Saturday, November 28, 2015

Fancy Cookies: Peanut Butter Sandwich

I have a few holiday cookies that I make each year (like cream horns and decorated cut-outs) but I also like adding a few new varieties to the mix. This year I'm adding this tasty peanut butter sandwich cookie.

I'm a big peanut butter fan and these cookies don't disappoint. Tender peanut butter cookies are filled with peanut butter and marshmallow creme - similar to fluffernutters.  If you prefer less peanut butter, consider using a chocolate or hazelnut filling.

Sandwich cookies are as easy as drop cookies but seem much fancier. These come together fast and hold well in the freezer. 

Combine butter or margarine and peanut butter. 

Add sugars, baking soda and powder.

Add eggs, vanilla and flour.

Using a small dasher, place batter on a cookie sheet.
Bake for 7-8 minutes at 375 degrees.

Combine filling ingredients, beating until well combined.

Place filling between cookies. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
makes about two dozen sandwich cookies

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine butter/margarine and peanut butter. Beat on medium high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars, baking soda and baking powder. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Stir in flour.

Scoop dough using a 1-inch dasher. Roll in granulated sugar if desired. Place on baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake in preheated oven for 7-8 minutes. Cool. 

Peanut Butter Cream Filling
3/4 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup marshmallow creme
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp powdered sugar

In a medium bowl whisk together peanut butter, marshmallow creme, milk and cinnamon. Gradually whisk in powdered sugar.

Assemble: Turn half of baked cookies so bottom side is up and top each with about a teaspoon of filling. Top each with a second cookie. Serve.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Baking Now Tour: Petit Fours

Welcome to the Baking Now Tour! I'm excited to be a part of a conversation of favorite holiday treats. In case you're unfamiliar with Baking Now, a new tour stop features a cherished recipe each Tuesday until Christmas. Guests also have a chance to win an ebelskiver pan! My friend Beth over at More Than Oregano organized the tour and has all the details (including how to enter the contest).

I have a love of baking that started with my grandma and mom, two fantastic bakers who eschewed store bought baked goods. Homemade dessert was a part of every meal. I didn't really eat commercial confections until I started visiting the homes of my friends. And, to my young way of thinking, I thought my friends were SO LUCKY! Oreos were the bomb!

Growing up we made a handful of Christmas cookies, most of which were offered on party buffets. Desserts at our sit-down meals were cakes and pies. The recipe below is a combination of cake, pie and cookie: white cake, filled with lemon curd all in a bit-sized package. My no-nonsense grandma would've found these Petit Fours fancy, and I know she would've loved them!

I usually begin my holiday baking in late October. In addition to seeking out cookies that are unique, I need cookies that freeze well. I like being able to pull them from the freezer, fill a box and give to clients, friends and family. Frozen cookies also make entertaining easy - I have dessert ready to go should guests drop in.

These Petit Fours are the perfect two-bite after dinner sweet. The cake has a fine, tender crumb, reminiscent of a traditional white wedding cake. If you don't like white cake, substitute your favorite cake flavor (any 9-inch, two layer recipe will work).

I filled the cakes with lemon curd which is best made a day in advance. If you don't want to make curd, feel free to use commercially prepared or your favorite cake filling, jam, fondant, etc. This method can yield a variety of flavor combinations (I especially like chocolate cakes with peanut butter filling for Ohio State tailgates).

Happy Holidays y'all! Wishing you a bountiful table surrounded by people you love.

Make the lemon filling. I use a makeshift double boiler: place
a pot on the stove. Fill with 2-3 inches of water.

Place a bowl on top of the pot. Make sure the pot doesn't sit in the water.

Combine filing ingredients in the bowl. Cook
and stir over medium heat for 15 minutes.

The curd is ready when it coats a spoon. Resist the urge to
continue cooking as the curd will continue to thicken as it cools.

Cover and chill in refrigerator overnight. The filling will become very thick.

Make the cake. Begin by greasing a 12"x17" baking sheet. Line with
parchment paper, leaving an overhang. Grease paper.

Cream together butter, shortening, baking powder, sugar, salt and extracts until fluffy.

Add egg whites, flour and milk. Batter will be creamy and light.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake & cool.

Using paper overhang, lift cooled cake from pan.

Slice in half, making two 12" x 8.5" halves. Spread lemon filling on one half.

Stack other half of cake on top of filling.Trim cake to 
even edges. I usually remove 1/2 inch from each side.

Cut cake into 1.5" x 1.5" squares.

Make fondant: Melt chocolate. Combine with
powdered sugar, corn syrup, hot water and vanilla.

To coat, place cake on fork. Use a spoon to drizzle fondant over cake. 
Set covered cake on cooling rack to dry. If fondant becomes 
thick, place bowl over a pot of simmering water to warm.

If desired, decorate dipped cakes with colored sugar or piping icing.

Allow fondant to dry. Serve or place in freezer and consume within three months.

