Snickerdoodles

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Sweetlips & The Bean insist that these are some of the best cookies I’ve ever made. They are big, fluffy and bursting with cinnamon and sugar. Frankly, they are addictive. They are also uber easy-to-make. But plan ahead - the dough should be refrigerated for a few hours prior to baking.

New favorite Snickerdoodle cookie recipe courtesy of Rebecca Firth’s “The Cookie Book” (@displacedhousewife)

Ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temp

2/3 cup neutral oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1½ cups bread flour

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

Coating:

⅓ cup granulated sugar (for the coating)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (for the coating)

INSTRUCTIONS:

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  1. In an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the brown sugar, butter, and granulated sugar and mix on medium until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the eggs one at a time, taking the time to fully blend the first, before adding the second. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated. Add in the oil and vanilla and mix 1 minute more. Take the bowl out of the mixer.

  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the bread flour, all-purpose flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and stir until the flour just disappears. Wrap tightly and put in the fridge for several hours, or until firm.

  3. Preheat your oven to 375-degrees and cover several baking sheets with parchment paper. Make sure a rack is in the top third of the oven at least 6 inches from the heat source. This is where you'll bake your cookies.

  4. To make the cookie coating, in a small bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and cinnamon.

  5. Roll 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough into a nice ball. Give the dough ball a generous coating of the cinnamon mixture and set on the baking sheet, allowing two inches of space between dough balls.

  6. Bake one sheet at a time in the top third of the oven for 11 to 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a rack.


Best Brownies

I baked these brownies during a snow storm on the hubby's birthday. It was below zero outside, the wind was whipping against the windows, a sink overflowed from a frozen pipe, our alarm wouldn't stop beeping due to a series of power surges and finally water started shooting out of a wall by the washing machine. Mike was mad at the house, the weather and birthdays in general.

So I went into the kitchen to cheer myself up (disengage) with a glass of wine and a little snow day baking. Some of you may have seen the insta-story of the making of these brownies. The one with the soundtrack ranging from "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want to" to "Birthday Bitch." And thank goodness for comfort food (and wine) -- particularly of the chocolate kind (sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand if you're asking) -- because these brownies soothed his stomach and soul. They are, in one word...INSANE. Easy to make, but impossible to stop eating. The entire batch was gone in a day. These are officially my new go-to brownie recipe.

Notes: I did not have espresso powder in the house and I was not leaving to get it (see frozen tundra above). While I'm sure the taste would be elevated with its inclusion, if you are missing this ingredient, no need to hold off. They were still amazing minus the espresso. 

The original recipe calls for baked and coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts. My family complains whenever I put nuts in desserts, which is just so misguided, but it was the hubby's birthday, so I decided to be nice (see freezing temperature and bursting pipes). I imagine that pecans would be truly awesome inclusions, but I will say that the mushy, chocolatey deliciousness of these pure classics was heavenly. 

The Best Brownies

(adapted slightly via Jessica Seinfeld)

Ingredients:

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1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon espresso powder (optional)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Directions:

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Preheat oven (with oven rack in the middle) to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan (I used 9 x 9 and they were still perfection). Line with an 8-inch-wide strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Remove from the head and add the chocolate chips and espresso if using. Let stand for about 2 minutes, then whisk until creamy and smooth. Whisk in both sugars. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and whisk with gusto for a solid 45 seconds, or until batter is thick and glossy and pulls away from the pan. 

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with more than a few moist crumbs attached (best to undertake than to overtake). Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Grab the ends of the parchment and lift the brownies onto a cutting board before slicing. 

