Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Spring!

Hi there, friends!

Just a quick note to say, Happy Easter! Happy Spring! Happy Sunshine! (Can you tell I'm feeling happy right now?!)

Kate and I have been busy, but more posts will be coming soon. For now, I just wanted to share some photos of some Easter cookies I made this year. We first posted the recipe for Glazed Lemon Sugar Cookies on Easter Sunday of 2011. Much has changed in the two years since then - the Music Man and I got married, we all moved into new apartments, and exciting new things have taken place in the greater world beyond.

But much has also stayed the same - Kate and I still love to bake, the Music Man still loves to eat what we bake, and at the end of a tough day when I need a little pick-me up, I always know that I can find it in flour, butter, and sugar.

And I'm grateful that spring is here - it's a time to take a deep breath of fresh air. It's a time of renewal and rejuvenation. And it's a time of sunshine and blue skies! If that doesn't get you going, what will?

I was feeling so rejuvenated by the sunshine this weekend that I made not one, but three batches of these Easter lemon sugar cookies to celebrate the season and share with friends. They turned out mighty cute, if I do say so myself. :-)

Happy Spring, everyone!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bailey's Brownies

Bailey's Brownies

Hey y'all,

It's been ten months since I last posted here. Ten months! And my post before that one was a full year ago. Whaaaat?!

It's not that I haven't been baking during all that time, or that I haven't thought about you readers a lot, it's that life got a little crazy for a while. Becky and MusicMan got married. That was kind of a big deal. I moved into my own apartment. Also a big deal. Becky and I took over co-direction of a dance company. Big deal. I acquired some books at work, became chair of a board, and joined a leadership program. All big deals. Becky, Music Man, and I turned 30. Big deal x 3.

And I baked these Bailey's Brownies.

Okay, so maybe that last one doesn't seem like a big deal compared to all those other things, but stay with me: These are possibly the best brownies I've ever made in my entire life.

Yeah. Totally a big deal.

It's no surprise I liked these brownies so much--Bailey's is one of my great passions in life. But the fact that they turned out so well was a bit unexpected, because rather than follow someone else's recipe, I improvised one of my own--I riffed off the Classic Brownies recipe from way back when, which is still my go-to brownie recipe after all this time.

Not that adding a couple tablespoons of Bailey's and tweaking a couple things is all that risky...but I'm proud that following my intuition yielded such great results.

It makes me wonder...if trusting that I've got the base recipe down and then tossing in what I'm passionate about made the most satisfying brownies ever, what could that approach do for the rest of my life? Are the best moments of my life still to come?

Realizing that is a pretty big deal.

Cheers, y'all.

Bailey's Brownies
Adapted from Classic Brownies
Makes 12-20 brownies depending on how large you cut them

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2-oz (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

2 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.

2. In a small, heatproof bowl, melt butter, espresso (if using), and chocolate together. Stir with a fork until very smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, Bailey's, and vanilla extract. Whisking steadily, pour chocolate mixture into sugar mixture. Stir until smooth. Sift flour, cocoa powder and salt into the bowl and stir until just combined. Stir in mini chocolate chips, then pour brownie batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake 35-40 minutes, until brownies are set and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out with only a few moist crumbs, not batter, attached.

5. Cool in the pan on a wire rack completely. Lift brownies out by foil onto a cutting board and cut into squares.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Starfish S'mores

Hey everyone! Long time, no read! Sunday Treats took a short hiatus this summer to celebrate the nuptials of Becky and the Music Man. And goodness, did we celebrate - don't we look happy?!?!

Photo by Cornelis Verwaal
Now, that doesn't mean we haven't been baking up a storm this summer. For sure, between Mama B, Katie, and Becky, over 800 cookies were baked for said special event above. And, since the wedding, Becky's been giving her new Kitchen Aid mixer and ice cream maker attachments a run for their money. More on that to come...

We've got new apartments and new kitchens to test out, and new recipes to share with you, Devoted Readers! To round out the summer, we thought we'd share a particularly summery-treat we just made for an outing to the beach. Hurry and make some, because (sniff, sniff, tear, tear), the summer is all but over.

These Starfish S'mores probably rank highest of all our treats on the cute-factor scale.

Then again, if you put edible googly eyes on any treat, how could it not look pretty darn cute? But these are tasty, too, and remind one of bonfires on the beach or in one's backyard (or over one's BBQ).

Suddenly I'm attempting to use correct grammar. One is improved by married life, is one not? :-)

If you make 'em and take 'em to the beach, we recommend packing them in a cooler. Regular starfish might enjoy the sun, but these little guys will soon transform into star-blobs without a little shade or ice. Of course, they're still just as tasty, if you don't mind getting your fingers a little sticky.

