, stir the chopped berries and spreadable fruit together. If you are using whipped topping, stir together with the berry mixture until well combined. If you are using fresh whipped cream, fold the berry mixture into the topping as gently as possible.
  15. Keep topping refrigerated until needed. Place a dollop on each slice of cake and top with a berry.

 

 

Gradually add flour mixture to eggs.

Fold food coloring into divided batter.

Gently spread one third of white batter on bottom of pan. Cover with all of red batter.

Run a spatula or knife through the batter, one time. Go all the way around the circle, halfway between the tube and the side of the pan.

Repeat with layer of white, then blue. Go shallow when you run the spatula around the center so you don’t disturb the red. Top with remaining white batter.

That’s it! Bake it, cool it, and top it if you wish, though I love my angel food cake plain, too. Dust the cake with powdered sugar (and maybe a few sprinkles) to make it purty, and cut it with a serrated blade.

Hooray for the red, white and blue!

Lorinda

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shortbread

The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is irresistible to me, and I just love getting both flavors in one cookie. There are endless ways to put these two doughs together, and I’ll show you a few, but I’m sure you will come up with some fun ideas of your own.

Yes, you’ll have to make two different batches of cookie dough, but it really is a very easy dough to make, and it won’t take you long at all. If you’re wondering how many this will make, I just don’t know what to tell you. It depends on whether you’re making the three layer cookies or the chain cookies or . . .
Let’s just say it makes a generous amount, at least 4 dozen.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shortbread
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Author:
Two easy batches of shortbread cookie dough can be combined in countless ways to make creative and delicious cookies.
Ingredients
  • PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon milk or water
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH:
  • 1½ cups butter, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon water or coffee
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • To decorate: your choice of chopped peanuts, sprinkles, chocolate icing or ganache
Instructions
  1. PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
  2. In a large mixing bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is best) beat butter, peanut butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and milk (or water) together well.
  3. Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
  4. Gradually add the flour. This is a very stiff dough! It will appear crumbly, but with thorough beating, should come together. If it doesn't, drizzle in a small amount of milk or water.
  5. Wrap and refrigerate dough. Scrape bowl out and use for the chocolate dough.
  6. CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH
  7. In large bowl, beat butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and water (or coffee) together well.
  8. Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
  9. Combine the flour and cocoa and gradually add, mixing until dough forms. If necessary, drizzle in a very small amount of water or coffee.
  10. Wrap and refrigerate both doughs for 30 minutes. If you refrigerate the dough longer, it will become very stiff. If that happens, let it rest at room temperature until manageable.
  11. Heat oven to 350 F.
  12. Working with a small piece of one color at a time, roll ¼ inch thick on lightly floured surface or between sheets of parchment. Bake on ungreased baking sheet or on parchment for approximately 10 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your cookies. They should just be beginning brown on the bottom. Here are some ideas:
  13. Try using two different sizes of the same shape of cutter. If using hearts, cut large hearts out of both doughs, then use a smaller heart cutter in the center of half of the large hearts. Gently press a shape with the center removed onto a solid shape. Once baked, fill the center with chocolate ganache or peanut butter icing. You can also marble the colors, roll, and cut. Or try putting a small heart on a large one, topping with a dab of peanut butter, and covering with another large heart, creating a small raised heart in the center. Cover cooled cookie with icing or ganache. Or cut small hearts out of the center of large hearts to create heart "frames". cut one on the side, and slip the other through the cut. Press lighlty for a 2 heart "chain".

Some of the ideas I tried:

Triple layer cookies. (Okay, if you count the peanut butter I guess they’re quadruple layered.)

A layer of peanut butter dough, a small chocolate heart, a dollop of peanut butter, and top with another layer of peanut butter dough. Or reverse the colors.

See? This one was chocolate, a small peanut butter center, peanut butter, and chocolate.

Drizzle or cover with ganache or chocolate icing, and sprinkle with chopped peanuts

Or, these are fun!

A solid bottom with a cutout top. Once cool, fill with ganache or add a candy center

You can also link two cutout hearts together:

Or . . . the easiest idea of all is to simply combine the two doughs to create a marbled effect:

So many ways to play with this dough, and I’ll bet if you have littles in the kitchen, they will get very creative!

This is it for Valentine’s Day recipes for the year, and you know what that means, right? Everything green is coming your way soon.

Lorinda