Saturday, October 30, 2010

Eeewwww... Eyeball Truffles!

I hate haunted houses, don't particularly care for candy besides pure dark chocolate, and won't be caught dead in a slutty costume, but I still love Halloween.

I love it because I get to 1) sew/craft/create and wear a (non-slutty) costume and 2) bake themed sweets.  It's the universe giving me homework assignments in two of my favorite subjects.

I'm not making a costume or dressing up this year (at least not as of this moment...I reserve the right to change that before Saturday night), but I have been creating plenty of spooky treats in the kitchen, including these disgustingly delicious Oreo Eyeball Truffles.

These are slightly tedious and time consuming to make, but no single step is terribly difficult, and there's no actual baking involved.  So pull up a scary movie on your instant NetFlix, invite over a (hopefully not scary) friend to help out, and get your eyeballs on.

You ready?  Eye am.  Here goes.

(Sorry - I couldn't resist that.  I also will take this moment to apologize for the lack of photos and poor photo quality below.  Blame it on the SF Giants; Beck and I may have been slightly distracted as we jumped up and down and cheered while watching Game 1 of the World Series and making these. GO GIANTS!)

You'll need:
- one package of Double Stuf Oreos
- one 8 oz block cream cheese
- 1 bag white candy melts
- 1/4 bag green or blue candy melts
- few teaspoons vegetable shortening or coconut oil
- 45 or so mini chocolate chips
- red food coloring
- toothpicks
- candy cups or mini muffin cups
not pictured:
- parchment or wax paper
- cookie sheets
- couple small ziploc bags
- small bowl and fork

Grab a package of regular Double-Stuf Oreos.  Not the orange or green or red cream ones, or your eyeballs will look weird.  Actually, this is Halloween, so get your Frankenstein on and experiment away.  By the way, when did they invent so many kinds of Oreos? Peanut butter, mint, fudge? I have been out of the Oreo loop, apparently...

Now take one row of Oreos and scrape out the cream.  Use a knife, use your tongue; we won't tell either way.

Now take all the Oreos and crush 'em up real good.  Use the food processor, use a rolling pin and a ziploc bag, use a heavy iron skillet (and some caution).  Doesn't matter how you do it, point is to ground them up real fine.  When they're ground up real good, pour the crumbs into a big bowl.

Now take that block of cream cheese and toss it in there with the crumbs.  Now go wash your hands.

Did you wash 'em real good?  Did you sing the ABC Song twice while rubbing them with soap?  Did you know that Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is the same tune as the ABC Song?  Did you know that Ba, Ba, Black Sheep is also the same?  Hmmm...maybe I'll be a sheep for Halloween.

Sorry.  Getting off topic.  Back to the eyeballs.

Stick those super clean hands in there with the cream cheese and cookie crumbs and mash them together.  It'll seem like it's going to take forever at first, but hang in there.  Then go wash your hands to remove all the Oreo/cream cheese gunk.

Now roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or wax paper.  You should get somewhere between 36 and 40 balls, depending on your interpretation of "1 inch" and on how many Oreos you ate before you started.

When you're all done, place the cookie sheet in the fridge. Note that the second shelf of your fridge now contains a grand total of three items: Oreo eyeball truffles, chocolate chips, and baking chocolate.  Think how perfect your life is.

While the eyeballs are chilling, make the irises and pupils.  We use mini chocolate chips for the pupils.  If you're crazy like us, slice off the points of the mini chocolate chips so the pupils lay flatter.  If you're not crazy, forget that step.

To make the irises, take a handful of green or blue candy melts and place them in a ziploc bag.  Without closing the zipper top, place the bag in the microwave and heat on high for 30 seconds.  Take the bag out (carefully - it might be hot!), squish the candy around until it's all melted and smooth, then snip off a corner of the bag.

Pipe circles of green or blue onto a lined cookie sheet, and place chocolate chips in the middle of each iris.

When you get to 40ish circles, stop.  Or, if you secretly enjoy the zen of piping circle after circle and then placing tinier circles in the middles, keep going until you run out of room on the cookie sheet.  Place these in the fridge to set up.

Now get the white candy melts ready for dipping by emptying half the bag of candies into a small bowl and heating it in the microwave on high, stirring every 30 seconds, until candies are almost melted (do not overheat - you probably only need 60 to 90 seconds). If the final coating is too thick for your liking, stir in a teaspoon or so of vegetable shortening or coconut oil.

(I prefer coconut oil, mainly because it sounds more exotic than "vegetable shortening" and smells a whole lot better, too.)

Now do the dip da-dip da-dip doo-wop da doo-bee doo (name that song!).  Toss a ball into the candy coating and gently roll it around.