The recipe below looks complicated, but have no fear. It's really three simple steps - make star-shaped marshmallows, dip in chocolate, dip in graham crackers. If we can do it, you can, too!

So, enjoy, readers. It's good to see you again!


Starfish S'mores
Adapted from Hungry Happenings
Makes about 13 s'mores

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
40 oz. marshmallows
36 graham cracker squares, crushed into crumbs
16 oz. chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet)
Approximately 1 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable shortening
edible candy eyes

  1. Pour crushed graham crackers into a shallow dish. I used an 8 x 8 inch baking pan. Set aside. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
  3. Use butter or non-stick cooking spray to coat the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan, then sprinkle bottom and sides with powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture. Tap the pan to remove excess. Save remaining mixture for later.
  4. Pour marshmallows into a large microwave-safe bowl. Heat at 30 second intervals, stirring each time, until marshmallows are melted to a sticky liquid consistency. If marshmallows start to brown, they are beginning to burn. Carefully pour melted marshmallows into prepared pan and smooth top with spatula. Spraying your spatula with non-stick cooking spray, or buttering it, will keep it from sticking to the marshmallows throughout this process. Dust the top of the marshmallow with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Cover bowl of powdered sugar mixture for later use. Allow the marshmallow to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. When ready to proceed to next steps, place marshmallow in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Set a large cutting board on top of the pan of marshmallows. Turn both the board and the pan upside down and lightly tap the bottom of the pan. If the marshmallow doesn't fall right out, use a spatula to slowly pry it out of the pan. 
  6. Dust a 3-inch star-shaped cookie cutter with the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture. Press the cookie cutter into the marshmallow, remove, and press the marshmallow out onto one of the parchment-lined cookie sheets. Dust cutter again and repeat, cutting out stars until you can't cut out anymore. There will be a lot of marshmallow scraps. To make them into regular marshmallows, dust all sides with powdered sugar/cornstarch. Or, do whatever you wish with them! Place cookie sheet of marshmallow stars in the freezer.
  7. Melt chocolate chips over a double boiler on the stove or in 30-second intervals in the microwave, stirring between each interval, until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in coconut oil or shortening to achieve thin, dip-able consistency.
  8. Removing one star at a time from the freezer, use a fork to dip the marshmallow in the melted chocolate, coating all sides. Lift the marshmallow out with the fork, gently shake it from side to side to remove excess chocolate, then scrape the fork along the edge of the bowl to remove any excess from the bottom. Place chocolate-covered marshmallow in graham cracker crumbs. Allow to sit for 30 seconds, then use your fingers to sprinkle and gently toss the marshmallow in the crumbs so all sides are coated. Allow to dry in the crumbs for about a minute. Place graham cracker covered marshmallow on other parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  9. Using a toothpick or the point of a sharp knife, make two small circular indentations on the marshmallow in the graham cracker crumbs where the eyes will go. Apply a tiny button of melted chocolate to the backs of the eyes and press into place.
  10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 with remaining marshmallows. Place cookie sheet of finished marshmallows in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up, then transfer to airtight containers. We recommend storing marshmallows in the fridge to prevent melting, but they can also be kept at room temperature. They will be good for up to one week. Use remaining graham cracker crumbs as "sand" on serving platter. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce

Hello Chickadees! And an extra special hello to all the Mama Chickadees on this Mother's Day!

Last year, I got to spend Mother's Day with three special Mamas in my life. This year, I am not even in the same time zone as any of those fine women :-(  But I've got Mama B on my mind, because I've been doing a lot of organixing lately.

Organixing. It's a real word, I swear. Go ahead, Google it. I can wait.

*Katie Googles "organix" herself while she waits*

Okay, actually, I take that back--don't Google it, because the internet is WRONG. Organix is not the name of a Roots album, a brand of dog food, a line of natural hair products, or an organic chemistry research company. Organix is a verb Mama B and I made up:

Organix: to get rid of, replace, or alter an item on your to-do list for the sake of your sanity.

You can employ the fine art of organixing after you realize you were too ambitious when making your to-do list in the first place, or when life says, "to hell with your to-do list, I have other plans."

Would you like to hear it used in a sentence?

Earlier this week, I wanted to make Hummingbird Cupcakes for a dinner party, but life got in the way the night before and suddenly it was 11:30pm--at least two hours past cupcake-making o'clock. But I wanted to bring a homemade dessert, so I organixed the cupcakes and replaced them with this super quick and easy homemade hot fudge sauce.

Not an hour later, the fudge was in the fridge and I was in bed. I woke well-rested for my dinner party, with a stellar dessert to boot.

Katie's my name, organixing is my game.

It's a very useful life-skill, actually, and I have Mama B to thank for it. And I am grateful, because it led me to this hot fudge sauce.