Lemon Filling
Makes 1 1/2 cups
This tangy filling pairs well with white cakes, but is also great served with fresh berries. Resist the urge to cook more than 15 minutes. While the curd will seem loose, it thickens as it cools. It's finished when it coats the back of a spoon.

4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 3 lemons
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
Combine all the ingredients in a double boiler. Cook and stir for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, place in a bowl and place plastic wrap coated with cooking spray directly on curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight.

Makes 26-30 finished petit fours

8 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 3/4 cups superfine sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
5 large egg whites
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12"x17" rimmed baking sheet. Fit with parchment paper leaving overhang on sides. Grease the parchment paper. 

In a large mixing bowl cream together butter, shortening, baking powder, sugar, salt and extracts until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir one-third of the flour into mixture, then half the milk, another third of the flour, remaining milk and remaining flour. Scrape the bottom and sides of bowl occasionally.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 23-25 minutes. Cool completely. Lift cake out of pan using parchment paper. Set aside.

Poured Fondant
2 cup white chocolate chips
8 cups (2 lb.) confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp hot water
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Sift sugar into a large bowl. Add the corn syrup and hot water to sugar, stirring until smooth. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla to the sugar mixture. If the mixture is too thick to pour, reheat it briefly over a pot of simmering water. The mixture pours smoothly at about 100°F.

Cut cake in half to make two 12" x 8.5". Spread 1 1/2 cups filling evenly over one of the pieces. Place the second cake half on top. Trim edges. Cut cake into 1 1/2" strips. Cut each strip into 1 1/2" wide pieces.

Using a fork, dip bottom of each cake into warm fondant. Using a spoon, drizzle additional fondant over top and sides to encase cake. Set petit four on a cooling rack. Decorate if desired. Let fondant completely set up. Serve or place in freezer and consume within three months.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pumpkin Soup

    When I need a quick dinner, soup often fits the bill. This pumpkin soup comes together fast and pairs well with BLTs or a salad topped with cranberries, pecans and blue cheese. It's also perfect for fall and I've even served this as a first course to the Thanksgiving meal.
    I like the flavor of puree made from roasted pumpkin. If you don't want to make your own, substitute commercially canned pumpkin. If you're looking for a lighter soup, feel free to omit the milk or half & half. The pumpkin flavor is so delicious, you'll never miss it. Top the soup with roasted pumpkin seeds, pecans, hickory nuts or chestnuts.   

Cook the onions in margarine. Add a can of chicken stock. Cook until onions are
tender. Puree, add pumpkin, remaining broth and seasonings and simmer 10 minutes.

Add milk or half & half, if desired. Warm but do not boil. Serve.

Top with roasted pumpkin seeds or nuts. Perfect
accompaniment to a sandwich or salad.

    Pumpkin Soup
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp margarine
3 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned
15 ounces (scant 2 cups) pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
1 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp ground ginger
1⁄8 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup milk or half and half, optional

Saute onion in margarine in a medium saucepan until tender. Add half of chicken broth; stir well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Transfer broth mixture into the container of a blender or processor (or use an immersion blender). Process until smooth.

Add remaining broth, pumpkin, salt, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground pepper and brown sugar; stir well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in milk or half & half, if desired. Heat through but do not boil. Ladle into individual soup bowls. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

If you're a follower of my blog, you know we grow and process our own pumpkins, which results in a lot of puree in the freezer. While I do like pumpkin pie, I've found other ways to incorporate the squash in both sweet and savory dishes. 

These whoopie pies are a fun change from a traditional pumpkin cake. They're portable and easy to eat. I especially like to serve them at a casual fall Supper Club where they can be enjoyed around the bonfire sans silverware. They also make a great addition to fall tailgates and school parties. Bonus: they can be made with whole grain flour.

The size of the cookies is up to you. I prefer a smaller size but you can make much larger. Just be sure to increase the bake time. 

Begin by combining butter, oil, sugar, molasses,
baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

 Add eggs and pumpkin. The mixture may appear curdled. Don't worry -
the batter will come together with the addition of the flour.

Stir in flour, mixing just until smooth.

I have several dashers I use to make cookies,
but this is my favorite: 1 1/2 inch scoop.

Scoop batter onto cookie sheets. Instead of
parchment paper, I like using a silpat.

Bake 8-9 minutes. Let cool on the baking
sheet for 5 minutes before removing.

Combine filling ingredients and fill cooled cookies.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
15-ounce can pumpkin purée (or a scant 2 cups if using fresh puree)
3 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour or White Whole Wheat Flour

8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons soft butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper. Beat together the butter, oil, sugar, molasses, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then beat in the eggs one at a time, until fluffy. Stir in the pumpkin.

Add the flour in two additions, mixing well after each addition. Use a small dasher to deposit the thick batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies feel firm; a slight indentation will remain when you gently press them in the middle, about 8 -9 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then move to a rack to cool completely.

Make the filling: Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the sugar in two additions. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until very fluffy.

Assemble: Divide filling between half of cookies. Top with remaining cookies.
Yield: About 30 sandwich cookies.