Valentine’s Day Leftovers

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The only thing better than eating all of the sweets on Earth on Valentine’s Day, is discovering that you have extras left over for days and days afterwards. Forget the discounted chocolate (but don’t actually because Lindt chocolate ain’t cheap when it’s just a regular Tuesday), the real edible magic after Valentine’s Day are the baked goods. Cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and all heart-shaped. Is it me, or do things just taste better when they’re heart-shaped? It’s just me? Okay.

My generally sad lunch has an upgrade this week in the form of these sweet sugar cookie hearts.

 

I keep going back to Bon Appetit’s Ultimate Sugar Cookie recipe because it’s JUST THAT GOOD.

And don’t forget the royal icing!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day Leftovers Week!

French Silk Pie

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Happy Valentine’s Day! I love love, and I love chocolate, so let’s dive right in.

Ever since my visit to Chicago’s Bang Bang Pie, I have been obsessed with french silk pie. I’ve been told it’s a classic diner pie , but this girl has been to her fair share of diners, and no french silk in sight! It’s just as well; the first time you have french silk pie has to be a straight up experience, not just another dessert.

People are always likening the things they really, really like to Heaven. You know what I mean? “That massage I just got? HEAVEN.” “That shoe place is like HEAVEN.” “Those dogs kisses on my mouth? HEAVENNN.” It’s become so overused. But let me tell you something right now: the only thing better than this pie once it’s completely chilled and set, is the actual moment of euphoria that is finding extra filling in the mixing bowl once the pie shell has been filled. That unset, chocolate mousse filling is actual Heaven on Earth. It’s silky (hence the name!), chocolaty beyond belief, creamy, and lighter than air. It’s silky, chocolaty, creamy air on a spoon. I will not tell you how much of it I ate before I could finally snap myself out of it to transfer the pie to the fridge before there was nothing left but crumbs in a disposable tin. If it wasn’t already destined to be dessert at a Valentine’s Day party, this french silk pie, along with its identical twin pie brother, would’ve been gone SO FAST with no regrets.

Alas, they were promised for many other tummies besides mine, so I had to let them go.

There better be leftovers.

 

What You’ll Need:

For the Crust:
60 Vanilla wafers, finely crushed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the Filling:
3/4 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

To make the crust: Place your freshly crushed vanilla wafers, cinnamon, and melted butter into a medium sized mixing bowl, and stir together until all ingredients are completely combined.

Pour your mixture into a 9 inch pie plate and press the bottom and sides to create an even layer. You may end up with a little extra once you’re finished.

Bake your crust for 10-15 minutes until it’s golden brown. Once removed from the oven, set it on a cooling rack to cool completely, then place in the refrigerator until you need it.

To make the filling: Place eggs and sugar in a medium saucepan, continuously whisking together on medium-low heat. You’ll know that your mixture is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This should take 5-7 minutes. While your mixture is cooking, melt the chocolate.

Stir your melted chocolate into the mixture, and continue to stir until it’s smooth. Remove from heat, and let it completely cool.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl with a hand mixer, or with a wooden spoon), beat your butter until it is light and fluffy. Add your cooled chocolate mixture, and continue to mix until everything is fully combined. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

In a separate bowl, beat together your heavy cream and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Fold your newly whipped cream into your chocolate mixture and mix until it’s light and fluffy. (I’ve found that it’s sometimes necessary to help the process by mixing it with a rubber spatula for a few seconds to make sure all of the chocolate is incorporated.)

Remove your chilled crust from the refrigerator, and fill with chocolate filling. (You may end up with some extra filling at the end. I find it best to eat with a spoon). Refrigerate for 4-6 hours (or overnight). Once ready to serve, top with some homemade whipped cream, and enjoy!

SOURCE: Spoon Fork Bacon

 

Forks up! Everybody have some pie.

Mini Soft Pretzels

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Can we talk about how good soft pretzels are for everyday life? They’re salty, they’re bready, they’re full of empty calories, and they’re always perfectly delicious. Also, soft pretzels are pretty much essential for a proper sporting event experience am I right? Nothing says “Go, team!” like a warm soft pretzel dipped in creamy cheese sauce. Add a little beer to that cheese sauce and now you’re speakin’ the Midwesterner’s Language.

