Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lemon Glazed Ginger Sugar Cookies

So, y'all remember the Christmas Gingerbread we made over the holidays, right?  And that we had made the gingerbread after our Aunt M had sent us some crystallized ginger?

Well, even with all the Christmas Gingerbread we made (and it was quite a bit), there was still some crystallized ginger staring at me from the corner of the counter earlier this week.

"It's time to use up this ginger," I announced.

And whadda you know...As if she had heard me from whatever crazy crafting-cooking cave she was hiding in that day, Martha Stewart answered my SOS with a Cookie of the Day that included crystallized ginger.

I couldn't ignore a sign like that. It was destiny.

At this point in our slightly melodramatic story, Becky chimes in.

"Wait - we made those cookies because we wanted to use up the ginger? I thought we made them because they're pretty."

Yes, Beck. Good point. They are quite pretty. They'd be perfect for a baby shower, wedding shower, or with your afternoon tea, if you're British-y like that.

They're basically sugar cookies with a load of ginger stirred in, which gives them a hot little kick.  Then you ice them with a lemon-honey glaze, adding zing and the pretty factor. be pretty and have zing - is it odd that I envy these cookies?  Maybe if I eat one a day, their qualities will start to wear off on me...


Lemon Glazed Ginger Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 3 dozen

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1.5 sticks)
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • Heaping 1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar (or a bit less)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (zest from one medium lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons water


  1. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and ground ginger into a bowl and set aside. Cream butter and brown sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add crystallized ginger, and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. Add flour mixture, and then beat on medium-low speed until dough just comes together. 
  2. Divide dough into two portions. Roll each portion to 1/4 inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper.  Place rolled out dough on a cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove one portion of dough from freezer, and cut out 2-inch circles. Place the rounds 1/2 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Re-roll scraps between parchment and place back in freezer.
  4. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are set and edges are light gold, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer parchment with cookies to wire racks. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough, keeping dough in freezer between batches. (Cookies can be stored at this stage for up to 3 days.)
  5. Whisk lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, water, and a pinch of salt together in a bowl.  Whisk in confectioners' sugar, a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.  You want the icing to be thin enough to drizzle, but thick enough that it's opaque white. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cookies. Let stand until glaze is set, at least 20 minutes. (Glazed cookies can be stored overnight.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Homemade Peppermint Patties

This weekend has been cold here in NYC. And by cold, I mean all you non-hat-wearing people had better suck it up, pack a comb, and cover your precious little heads. It's that cheek-stinging, ear-burning, eyes-watering, toe-numbing kind of cold that makes you tingle all over.

I'll tell you a secret: I kinda like it.

This kind of cold reminds me that I'm human, living on a planet with varying moods and tempers. It makes me marvel at the immense ability of nature to create beauty from extremes. And it inspires me to pause, breathe deeply, and take in the black-and-white landscape around me.

Well, not pause TOO long, or else my fingers will fall off.

To me, peppermint is the perfect flavor to capture the feeling of a day like today. It's crisp, refreshing, and stings your tastebuds with just the right amount of wake-me-up bite. It's not the same thing as stepping out the door into a winter wonderland, but it's pretty darn close!

So today's treat is for all you out there with the privilege of wearing hats as mere fashion accessories. Make a batch of these peppermint patties, pop one in your mouth, and stand in solidarity with those of us hoping (or not) that the snow melts faster than the chocolate.