I mean, seriously, if it leads you to chocolate, it's a truly valuable life-skill, don't you think?

I actually made this sauce for not one but two different dinner parties this week. It's rich and smooth and goopy and does that awesome thing where it hardens up a bit as it sits in the ice cream, turning into what can only be described as chewy fudgy goodness.

Thanks for helping keep me sane, Mama B. This sundae's for you.


Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce
Makes about 2 cups (about 8 generous servings)
Slightly adapted from Gourmet February 2004 via My Baking Addiction

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped (or approximately 1 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (if using salted butter, reduce salt above to just a pinch)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, corn syrup, brown sugar, cocoa, salt, and half of the chocolate. Stir mixture until the chocolate pieces are completely melted, and then stir occasionally until mixture boils.

2. Reduce heat and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Mixture will still be a bit thin for hot fudge. Remove pan from the heat and add in butter, vanilla, and remaining chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow the sauce to cool down before serving. It will thicken slightly as it cools.

3. To store, cool sauce completely and chill in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. To serve, heat sauce in microwave in 15-30 second intervals, stirring until you reach the desired consistency.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cinnamon Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Hi there, chickadees!

It's election season and the polls are in full swing. Let's take one of our own, shall we?

Stand up if you've ever had chocolate frosting.

(Yay! The whole room is standing!)

Now stay standing if you've ever had cinnamon cake, or a cinnamon muffin, or some other kind of fluffy cinnamon cake-y thing.  If not, take a seat.

(Yay again! Most of you are still standing!)

Now, stay standing if you've ever had cinnamon cake paired with chocolate frosting.  If not, sit your bum down.

(Aw, bummer. You all sat down. I liked it better when you were standing. We could've had a dance party if you were all standing.)

The results of this poll: You should all make this cake so we can have a dance party.

Nowhere near as flashy as in-your-face cupcakes with their fancy wrappers, mile-high frosting, and sparkly sprinkles, this cake is quietly bold in its pairing of cinnamon and chocolate, and that's exactly what makes it so appealing. If it were a kid in school it would be that quiet, quirky girl who wears her hair in different braids every day and maybe doesn't raise her hand all the time, but who does have something interesting to say when the teacher calls on her, and who everyone--even the popular girls--secretly admires.

(Not that I have any experience with that sort of thing...)

As the results of our poll show, the pairing of cinnamon and chocolate doesn't get nearly as much attention as it deserves. And while it seems like this cake would be more at home at a tea party than a dance party, I like to think it's happy just being itself and making an impression where it can--be it at breakfast, snack time, or dessert. And who knows--if it's like that quirky girl, it has preferred dance parties to tea parties the whole time.

Happy baking and dancing!


Cinnamon Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Makes 9-12 servings

Cake Filling
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional – you can’t taste it, but it amps up the chocolate flavor)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I used semisweet chocolate chips ground in the food processor)

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup whole milk (I used skim milk and it worked just fine)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (again, I used semisweet chocolate chips)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1.  Center rack in oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Place pan on a baking sheet.

2. Make the filling: In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, and espresso powder. Have your chopped chocolate ready to go as well.

3. Make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients over flour mixture and gently whisk until you have a homogenous batter. Now, using a rubber spatula, fold in butter with a light touch, just until the butter is absorbed. You'll have a smooth, shiny batter.

4. Scrape half of batter into pan and smooth top. Sprinkle chocolate over batter and dust with cinnamon-sugar-espresso mixture. Cover with rest of batter and smooth top again.

5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake is puffed and beginning to pull away from the sides of pan; a thin knife inserted into center will come out clean. Transfer cake to a cooling rack and let rest for 15 minutes before unmolding onto another rack. Peel off paper, invert onto the first rack, and cool to room temperature right side up.

6. Make the frosting: Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and fit bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring gently and often, just until they melt. Be careful not to overheat the mixture so much that it thins out; the chocolate should be smooth, very shiny, thick and spreadable. (If it thins, leave the frosting at room temperature for a bit, until it thickens a little.) (Note: I had to add a little extra butter to my frosting for it to thin out.)

7. Using an offset metal icing spatula or a table knife, spread frosting in generous sweeps and swirls over the top of cake. Allow frosting to set at room temperature, then cut cake into 9-12 squares.

Storing: Wrapped in plastic, cake will keep at room temperature for 2 days. It can be frozen for up to 2 months, but it's best to put cake in the freezer unwrapped and then, when the frosting is firm, to wrap it airtight; defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mardi Gras Cupcakes

Kate and I first made these festive cupcakes a week ago for a spectacular Mardi Gras party. With three colors of cake, cinnamon frosting, and sparkly sprinkles, they were the perfect (and portable) substitute for the traditional New Orleans King Cake. We even hid a little plastic baby in one!