So of course, for Superbowl Sunday I knew that our somewhat bountiful spread just wouldn’t be complete without a plate of fresh soft pretzels, and I was determined to make them myself. But I wasn’t just making them for the game. Oh no. Sure, the game was an important factor, but it was much more than that. The truth of the matter is, that pretzel stand around the corner won’t always be open when the craving arises. And it arises more often than you think. Therefore, it behooved me to learn the craft, hone my pretzel skills, and eat lots of the final product for, you know, research purposes before kickoff…

And while I’m officially on the road to becoming a master pretzel princess, it wasn’t without a few (read: many) challenges. First of all, it is not at all easy to twist dough. It’s bouncy when you don’t want it to be, it springs back, and it most definitely won’t go out without a fight. But eventually, it stops fighting you, and you wind up with pretty pretzel butterflies waiting for a quick poaching, followed by a little toasting in the oven until it’s perfectly golden brown. When it’s all over you’ll be exhausted, starving, and completely proud of what you’ve done. YOU JUST LEARNED HOW TO MAKE SOFT PRETZELS AT HOME.

Let this be your weekend project.

Mini Soft Pretzels

What You’ll Need:

2 cups warm water (between 105-110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil (I used vegetable oil)
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse sea salt

 

Find the recipe for these soft pretzels on Smitten Kitchen!

And here’s a fun little video from Joy the Baker in case you want to see the pretzel making magic in action.

Currently Reading: Homemade Decadence

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Homemade Decadence, written by Joy Wilson of “Joy the Baker” fame, is a book that I’ve been waiting for with bated breath since the release of her first book, The Joy the Baker Cookbook, all the way back in 2012. And the wait, by all accounts, was totally and completely worth it!

Initial Thoughts: 

The cover design is beautiful and inviting. Also, the idea of a pretzel crust is inspired and will definitely indulge anyone with salty-sweet cravings. And the pictures inside are just as beautiful with easy-to-follow recipes and funny stories to go along with each one.

From the book, Homemade Decadence

From the book, Homemade Decadence

REVIEW: 

Joy Wilson is fun. And this cookbook, just like its predecessor, feels like a true extension of the food blogger we’ve all grown to love. It’s colorful, it’s vibrant, and it’s entirely unpretentious in the most sophisticated of ways. Homemade Decadence encourages you to get creative in your kitchen, and really connect with the world around you. It shows you that fear of failure has no place in the kitchen, so embrace the weird combinations that come to mind. You never know when one day you’ll meet a concoction that changes your life. You deserve fancy, out-of-the-box desserts every single day (without necessarily needing a special occasion), and the written words of JTB are there to help guide you. There’s everything in this book from cocktails, to doughnuts, to uniquely flavored ice creams, and tons of treats in between. And if you’re looking for new ways to re-invent your toast, never fear, because Joy’s got a whole page dedicated to it. Breakfast is a serious business after all.

From the book, Homemade Decadence

From the book, Homemade Decadence

If you’re a fan of JoytheBaker.com, you’ll be happy to see some true classics (Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes are now a go-to at my house) as well as loads of new recipes to go along with them (Hello, “Ultimate Pancake Syrup!”), and the exact same amusing conversational tone that makes Joy one of the best bloggers and authors out there. Homemade Decadence is a total win in my book.

Recipes on My “To Try” List: 

Blueberry Pancake Muffins w/ Maple Glaze, Blackberry Pie Cookies, Church Party Peach Cobbler, Brown Sugar-Raspberry Cheesecake, and Lavender-Lime Cucumber Spritzers.