Using a fork, gently wiggle the truffle to shake off the extra chocolate.

Place the truffle on a lined baking sheet.  I find a knife helpful in sliding the truffle off the fork.  Place an iris on top.

When you're done dipping all the eyeballs (you might need two trays, and at some point will need to refill your bowl with the rest of the white candy melts), place the eyeballs in the fridge to set up.  Use this time to either a) clean up the big mess you've made or b) eat the unused mini chocolate chips.  Your choice.

When your eyeballs are set (they only need maybe 10 minutes), place them in the candy cups or muffin cups and into whatever container or platter you'll be transporting or serving them in.  The veins tend to get a little messy, so unless you don't mind getting a little "bloody", it's best to not move them around too much after you've done the next step.

Now grab your food coloring and toothpicks.  Squeeze a little red food coloring out into a small bowl.  Use a toothpick dipped in food coloring to draw bloodshot veins onto your eyeballs.

 Shiver at how gross they look!  Then eat one.  Or three.

Happy Haunting!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy National Chocolate Day!

Today is National Chocolate Day!

I ask you, President Obama, why is this not a day-off-from-work, parades-down-Main-Street, real national holiday?!

I'm serious. If you're reading this, Mr. President, I expect an answer to that question. You know it's a good idea. At least think about it, ok?

Meanwhile, two of America's upstanding citizens and lovers-of-all-things-chocolate will be celebrating National Chocolate Day by stuffing their faces with this:

Yes, I do realize the irony of celebrating America's National Chocolate Day with a big-honkin' sample of the Swiss variety, but can you blame me? This stuff is G-O-O-D good. 70% bittersweet - that's how Katie and I like it. Now, the Music Man? He's a milk chocolate guy, all the way.

What about you?

- Becky

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

This Friday is a special day. Yes, it's the day between National Chocolate Day and National Candy Corn Day (do I feel a chocolate-candy-corn-culinary-creation coming on?!), but that's not what I mean. You see, this Friday, October 29, 2010, is our grandpa's 85th birthday. Now THAT'S something to celebrate.

With cake, of course. Oh, and family members from all over the globe, and presents, and food, and wine, and more food, and more wine, and lots of love.

But this is a baking blog, so back to the cake. :-)

After 85 years of knowing our grandpa (ok, I suppose it's only 20-something years, since that's as long as we've been alive), you'd think that his granddaughters would know what kind of cake their grandfather would want for his birthday. But that's just the thing I love about my grandpa - at fourscore and five years old, he can still throw a curve ball with the best of them. He didn't choose vanilla, or chocolate, or even that no-fail birthday classic, yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Nope. Our grandpa requested a lemon poppy seed bundt cake.

He gave us the flavor AND the shape the cake should take. Specifics. I admire a man who knows what he wants.

"Alright, then, Grandpa!" we said, "A lemon poppy seed bundt cake it is!"

With lemon oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest, this cake delivers its lemon flavor as enthusiastically as Grandpa delivers his famous punchlines. Then, after the lemon tartness hits you, the rich, thick icing smothers you in sweetness. That's my Grandpa, too - the only man I'll ever let call me "sweetheart". 

And just like my Grandpa, this cake gets better with age. I wouldn't suggest making it 85 years in advance, but one or two days ahead of time, and you're set. And if you somehow have leftovers like we did (due only to the abundance of other party food), don't worry. As Mama B would say, it will keep the "whole fam-damly" satisfied for almost a week.

So grab your favorite bundt pan and mix up a cake for your own fam-damly. This one's for you, Grandpa. Happy birthday!

- Becky

Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake
Adapted from The Farm Chicks

For cake:
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest from two small lemons
juice from two small lemons (approximately 2 oz)
2 teaspoons lemon oil
1 cup buttermilk*

*If you don't have buttermilk, measure slightly under 1 cup of regular milk, top it off with vinegar or lemon juice, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Instant buttermilk!

For icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more as desired)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Oil and flour bundt pan.

2. Whisk together flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy.

4. Add in eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon oil. Beat well.

5. With mixer on low speed, add one third of flour mixture, then half the buttermilk. Repeat, ending with final third of flour mixture. Beat until just incorporated.

6. Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, until skewer or thin knife inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto wire rack to cool completely.

7. For icing, whisk together powdered sugar and two tablespoons lemon juice. Continue adding lemon juice one teaspoon at a time until icing reaches desired drizzling consistency. Milk may be used in place of lemon juice for a less-tart icing.

8. Once cake is cool, drizzle with icing.

Cover cake and store at room temperature for up to five days.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Photo by Uncle Worm
There are only a handful of treats Becky and I make over and over again: Oatmeal lemon creme bars, Friend E's chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal carmelitas, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (post coming soon!). These are the recipes we can make in our sleep, and that disappear immediately when we put them out for others.

This Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake is another of those recipes because it's easy to put together and even easier to gobble up. The first time I made this recipe was for me, Beck, and the Music Man on a lazy Saturday morning. The three of us devoured it all in about an hour.

The second time I made this coffee cake was on a girls' weekend with our best friends from college. The six of us gals finished off the whole thing in less than an hour.

The third time I made this coffee cake was just this past Friday while at home for a family reunion. Our twelve or so aunts, uncles, and cousins inhaled it in what seemed like minutes.

Are you starting to see a pattern?

At this point, Becky and I decided this recipe was too good to keep to ourselves; we had to put it here on the blog. So, we made the cake for a fourth time, a mere 24 hours after its previous appearance. We got the cake in the oven and then I ran out on an errand, leaving Beck with strict instructions to not let anyone dig in until she got some photos.

I couldn't have been gone much more than a hour, but when I came back, there was only one teeny tiny piece left for me. It's like magic, really, how fast this coffee cake disappears.

Besides the fact that it's an excuse to eat dessert for breakfast, I love this coffee cake because it's adaptable. Don't have raspberry jam? Use strawberry. Use blueberry. Use lemon curd. Have some fresh fruit on hand? Throw that in, too.

This cake is also free form, which I love, because it's pretty darn hard to mess up the presentation when you're not aiming for a specific shape or size. And even if the finished cake isn't pretty, it tastes so good that nobody seems to care if it's ugly - they'll gobble it up no matter what.

Photo by Uncle Worm

But, to quote good old LeVar Burton, you don't have to take my word for it:

"Yummm!!!" – Cousin Rick (that's three m's AND three !'s)

"The first one was perfect. The second one was even better." – Cousin Gae

"I didn’t have any because it was GONE!" – DaddyBob

"I got goosebumps (really!) during the first bite." – Uncle Worm

"I couldn't wait for you to make it the second day!" - Cousin Don

"Are you moving back here?" - Mama B

"Affentitten geil!" which translates literally to "Ape-[bleep] good!", or figuratively to "As good as it can get!" - Aunt Daggi from Germany

Guten appetit!

- Katie

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Coffee Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter cut into small pieces and chilled
3/4 cup milk
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces raspberry jam
Note: To use a baking mix such as Bisquick, replace first five ingredients with 2 cups baking mix, adding a tablespoon of sugar.
*we've also used baking soda in a pinch

Powdered Sugar Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons milk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle generously with flour.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt (or 2 cups baking mix plus 1 tbsp sugar) in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until dough resembles course crumbs.

3. Add milk and stir until evenly moistened. Dough will be quite sticky.

4. Place dough on floured cookie sheet. Sprinkle generously with flour and pat or roll into a rectangle approximately 16" x 6".

5. Spread cream cheese down the center, then top with jam.

6. Using a sharp knife, make cuts from center of dough (where cream cheese and jam are) outward, about an inch and a half apart, all along both long sides of the dough.

7. Fold strips of dough up over the top of the jam. Pinch ends to seal.

8. Brush extra flour off parchment. Bake for 25 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool 15 minutes.

9. While coffee cake cools, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla, and one teaspoon milk. Continue to add milk until glaze reaches drizzling consistency.

10. Drizzle glaze over coffee cake in criss cross pattern. Slice cake along center of filling, then crosswise to cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

11. Store leftover coffee cake in the fridge (if there are any leftovers, which there won't be!)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

$1,000 Chocolate Toffee Pecan Cookies

Okay, so here's the deal with these cookies.

On Friday, it occured to me that Sunday would be 10-10-10. This made me notably happy. Back in August, I was also tickled about 8-9-10, (though not as tickled as I would have been had I been alive on 5-6-78). 

I think I've always felt this way about numbers. In the good old days of elementary school summer vacation, Beck and I used to call our friend M at 11:11am. We would just say "It's 11:11!", giggle, and hang up. The three of us also used to put on American Girl plays and fight over who got to be the one who died of cholera. I suppose we were slightly strange children.

To celebrate the perfection of 10-10-10, I wanted to bake a special treat. When I couldn't think of any baked goods with "10" in the title, I set out to find something based on 10x10x10, and happened upon this $1,000 award-winning recipe.

Folks, I can see why The Cowboy's Wife got a chunk of change for this creation. These cookies are GOOD.

In keeping with the 10-10-10 spirit, here are the Top Ten ways to describe these cookies' deliciousness:

10. These cookies are so good that after I tasted the first bite, I had to immediately pack up the rest to give away; the temptation to eat them all would have been too much.