Peppermint Patties
Makes approximately 24 patties
Adapted from Blue Eyed Bakers

Approximately 2 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1 1/4 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoons coconut oil
Additional confectioners sugar for sprinkling
  1. In a large bowl, beat confectioners sugar, corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, and vegetable shortening on low speed until smooth. If mixture does not hold shape, add confectioners sugar by tablespoon until mixture forms pliable dough. Shape into rough ball and sprinkle generously with confectioners sugar.
  2. Roll or press dough between two sheets of parchment paper until 1/4 inch thick. Slide parchment onto cookie sheet and place in freezer until dough is very firm, about 20 minutes.
  3. Using 1 1/2 inch circle cookie cutter or biscuit cutter, cut dough into rounds and place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Form scraps of dough into ball, sprinkle with confectioners sugar, and repeat steps 2 and 3 until all dough is used (you do not need to refreeze dough each time you roll it out). Freeze patties until firm, for at least 15 minutes.
  4. While dough is chilling, melt chocolate chips in microwave safe bowl, stirring every 30 seconds. When chocolate is smooth, add coconut oil and stir until well combined.
  5. Remove patties from freezer and quickly coat with chocolate using fork. Remove excess chocolate by shaking fork from side to side, then scraping bottom against side of bowl. Slide patty onto another cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. (Patties melt quickly in the warm chocolate; dip each one as fast as possible. If patties begin to soften before dipping, place sheet of undipped patties back in freezer.)
  6. Place cookie sheet of dipped patties in refrigerator and allow chocolate to set completely, about one hour. Store in fridge, between wax paper in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Baking for self-esteem

Everyone has something they do when feeling overwhelmed, or out-of-control, or like they are maybe just not cut out for the task they have in front of them. Some people get out the yellow rubber gloves and scrub their kitchen like it's a competition for Mr. Clean's heart. Some go for a walk or run, purposely scaring pigeons just because they can. Some watch hours of Mad Men on their sister's laptop, secretly wishing that when the doorbell rings, it's Don Draper come to seduce them rather than the sushi delivery guy who didn't even bring any chopsticks.

And some people bake. 

I admit I've done all the things above in times of stress, but absolutely nothing calms me more than creaming together butter, sugar, eggs, flour, salt, baking soda, and chocolate chips.  

It's not a mystery as to why: with baking, I know what I'm going to get. Yes, baking does require a little talent and finesse - but I know I've got these things (at least 90% of the time) and I'm confident about that. The other plus to baking? If you loose steam halfway through the process, you've still got yourself a giant bowl of cookie dough to devour with a spoon.

Baking in times of stress is not the moment to try a new recipe. Nope - this is the time to bake the recipe equivalent of your favorite pair of slippers - one that never fails you and that makes you warm and fuzzy inside.

So I don't have a new recipe to share today, but here are some of my warm and fuzzy favorites:

$1,000 Chocolate Toffee Pecan Cookies
Giant and decadent.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
These come with an extra comfort factor: getting to think of my good friend E every time I bake them.

Oatmeal Lemon Creme Bars
Try to eat just one.

Oatmeal Carmelitas
Go ahead and do a flamenco dance while you make/eat these.  All that stomping also helps with stress.

What are your favorite warm and fuzzy recipes?


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I am always amazed at how the turning of a new year motivates so many people in so many ways.

Example #1: The 60 (SIXTY!) people in my Zumba class yesterday. That was 55 minutes of trying to avoid 120 elbows.

Example #2: My intense need to clean out the freezer this afternoon.

Becky and I always do a quick purge of the fridge when we get home from the grocery store - a habit we learned from Mama B - but today I felt the need to purge more than usual, so I opened the dreaded, overpacked freezer and started chucking things into the trash can with a vengeance. Pan of cinnamon rolls from Easter time? Chucked. Test biscuits from Thanksgiving? Chucked. Frozen fruit that's been in there so long ago that I don't remember buying it? Chucked.

Seriously, Beck had to jump out of the way so she didn't get hit by flying frozen food. And when that freezer was clean, it was a weight off my shoulders I didn't know I was carrying. I mean, who knew clearing away freezer clutter would be so satisfying?

Which makes me wonder...what else in my life needs cleaning out that I don't know about?

Which in turn freaks me out just a little, because cleaning out cupboards and closets and the scary mess under my bed aside, that could turn into a Big Question with Big Answers. What in my life is nourishing and good and worthwhile, and what is just freezer clutter?

It's a tricky one too, because you can bet that cleaning out your life is a lot more difficult than tossing expired cottage cheese into the trash.

But that's okay. One thing at a time. Big Questions aren't meant to be answered right away anyway.

In the meantime, you can make some Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, which I baked specifically because I had a half-used jar of peanut butter and some peanuts taking up room in my cabinet.

These treats have loads of sugar and mix-ins, to the point where you can hardly call them cookies. They're more like peanut butter oatmeal chocolate candy with a little bit of egg and flour holding everything together. And boy are they delicious. I'll never have to decide whether or not to chuck leftovers of these from the freezer...because they'll never make it there in the first place.   