Enjoy! xoxo

Pumpkin Spice Choc chunk Cake(s)

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The original recipe calls for baking these decadent cakes in two loaf pans as glazed pumpkin breads. My dear friend Kerri made them often in LA sans glaze, but when I moved back to NY and began using their house as my Cali base, she confided that her husband (and our best friend...as well as Godfather of our children) has minor fits that I show up at their front door late at night fresh off a cross-country flight, let myself in (I have my keys, which is his first mistake) and then proceed to eat it all of Kerri's freshly baked pumpkin bread myself, saving him a pretty cake plate of crumbs come morning. (I also drink all of their wine, but apparently the pumpkin bread is sacred.) In fairness, it's ridiculously sweet, the pumpkin simply elevating the decadence without overpowering, and while the top becomes golden, the center is incredibly moist. While Kerri shares all of her recipes, she may have sent this one quickly so the locks aren't changed on me. 

I adapted the recipe just slightly and began baking the pumpkin bread in a large bundt pan as more of a cake. Because I behave more appropriately as a houseguest in most other situations (ie. where I don't know the alarm code) this is my go-to recipe to bring as a fall/winter treat. Not only does it go fast, but lifelong pumpkin resisters - from granddads to picky kids - become fast converts.

Knowing that we have a lot of Halloween, Thanksgiving and fall season holiday parties coming up, I decided to try out the recipe as mini-bundt cakes to wrap up and deliver as homemade treats. 

The notes below will detail the simple ways to bake the cake as two loaves, a single large bundt or as mini favors. 

Happy Fall! 

xoxo,

Nicole

 

Adapted from my dear friend Kerri who adapted it from somewhere on Pinterest ;)

*The recipe has never been in proper format and since the only steps are to dump everything in a bowl, I have left it that way.

 

PUMPKIN SPICE CAKE(S)

Ingredients:

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1 (15 ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 cup vegetable oil

3 cups sugar

3 large eggs

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks (milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips will work just fine)

 

Instructions:

Grease with butter 2 (9 X 5 inch) loaf pans OR one standard size bundt pan OR approximately 24 small bundts on a sheet (I prefer never to use cooking spray, but especially with this recipe). Place rack at center of oven and pre-heat at 350 degrees.

Add each of the ingredients (excluding chocolate) to the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat at low speed until well blended, but take care not to overdo it. Fold in chocolate chunks. Pour batter evenly into the loaf pans, bundt mold or mini bundts (*For mini-bundts, you do not need to fill the batter to the top as the cakes will rise slightly). 

Bake according to times below. When the wooden pick comes out clean, remove the pan(s) from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Do give in to temptation and turn the pans over to release the cakes until they have completely cooled. They will fall apart (I know from experience). 

 

*Bake Time:

Regardless of the pan, bake until the tops are golden and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remember, every oven is a little bit different and this is one of those recipes that may require a little extra time in either direction, especially since bundt pans can vary, so stay vigilant with that wooden pick. 

-2 LOAF PANS - The original recipe calls for 55 minutes. Kerri and I agree that we begin checking at this point, but we find that it typically takes about 1 hr and 5 min.

-STANDARD BUNDT PAN - The Barnhouse oven can be a bit slower, so I begin checking on this at about 1 hr 5 min, it typically takes another 5 to 10 (1 hr 10-15 minutes) for that pick to come out clean.

-MINI BUNDTS - My sheet has 24 cavities that are about 3 inches wide. It takes between 25 - 30 min for that pick to come out clean.

 

Insta Playlist

"Supersonic" - J.J. Fad

"Gangsta's Paradise" - Coolio

"Valerie" - Amy Winehouse

"Hold it Now, Hit It" - Beastie Boys

"Nightmare on My Street" - DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince

"Doo Wop (That Thing)"- Lauryn Hill

"Halo" - Beyonce

 

 

 

S 'mores Cookie Bars

A chic outdoor fireplace is yet another dream component of my fantasy Barnhouse renovation. But, while an attainable stone fire ring does inspire (and remind us of camp), I'm both fairly tempted and also prohibitively hesitant to build one on our lawn. 

Now that we're headed into summer, Sweetlips & The Bean have been begging to make s'mores, something that they took for granted under even the winter stars in Southern California.  The dreamy outdoor fireplace is another coping mechanism in my compulsion to live each summer to its fullest now that I am required to recognize the other seasons. At least I can say this one's for the kids.