BUY Homemade Decadence HERE

Party Trick: Horseradish-Super Sharp Cheddar Cheese Ball

photo 1 The weekend is here, and I’m sure you’ve got several happening shindigs to grace with your presence. If there is one thing I know for absolute certain, it’s to never, EVER come to a party empty-handed. There’s always something to bring. Your host or hostess will definitely appreciate it, and you’ll totally win extra points. It shows that you appreciate both the invitation, and the people who’ve invited you into their home. And it doesn’t always have to be food. Bring wine, bring flowers, bring napkins, BRING ICE. Bring something useful, and your host will never forget it. There has never been such thing as too many party supplies. Sooner or later, everything gets used. Boy do I love a good party. I don’t go to nearly enough of them, and I hardly get invited to fancy dress get-togethers, so when I do, I try to go all out. But when thinking of the perfect arrival gift to my Nashvillian bestie Hailey’s house, I had a few things that I needed to consider: One, I’d be in my grandparents’ kitchen which meant a limited amount of kitchen tools and appliances, and two, a limited amount of refrigerator real estate. (My Grandmothers are seasoned veterans in the kitchen and there is always something to eat.) Then it hit me: a cheese ball. I’d recently been introduced to the, and best of all, it checked off three very important things on my dish to pass checklist: Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 3.04.24 PM It took me about 45 minutes to make this cheese ball, and most of that time can be shaved down if you have a food processor. I didn’t, so I had to use my trusty pastry blender (a well-deserved Christmas gift to myself. I’ve got happier wrists now). Your cheesy mix must rest for two hours snugly wrapped in cling wrap, having been delicately shaped into a sphere. Six to eight minutes of your resting time should be spent roasting your walnuts and pecans. The rest of the time it takes to make your cocktail party masterpiece can be used to…paint your nails, pick out a killer outfit, or, in my case, bug your grandmother incessantly to break out the family pictures so that you can pretend to reminisce about an era that you took no part in. And once the two hours are up (though I actually left it in the fridge for four hours or so), just give your walnuts and pecans a rough chop, carefully roll your cheese ball around, and wrap it back up in cling film if you plan on transporting it. Et voila! Your totally easy, yet utterly sophisticated party snack is ready for its closeup. And don’t you dare forget the fancy crackers that go along with it! You’re sure to amaze, and make some new friends in the process. Who knew a ball of cheese could be such a conversation starter? I ain’t mad at it.   Horseradish-Sharp Cheddar Cheese Ball 

  • 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 8 oz grated super sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish sauce
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pecans

Blend cream cheese, cheddar, and horseradish using a food processor or pastry blender until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place cheese mixture on a piece of cling wrap, then use cling wrap to shape mixture into a ball. Chill until firm for at least two hours.

While the newly formed ball is chilling,  preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and place your walnuts and pecans on a baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper. Bake for 6-8 minutes, tossing occasionally. Keep them in the oven until they’ve darkened a bit, and give off a fragrant aroma. Let cool, then give them a rough chop.

Thirty minutes before serving, roll your ball in the roughly chopped walnut and pecan mixture, and enjoy.

Source: Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit

Party on.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

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I’m generally not one to seek out peppermint flavored things. I don’t know what it is about that essential oil that just turns me off. And despite the fact that it’s often associated with the color red (which is positively my favorite color), there are very few scenarios that involve me going anywhere near the stuff. Eating one of these soft, chewy, dark choclatey cookies is one of those scenarios.

Making these cookies for my Nashvilian bestie, Hailey, was a real treat. Number one, it gave me an excuse to eat dark chocolate cookie dough first thing in the morning (a baker must always stay tasting, right?) But it introduced me to the world of the sandwich cookie. Long an admirer of the homemade Oreo and the ice cream sandwiches made with both homemade ice cream and delicious chocolate chip cookies, I hadn’t yet found myself with the opportunity to make any in my kitchen. But when Hails told me that her favorite combination was peppermint and chocolate, and having stumbled upon this recipe a few days earlier and immediately adding it to my overflowing “Recipes” folder, I decided these cookies were up next to bat.

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Not only was the active preparation time pretty short (probably an hour tops; the delicate dough must rest for at least two hours, though I rested it overnight), but it was pretty simple as well. And while I maybe didn’t listen to the directions all the way when it said to only put a little peppermint buttercream in the center to avoid overflow (my brain couldn’t handle so much empty space, and the frosting overflowed anyway), things still turned out for the best. A little extra peppermint buttercream never hurt anyone anyway. And did I mention that after a little time in the fridge to let the buttercream set that these taste almost EXACTLY like chilled, Girl Scout caliber thin mints? It was actually the best discovery of the week.