9. These cookies are so good that after that first taste, I also texted Becky and described them using a swear word, and if you know me, you know that saying even H-E-double hockey sticks is rare.

8. These cookies are so good that if they were competing in the Olympics in the sport of yumminess, they would get 10s from all the judges, set a world record, and get the gold medal.

7. These cookies are so good that if they were elementary school students, they would get all 10s on their report cards (and 5 is usually the highest you can get).

6.  These cookies are so good that if they were competing to be the dying character in an American Girl skit, their fellow budding actors would let them have the coveted role.

5.  These cookies are so good that if I owned a bakery, I'd sell these for at least $2.50 a piece.

4.  These cookies are so good that I might need to churn some homemade ice cream so I can make ice cream sandwiches with the leftover cookies.

3.  Never mind about #4.  These cookies are so good that there won't be any leftovers.

2.  These cookies are so good that if I had a time machine, I'd set the dial to 10-9-10, just so I could make and taste these cookies for the first time all over again.

1.  These cookies are so good that I might just make them again for 1-11-11.

Have I convinced you how much I like these cookies yet? 

It makes sense that I would like these - the recipe is similar to Friend E's chocolate chip cookies, but instead of walnuts, these use pecans; instead of milk chocolate chips, milk-chocolate toffee bits.

One thing to note: these are large cookies. Resist the urge to make them smaller; the texture won't be nearly the same if you try to shrink the cookies. Plus, who really wants to shrink cookies?!

Happy 10-10-10, everybody. I hope you find your own creative way to celebrate!

- Katie

$1,000 Chocolate Toffee Pecan Cookies
Adapted from My Wooden Spoon
Makes 12 large cookies
(Okay, maybe 13 if you don’t eat any dough, but come on, let’s be realistic)

  • 2 c plus 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp butter, melted (1½ sticks)
  • 1 c light brown sugar
  • ½ c sugar
  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips (half of 12 oz bag)
  • 4 ounces English toffee bits (half of 8 oz bag)
  • 3/4 c chopped pecans, very finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In medium mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until well blended. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix until blended. Batter will appear slightly greasy.

4.  With mixer on low speed, blend in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, pecans, and toffee pieces. Chill dough for at least 45 minutes (longer if you're making a double batch).

5. Using a ¼ cup capacity measuring cup or ice cream scoop, drop dough onto cookie sheets 3 inches apart. (You should get no more than 3-4 cookies per sheet depending on the size of your cookie sheets). Bake for 17-20 minutes or until edges begin to brown. 

6. Allow to cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Becky and I are PB&J kids. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches just about every day from approximately first grade through, well, last year. On wheat bread, english muffins or bagels (never white bread), toasted if we were at home, peanut butter on both sides to keep the bread from getting soggy, with strawberry jelly. If we didn't have strawberry, it was raspberry for me; grape for Beck.

Then, one day, it occurred to us that we were basically eating sugar for lunch. We were no longer dancing eight hours a day. Instead, we were sitting in desk chairs on our bums, and those bums were getting bigger and bigger. 

So, our beloved PB&J was banished from the lunch-sphere and into the realm of treats.

And boy, are these PB&J bars a treat.

Do you remember that Peanut Butter Jelly Time video from 2002? The one where a banana bounces around the screen rapping about peanut butter jelly and a baseball bat? Remember how in your face it was?

Yeah. These bars are kind of like that.

In fact, if your taste buds could talk, they might say a bite of these bars is like getting hit with a...wait for it...peanut butter jelly baseball bat.

The dough for these bars comes together really quickly, and smells absolutely fantastic. But my favorite thing about this recipe is that if you buy an 18 oz jar of peanut butter, you don't even have to deal with the annoying mess of scooping peanut butter into and out of measuring cups; you just dump the whole jar in.

One recommendation: Because these bars are so sweet, definitely use raspberry jam or another jam with bite (i.e. not strawberry or grape). Otherwise, you'll be on such a sugar high that you'll start bouncing around like the dancing banana.

Gone are the days of Jif and Smuckers for lunch, but Becky and I always have been and always will be PB&J kids. Are you a PB&J kid, too? If so, make these bars and have a grand old peanut butter jelly time.


Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
adapted from Ina Garten
Makes approximately 36 bars

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (18 ounces) creamy peanut butter (I used one 18 oz jar Jif)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (18 ounces) raspberry jam or other jam
2/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan, or spray with baking spray.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside

4. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed with mixer until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.

5. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.

6. Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a spatula or your fingers. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don't worry if all the jam isn't covered; the dough will spread in the oven. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

7. Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on wire rack, then chill in refrigerator until ready to cut. Lift bars out of pan onto cutting board using parchment and cut into squares. Store at room temperature or in the fridge.