In the meantime, I thought we might indulge our campy craving with something s'more-like minus the two five-year-olds wielding marshmallow torches. So I went down the Pinterest rabbit hole (a favorite late night pastime after I've read the entire internet before attempting sleep) on a quest for gooey graham cracker inspiration.

The cookie bar recipe I surfaced with is included below...and had the boys begging for s'more. I mean, come on - I had to. 

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As you may notice from GC's insta stories, I usually listen to music while I cook and my tastes are eclectic and vary with mood. I've been receiving quite a few comments about my range of choices - so,  from now on, I'll be including the playlist with the recipes.  Here's tonight's "Bake What Your Momma Gave Ya'" (which was also ironically today's gym mix):   

Big Pimpin' - Jay Z

Drunk in Love - Beyonce

Bernadette - The Four Tops

Scenario - A Tribe Called Quest

Hook - Blues Traveler   (Whatever, I'm the DJ)

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S'mores Cookie Bars

(Recipe via Pinterest @melskitchencafe  or www.melskitchencafe.com)

**Personal Notes: While I left this recipe exactly as I found it, here are a few adjustments I'd make the next batch around.

**Next time I'd go easier on the fluff. A little goes a very long way. I also spread it instead of dolloped, as I was trying to insta-story one-handed while I baked.  Dollop, as the recipe instructs, and have someone else video. 

**My s'more bars needed an extra ten - twelve minutes to bake, which lately I'm thinking may be another symptom of the Barnhouse, as the oven is quite vintage and not in a good way. La Cornue has been dutifully added to the fantasy renovation.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups marshmallow topping, like Marshmallow Fluff or Creme (regular or mini marshmallows will not work)
  • 2 cups milk or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9X13-inch pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the 2 short sides. Grease the foil with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing until combined. Divide the dough in half. Press half into the bottom of the prepared pan until the dough is evenly flattened. Dollop the marshmallow topping on top of the cookie base and gently spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.

Scatter the remaining dough over the top in clumps. Don’t worry about completely covering the top, the marshmallow and chocolate chips should peek through. Bake the bars until golden brown, about 30-32 minutes. Cool completely. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil overhangs. Cut into bars and serve.

Chocolate Truffles

I feel a bit dishonest calling the act of making these truffles baking. I'm not even sure that the directions below constitute a recipe. That being said, they are gluttonously delicious and once you get the hang of creating a professional appearing chocolate shell, you will receive gratuitous credit for your abilities...particularly if you present them in fancy little foil wrappers. Don't feel guilty. They may be shamefully easy, but they really taste (and look!) that good.

 

Ingredients:

36 Oreos (not Double Stuffed)

1 8oz package cream cheese (room temperature)

12 oz chocolate chips

Coconut Oil or Vegetable Oil optional

 

 

Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside. 

Place Oreos in a food processor and pulse to fine crumbs. Add the cream cheese and pulse until combined and smooth. Remove bowl from processor.

Scoop out about 1 Tbsp of the mixture at a time and roll into 1 inch balls. Place each on the prepared baking sheet. Once all of the mixture has been rolled into balls, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator while preparing the chocolate topping. 

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler making sure not to allow the water to touch the top pot. Mixing continuously will help keep the chocolate from overheating and becoming clumpy or burning.  Note: I like to add a spoonful of coconut oil to keep the chocolate smooth for dipping. This will give the truffles a hint of coconut flavor, which - if you like coconut - is delicious. Alternatively, I add a dash (1 tsp) of vegetable oil to keep the chocolate smooth. 

Remove the truffles from the fridge and, using a small spoon, dip them one at a time into the melted chocolate and then return each to the prepared baking sheet. (I sometimes use a second spoon to pour the melted chocolate over the truffle. The dipping takes a bit of practice for that professional look, but you'll get the hang of it.)

Once all of the truffles have been dipped, return the baking sheet to the refrigerator so they may set.

I like to place the finished truffles in mini foil wrappers for added effect.

Impress and Enjoy!