As for those other Big Questions, I have a new motto for the new year: It's okay to be scared - it gives me a chance to be brave.

Happy New Year,

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes approximately 6 dozen cookies
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used kosher salt)
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups salted whole peanuts (unsalted are fine too)
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Blend sugars, butter, and peanut butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla.
  4. Reduce speed to low. Add oat mixture, and mix until just combined. Stir in peanuts and chocolate chips. Dough will be pretty stiff.
  5. Drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. You might need to roll the dough into balls to get it to stick together.
  6. Bake cookies one sheet at a time, rotating sheet halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 12-13 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chocolate Fudge Cake

It's Big-Fat-Huge-Announcement time, Sunday Treats readers. Drumroll, please...

The Uber-Charming Music Man and I are engaged!!!

Eight days ago, the love of my life and best friend in the whole world proposed to me in Central Park on our way to Christmas dinner. After five years of dating and a lifetime of friendship, I can't wait to "officially" begin our life together.

When our life together actually began is a debatable point. Do we take it all the way back to the Sunday preschool program at church? To the not one, not two, but three high school dances I asked the Music Man to, just "as friends"? To college, where, despite relationships with other people, our friendship deepened and grew?

For the Music Man and me, the timeline has never been as easily definable as it might be for other couples. But, I suppose you could trace our more recent history back to January 2006, the night of our first official date, though I didn't know that's what it was at the time. We shared some hefty conversation over a hefty slice of chocolate fudge cake at our old college hangout, Flames Coffee Shop.

I'd recently been feeling rather chummy with my friend, the Music Man. I know that sounds cheesy - who actually uses the word 'chummy'?! - but it's exactly how I felt about our friendship at that time. To me, chummy implies a certain closeness, an assured trust in the other person, and a mutual feeling that we're in this together, whatever 'this' might be.

And though I went home that night in utter denial ("That wasn't really a date, was it?!"), I remember thinking to myself that the kind of chumminess I felt with the Music Man that evening was the kind I hoped to one day share with my husband, whoever he might turn out to be.

Today, I see that the chumminess I felt with the Music Man in Flames Coffee Shop was the beginning of something even more significant - companionship. To me, to us, that's what marriage is all about.

So I'm sharing with you today the treat that has been there from the beginning - chocolate fudge cake. According to this article, chocolate fudge cake is one of the worst foods to eat on a first date. I beg to differ. :-)

This recipe is truly the best chocolate cake recipe I've ever tried - it's uber moist, super-duperly chocolately, and really easy to throw together. The frosting is fudgy and rich, just how I remember it at Flames.

Here's to a lifetime of chocolate fudge cake and companionship. You couldn't have made me happier, Music Man! I love you so much!


(That's us at Junior Prom in the background. Aren't we cute?)

Chocolate Fudge Cake
Adapted from Kraft Foods 
1 package devil's food or dark chocolate cake mix (2-layer size)
1 box chocolate instant pudding (3.9 oz)
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray.
  2. Combine all ingredients except mini chocolate chips in large bowl. Mix on medium speed 2 minutes, then increase speed to medium-high and mix another 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in mini chocolate chips.
  4. Pour batter into cake pans, smoothing tops with back of spoon or spatula.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks. Tightly wrap cooled cakes in 2-3 layers of plastic wrap, then a plastic bag or freezer bag, and place in freezer until ready to frost.
Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Adpated from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking via Belle of the Bakery
4 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tbs milk
  1. Place all ingredients in large bowl. Beat on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Frosting should look shiny. (If using a food processor, pulse in short bursts until shiny and smooth. To avoid overfilling the food processor, make in two batches.)
  2. If necessary, trim cake layers with serrated knife to even tops and sides. Place one cake layer on cake stand or plate. Using an offset spatula, spread 1/2 inch layer of frosting over top of cake.
  3. Place second cake layer on top of first. Frost sides and top of cake. Quickly decorate as desired, before frosting sets completely.
Note: The cake you see in the pictures uses this frosting for the filling only - I didn't have enough powdered sugar to make a whole batch.