I know what you’re thinking: Peppermint is really more of a holiday flavor, and the holidays are long gone, my friend! Well, I’d like to respectfully disagree. Unless the Peppermint Police, who dispatch from Holiday Headquarters, come banging on my door ordering me to halt operations immediately, I say these dark chocolate and peppermint treasures are fair game ALL YEAR ROUND.

 

What You’ll Need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground espresso beans (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the buttercream:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons milk

Find this recipe on The Kitchn!

 

Merry Christmas! Have a Cookie.

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Merry Christmas! May your holiday season be full of whimsy, and your holiday baking successful.

This was my first time using royal icing and a piping bag, and I’m happy to say that things went off without a hitch! Can’t wait to snack on cookies all day and night long.

Two things:

  • Here’s how to make the best royal icing ever…
  • …And the ULTIMATE sugar cookies to go with it!

 

I’m staying in my Christmas jammies all day, and don’t try to stop me.

 

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Vanilla Almonds

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You know those special candied almonds you find at farmer’s markets or fairs in the super fancy packaging that you love, but never really think you could make yourself? Well, this is the post that is going to prove that theory wrong. Six ingredients are all you need to make these addictive nuts, and I’m fairly certain you’ve got them in your pantry right now!

You can give these almonds as a gift, eat them between meals, or treat them as a great after dinner dessert. Whichever way you go, one thing is for certain: it is entirely impossible to eat just one. Good thing this recipe makes lots and lots of almonds!

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups whole almonds
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Beat the egg white and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Once combined, add the almonds and stir around, making sure each almond is coated.

In another smaller bowl, combine the sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Once combined, add to the almonds and stir around.

Place almond mixture in a single layer on a greased baking sheet, or one lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 300 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer almonds to a sheet of wax paper to cool. Once cooled enough to touch, break into clusters.

SOURCE: Kelsey’s Essentials 

Mexican Wedding Cookies

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Holiday baking is officially in full swing and there is no one in this world happier about that than I am. There are holiday parties all over the place in the near future, and it means loads of planning, which puts me front-row-center in my happy place. To make things even sweeter, we have a beautiful, fragrant Christmas tree just waiting to be decorated, and of course, the proper way to decorate any tree is with a mouthful of cookies and ornaments in both hands.

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It’s always best to ease into the baking season with a simple cookie that’s tasty and seemingly complex enough, but takes you very little time in the kitchen to make. After all, you’ve got a lot of baking ahead of you, and don’t want to burn yourself out with the very first batch! That’s where these Mexican Wedding Cookies come in. They’re simple little things, but they’re packed with buttery flavor,  nutty crunch, and so much sugar. They’re perfect for any time of year really, but just seem to make everything just a little brighter around Christmastime.

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I used almonds in my cookies, though you can get away with any nut you love, so long as you chop it up finely. No one wants to bite into a cookie with just a little too much crunch. Though if you ask my father, he’d strongly disagree. He’s been pushing for weeks for a dessert with nuts, and so far, these haven’t disappointed him!

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There is actually no such thing as too much powdered sugar with these cookies, and that is absolutely a fact. It reminds me of the gentle kiss of snow and how much a beautiful winter day can put me in a wonderful mood…you know, if I don’t have to drive in it. But looking out the window with a warm cup of cocoa, impossibly cozy socks, and a stack of new cookbooks with spines that crack upon first opening, is my kind of winter’s day. Put a plate of these Mexican Wedding Cookies in front of me, and we’re talkin’ business.

 

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds)
  • Powdered sugar for rolling

Find the recipe here at Crazy for Crust!

 

LET THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE SEASON BEGIN.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

PECAN PIE

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for:

  • My family
  • My friends
  • Netflix
  • AWD in the snow
  • Good health
  • Good food
  • My Entertainment Weekly magazines that brighten up every Thursday and…
  • You.

Thank you for reading.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, and don’t forget your eatin’ pants!

(P.S. Here’s the recipe for that sweet looking pecan pie!)

 

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