(Hold on. A plastic baby?!? Yes, a plastic baby! To read more about this Mardi Gras tradition, click here.)

Last night, I made another batch, but not in celebration of Mardi Gras, a.k.a. Fat Tuesday or Eat-As-Many-Pancakes-As-You-Want-Day. This batch I made in celebration of a very special group of people - twenty-two college students who have decided to spend their spring break on a service trip to New Orleans.

My colleague and I will accompany these exceptional young students as they connect with the community of New Orleans, sharing their love of the arts through teaching and building hope with Habitat for Humanity. It shall be an exhilarating and exhausting week full of friends, fun, and hard work.

As an advisor on the trip last year, I was overwhelmed by all the giving taking place throughout the week - the gifts of time, talent, and self that the students offered the community of New Orleans, and the gifts of hope, history, and heart that the city and its people gave back to them.

As we leave the Big Apple for the Big Easy, I figured the least I could do was offer these young givers a gift of my own in the form of - what else? - a New Orleans themed sweet treat.

For such a spectacular finished product, this recipe is surprisingly simple. Here's all you need to know: Just separate the batter from a box of yellow cake mix into three bowls, add food coloring (for the brightest colors, use the gel variety), and drop a heaping tablespoon of each color batter into muffin cups. Bake as directed. For the frosting, beat some cinnamon and vanilla (no need to measure) into store-bought vanilla icing. Frost cupcakes with an offset spatula or frosting bag, add sprinkles or sparkling sugar, and voila! Mardi Gras madness!

These are for you, NOLA team 2012. Let the giving begin!


Recipe adapted from Sweet Tooth. Makes 24 cupcakes. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Buttons

Howdy, folks! Nice to see you (or blog at you) again! I feel like I've been away from Sunday Treats for months.

Oh, wait. I have.

You see, there's a certain big day for me and the Music Man coming up kinda soon. 146 days, to be exact! I'm getting excited.

146 is also the approximate number of items remaining on my Wedding To-Do List. So much to do!

Would you like an example of how immersed I've been in wedding planning?

Watch as I illustrate with entirely too much ease how the steps for baking peanut butter buttons are the same as the steps for planning a wedding...

Baking Peanut Butter Buttons
Step 1: Roll hundreds of isty bitsy teeny tiny bits of dough into itsy bitsy teeny tiny little balls.
Step 2: Put them in the oven to bake. Think you're going to get 20 more balls of dough rolled in that 6 minutes? Wrong! Time flies when you're rolling teeny tiny bits of dough into teeny tiny little balls. Ding!
Step 3: Scramble to place a chocolate chip - the finishing touch - on each of the cookies before they cool. Hurry! Time is running out!
Step 4: Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Grab some cookies, chow down, and watch 'em disappear.

Planning a Wedding

Step 1: Coordinate hundreds of itsy bitsy teeny tiny details with a bunch of other itsy bitsy teeny tiny details.
Step 2: Put those done details aside and wait for the big day. Think you're going to get 20 more details organized in the next five months? Wrong! Times flies when you're coordinating a billion teeny tiny details with a billion other teeny tiny details. Ding dong!
Step 3: Scramble to get those last minute tasks - the finishing touches - done the night before. Hurry! Time is running out!
Step 4: Enjoy the fruits of your labor (and love). Say those vows, party down, and watch the day disappear!

I might be starting to lose it here, folks.

But you know what? I'm okay with that. Because these little cookies and this big day are both things that I've been wanting to make happen for a long time. Finally getting to enjoy both is worth all the tedious prep, the waiting, and the scrambling.

Difference is, one I get to enjoy until the tupperware is empty. The other I get to enjoy for the rest of my life. :-)

- Becky

Peanut Butter Buttons
Adapted from 17 and baking
Makes approximately 15 dozen cookies, depending on size

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use natural peanut butter)
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Granulated sugar for rolling
Chocolate chips (any type)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix peanut butter and shortening with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Add two sugars and mix until light. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat until fluffy.

4. Add the flour mixture in three batches, beating well between each. Place dough in fridge to chill for at least 10 minutes.

5. Roll dough into 1/2 inch balls (approximately 1/4 teaspoon of dough). Roll balls in granulated sugar and place on baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake 5-7 minutes or until edges are just starting to brown.

6. Remove from oven and immediately press a chocolate chip into the center of each cookie. (Be careful not to touch the edges of the hot cookie sheet!) Let cookies cool one minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. [Note: The chocolate chip will be warm and gooey for some time, so be careful before stacking them.]

To make regular peanut butter cookies, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and press down gently with the tines of a fork. Rolling dough into balls and then in sugar is optional. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden.

Cookies will keep for several days at room temperature in an airtight container.